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Originally published October 12, 2014
Thank you for taking the time to read this 20th Anniversary Celebration of the Osher Map Library presented by the Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education (OML). This special publication will serve as a celebration of 20 years of collecting America’s greatest treasures and is just a snapshot of the incredible collections available at OML.
The fundamental purpose of OML, as envisioned by the Smith and Osher families, is to serve not only scholars but to educate the general public about cartography, the study and practice of making maps. For Eleanor and Lawrence “Sam” Smith, the infatuation with assembling collections of historic maps started in 1946, and for Dr. Harold Osher and wife Peggy, a passion for collecting began in 1975 (for interviews of with Dr. Osher and members of the Smith family, turn to page 14). Today, these personal collections are curated within a nearly 19,000-square-foot library at the University of Southern Maine.
Twenty years ago, on Oct. 16, 1994, I had the great pleasure of speaking at the opening of the new OML. In the two decades since it first opened, the combined Smith and Osher collections have grown from 20,000 items to more than 400,000 maps of all sorts, with continued purchases by the Oshers and many gifts from donors in Maine and beyond. Additionally, an expansion in the library’s infrastructure in 2009 and an increased dedicated staff presence from just one curator to a team of half a dozen professionals (meet the OML staff, Page 15) has continued to support the library’s growth through the years.
What sets OML apart from other rare map collections? When Dr. and Mrs. Osher loaned their collections to USM, the insisted upon two specific requirements. First, USM must appoint a dedicated faculty member to conduct courses and special classes for both USM students and other institutions. Second, unlike many map libraries, the Oshers’ collection must be accessible to everyone, from kindergarteners to senior citizens. These two requirements have provided national recognition to OML for its leadership in effectively presenting information about the history of maps for K-12 students and educators.
No one could have guessed in 1994 how quickly OML would become internationally recognized for its innovative, interesting and groundbreaking work on behalf of the USM community, the larger community in Greater Portland, and the people of Maine. I would hope you agree that we should take pride in all that OML has achieved in just two short decades. I encourage you to visit the library soon to witness the incredible and historic collection in person.
Former U. S. Senator