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American Treasures celebrates the reopening of the newly renovated and expanded Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education at the University of Southern Maine. It explores the library’s rich and varied collections and its mission to preserve those collections and make them accessible. Beginning with the foundational gifts by the Smith and Osher families, the library’s collections emphasize Maine and New England, followed in order by the United States, the Americas, and the world. American Treasures accordingly presents a sample of outstanding representations of the Americas. These include rare nineteenth-century atlases of Mexico and Venezuela; wall maps of Maine related to Henry David Thoreau; graphically rich maps of colonial America; and maps created for K-12 education in the nineteenth century.
The exhibition exemplifies the manner in which maps offer such compelling insights into the past that anyone, regardless of age or educational level, can enjoy and learn from them. They are indeed treasures.
OML’s Mission. Throughout the exhibition, sections in bold explain aspects of our work. Specifically, to make old maps available to the University community, the people of Maine, scholars, students, and visitors requires more than just displaying them physically or digitally (via OML’s website: www.usm.maine.edu/maps). OML staff seek to interpret the maps for viewers. American Treasures explains how the library’s collections are incorporated into K-12 and undergraduate education, public education through exhibitions, and scholarly research with wide import.
Making Maps Physically and Digitally Available. We work to make our collections as widely available as possible. The public can consult rare materials not only physically in the reading room but also digitally through our website. We have mounted versions of all exhibitions since 1996 on the website, now newly redesigned and expanded. We are also in the process, working with Historic Map Works plc of Westbrook, of making digital copies available through the website (goto the “map search” tab).