The Art of Discovery

Maps are rich in visual information and must be carefully examined to appreciate their full meaning. This is a complex process of decoding and interpreting, a process that may be considered an art in itself. One of the principal aims of this exhibition is to provide insight into that art.

In 1605, Cervantes wrote in Don Quixote: “Journey over all the uni­verse in a map, without the expense and fatigue of traveling, without suffering the inconveniences of heat, cold, hunger, and thirst.” We invite you to take a journey in this exhibition, to discover the mapmaker’s art — the art of discovery — by exploring
?   artistry and beauty of old maps
?   historical insights and perspectives
?   wealth of information beyond purely geographic concepts
?   wonderful misconceptions and leaps of imagination
?   symbolism, overt and hidden, in the decorative imagery

The Art of Discovery was organized by the Portland Museum of Art in conjunction with the University of Southern Maine. The maps are drawn from the cartographic collections donated to the University of Southern Maine by Sam and Eleanor Houston Smith Carto­graphic Collection and by Harold L. and Peggy L. Osher. The exhibition was curated by Dr. Harold Osher and Peggy L. Osher, with the research assistance of Yolanda Theunissen.

This online version of the original exhibition was created in 2011 by Renee Keul of the Osher Map Library.