Osher Map Library: to heaven and back

Posted by on Mar 2, 2015 in Illustration, Maine College of Art, Peaks Island, Portland Public Library, travels | 1 comment

When Art History professor Sue Nutty invited Maine College of Art faculty to tour the nearby Osher Map Library, I jumped at the chance. I’ve had a thing for maps, always. They are fascinating documents and lovely to look at. Maps have served many a visual purpose in my work over the years.

In a self-promo postcard during my collage phase, I showed how I playfully exercise my skills with deadlines, and on top of the world, to boot.


This editorial illustration was for a business article about the European economy. Livin’ large, I guess.


When I illustrated Stephanie Pearl McPhee Casts Off, I used a LOT of mappish metaphors for the Land of Knitting.


Herman Melville said, “It is not down in any map; true places never are.” I invented plenty of imaginary places for that book. Shall we row to Cardigan Creek?


I went all out with a Land of Knit map last year.

5knitmap_blogOnly Peaks Islanders would recognize the Isle of Ewe, which made a nice valentine this year.


In my most recent project, Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins, I used a classic globe in this scene in which the headmaster scrutinizes Neel’s work (also a map!)


Truly, I was more than primed to view the last day of The Art of the Hand-Drawn Map. Joined by faculty from Illustration, Graphic Design, Art History, Printmaking, and Ceramics, I marveled at the exquisite craftsmanship.


This compass rose is divine.


It’s a detail from a much larger chart by Bartolomeo Olives of the Mediterranean Sea, crafted on vellum in Majorca in 1583, that includes a parade of fantastical creatures, even a unicorn.


We moved from the gallery area to the main hall for a big reveal performed by David Neikirk, Digital Imaging Specialist and our congenial tour guide.


I fell in love with this diminutive globe doubling as a secret inkwell.


Mapping the heavens was once an artistic endeavor.


We journeyed up the elevator to the Special Collections vault. What got me was the sheer antiquity of what we were seeing, not under glass. We were breathing the same air as this, the oldest map in their collection, from the 1400’s. Seriously?


I mean, look. The heraldry here makes me swoon. Director Ian Fowler told us the OML’s collection has “the best treasures.” Indeed!


The endurance of the printed object commands reverence, does it not?


Before we left, I took note of this: shelves and shelves of MAP GAMES. I can feel an illustration project for next semester brewing.


Thank you, Osher Map Library, for the mind-blowing tour! I will be back with packs of map lovers, which includes my own Marty who made this map game for the Portland Public Library.


Even daughter Daisy got into the whirl, creating this map for souvenirs at the Seaside Shop.


Marty made this one for Maine College of Art’s view book. I’m off tomorrow with my MECA illustration seniors to visit the Harvard Museum of Natural History, with road maps in hand. Perhaps some of them will draw their travels, just like on They Draw and Travel. Away we go!



One Comment

  1. Love Love Love all your illustrations. Clever and fun while pleasing to the eye. And Daisy’s map for Seaside Shop is just wonderful. I too have always loved maps – and still do. In high school I used to cover my books with the colorful maps they gave us(for free) at the gas stations. Gone are those days.
    Haven’t been to the Osher Map Library in a while. Time to go back. Should call Sean, he loves maps too.

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