This post was written by Lauren Goss, MLIS student at San Jose State University and student assistant in SCARC.
Adirondack Survey 1873 – Specimen of Preliminary Reconnaissance Sketch Showing the Approximate Positions and Names of Thirty Nine Ponds or Lakes Important and New to the Maps (Pl. 11), circa 1870
Last spring, Anne Bahde (Rare Books and History of Science Librarian in SCARC) presented me with a new project of processing the rare maps collection of William H. Galvani. In 1947, the Oregon State University Library received the maps through Galvani’s bequest of his personal library, a gift that included about 5,500 books. The maps were transferred to SCARC a few years ago, and at that time it was unknown the total number of maps in the collection, or their geographic or temporal span. My initial workflow focused on determining if the maps had been separated from books in Galvani’s collection, as many of the maps show signs of being part of a bound volume at one time. However, this project quickly took on a much larger scope as I determined all of the maps were an entirely separate collection. Not one of the over 1,050 maps originated from Galvani’s books, a fact which provides some insight into his avid and eclectic interest in historic materials. A future blog post will explore Galvani as a collector and his multi-decade relationship with Oregon State University.
The process of identifying, organizing and describing the maps grew longitudinally (pun intended). The maps had been moved from the dusty forgotten map drawer where they were originally discovered to a combination of oversize boxes and map folders, and some related maps were inadvertently separated. Initially, it was difficult deciding what and how much information to record especially because the scope and purpose of the project evolved. My spreadsheet captured an amalgamation of data focusing on three themes of information: geographic, bibliographic, and archival. After identifying every map, I normalized this data and developed a hybrid finding aid. I encountered difficulty in locating a finding aid for a similar map collection at another institution (one comparable in extent, collection of an individual and not a specific institution or originating organization, and the broad geographic and temporal scope). So, the finding aid I created includes a series for each continent, identifiable bibliographic sources for a map or set of maps, and individual map information including title and date, creators (engraver, lithographer, publisher, etc.), and geographic location. These access points will enable a number of different routes of inquiry for scholars and students.
Despite the challenges of this large collection, I am proud of the robust item-level finding aid. In 1949, Clara Egli LeGear, who worked in the Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress, published Maps: Their Care, Repair and Preservation in Libraries. With regard to map cataloging and classification, she said: “all the time and energy spent on them, however, is infinitely worthwhile, for a single map portrays instantly what thousands of words cannot reveal” (viii). Maps are an underutilized historic research tool, and the recently completed William H. Galvani Rare Maps Collection should prove useful to a variety of researchers. The majority of Galvani’s maps depict 19th century military campaigns in Europe and Asia, but the collection also includes topographical surveys, explorers’ charts, and detailed maps of cities from around the world. The next blog post will feature particular highlights of each series, but in the meantime, here is a map that exemplifies the visual power of these cartographic resources.
The Carte de l’hemisphere Austral: Montrant les routes des navigateurs les plus celebres par la Capitaine Jacques Cook (Pl. 2) to the left shows the different routes of Captain Cook’s voyages in the southern hemisphere. Notably, there is no outline of the continent Antarctica, as formal exploration had not yet occurred.