The world at your fingertips right in your neighborhood.
Portland Public Library’s mission is to serve the Greater Portland Community by providing a diverse collection of books and other resources, with access to information resources worldwide. The library’s services support the educational, informational, and recreational interests of all community members.
Portland Public Library’s new Digital Commons portal has begun to take shape, and you are now able to view a 131-year-old city street atlas online. Here in the Main Library’s Portland Room, the Library’s homebase for Special Collections and Archives, we have conserved an 1882 Goodwin Atlas, and now present a digitized access of this great work to you, via Digital Commons.
Click on the screen shot (below) for the Digital Commons home page:
Beginning with the conservation of the 18 x 24″ atlas, the original binding had broken (see photo below) after more than a century of use. The Library’s copy of this atlas had been inked by hand, and the City Engineer, William Goodwin autographed each of the plates.
The maps are highly detailed, and show “footprints” of buildings, utility lines, and streets. The city-wide assessment that coincided with this unusual set of maps represents Portland shortly before the merging of the once separate municipality of Deering. The pre-1899 city boundaries are well-marked in Goodwin, and can be seen in maps that include Douglass Street, Brighton Avenue (then known as the County Road), Deering Avenue (then known as Grove Street), and Forest Avenue (then known as Green Street). When you search for Monument Square, you’ll find Market Square.
Along with the atlas’s binding, many of the plates (pages) needed to be conserved. Fortunately, the plates were printed on a thick, vellum-style paper stock.
The photo below, shows the completely repaired binding and textblock- entirely conserved in the Portland Room-
with archival material.
The photo immediately below shows how we repair paper, from the verso (rear) of the maps themselves, to keep the information as readable as possible. We use handmade Japanese kozo tissue, and our own mixture of methylcellulose and PVA water-based adhesives. The repairs are lightly heat-dried and pressed.
The New binding (above), with the preserved original label from the Portland City Clerk’s Office, plus a special archival box (below) for the atlas.
With the scanned Atlas plates, we’ve mounted downloadable jpeg files onto Digital Commons. In the photo below, subject analyses for each Portland neighborhood represented in the Atlas are being added as searchable metadata tags.
Enjoy this new resource of a gem from the 19th century!
I spent last Friday in Augusta at the Maine Humanities Summit sponsored by the University of Maine Humanities Initiative. I also participated on a panel of academic and public librarians to explain the role of libraries in the “public” humanities. The attending group was made up of the converted, those of us who see in others and experience in ourselves every day the “Power & Pleasure of Ideas” – to borrow a phrase from the Maine Humanities Council. We spoke of public libraries being a provider, presenter, collector, promoter and organizer of the humanities. So it was on fertile ground (and with gratitude) that our individual presentations were received. There was little if any surprise just appreciation.
I am always fascinated by the surprise that folks have upon rediscovery of the public library or coming up against the popular notion that the public library is not long for the world. Paul Krugman’s recent New York Times blog post “In Praise of Public Libraries (Personal and Trivial)” speaks to the simple delight in finding a space in the community that has some infrastructure, a culture of sharing and no expectation of you except civil behavior. Meanwhile, beyond offering a sweet spot in the daily grind, public libraries everywhere are gearing up their summer reading programs and reaching out to kids and families to do what we can to bring the beauty of the arts and the humanities (literature, history, art, music and much more) to the neighborhoods and towns across the country. Quiet magic – day in and day out. No chest pounding, no vapid self-promotion, just quiet and sustained effort to experience the “Power and Pleasure of Ideas”.
The variety and range of libraries and the issues that are part of their daily and strategic concerns are not always obvious to the general public. There is not a shortage of coverage of specific issues facing libraries such as e-books, funding, etc. and occasionally there is a more general survey about the future of libraries or how they are evolving. For national audiences, the May 14th Wall Street Journal article,“The Library’s Future Is Not an Open Book” does a fine job giving a sense of the challenges and rationale that urban libraries face nationwide and how it is being addressed through planning and architecture. One will see echoes and demonstrations of PPL in that piece.
For Mainers seeking to understand our statewide library landscape the newest issue of the Maine Policy Review offers a wonderful blend of comment on the history, philosophy, service and strategic challenges associated with Maine’s libraries.