The University of Southern Maine has received a collection of nearly half a million maps — an estimated $100 million gift that is believed to be the largest in the history of the University of Maine System.
The collection of more than 450,000 rare maps comes from Dr. Harold Osher, a cardiologist from Portland. The Osher family has previously donated many maps to the university and helped establish the Osher Map Library in 1994.
Family spokesperson Glenn Parkinson said the Oshers hope the collection is used to enhance educational opportunities for local students.
"The vision of maps being used as powerful teaching tools," Parkinson said. "This gift adds greatly to the cultural institutions of Portland and the state of Maine."
Many of the maps are hundreds of years old, including one 1755 map that the university describes as "the most important map in American history."
USM President Glenn Cummings says that the collection, along with an undisclosed financial donation, will allow the university to create new educational opportunities, including teaching subjects like math with maps.
"So please don't hold the unfortunately outmoded, outdated view that maps are of the past," Cummings said. "They are of the present, and they will be an even more prominent place in the future."