Rare maps collection now available at Oregon State University


CORVALLIS, Ore. — A collection of more than 1,000 rare maps depicting various regions of the globe from antiquity to the 20th century is now available for research at the Special Collections and Archives Research Center at Oregon State University’s Valley Library.

The William H. Galvani Rare Maps Collection is one of the largest map collections held at the library, and this cultural resource will support the research interests of students, professors, historians, literary scholars, military enthusiasts, geographers, cartographers and artists.

The broad temporal and geographical scope of the maps represents Galvani’s interests as a voracious private collector and will now serve to enhance learning and teaching opportunities.

Galvani, a Russian immigrant, worked in Oregon as a civil engineer and surveyor for the Northern Pacific Railway, and later served as the mayor of Seaside in the 1930s.  He was also a rare book collector and corresponded with Oregon State College dean F.A. Gilfillan, who was also a collector. In 1945, Galvani received an honorary doctorate of engineering, and later bequeathed his private library to Oregon State College. This gift included approximately 5,500 books and over 1,050 maps.

At the time of the donation, there was no map specialist at the college. The extensive collection has only recently been inventoried. The maps range in age from the late 1500s to the early 1900s.

"The maps in the Galvani collection tell so many stories across time and place,” said Larry Landis, director of the Special Collections and Archives Research Center at Valley Library. “Scholars and students from a wide range of fields, including history, geography and art, will discover a rich resource in this collection, and we’re excited to help researchers explore these cartographic treasures."

Predominantly focused on military history from the 18th and 19th centuries, the collection depicts the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, the U.S. Civil War, the Crimean War, the Russo-Japanese War, the Spanish-American War, and the Italian War of Independence. It also records the military and sociopolitical history of ancient Greece and Rome as well as topographical surveys of the Adirondacks, military surveys of Cuba, rail and telegraph lines in Africa, and Captain Cook’s circumnavigation route.  

Each item entry includes available information about the various map creators, such as the engraver, lithographer, cartographer, printer or publisher. The majority of the maps are not in English, so the addition of specific geographic location information will help researchers locate relevant maps within a given series.

The OSU Libraries enhance and support the university’s instructional and research programs with traditional and innovative services and collections. More info is at osulibrary.oregonstate.edu.

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About Oregon State University:  As one of only two universities in the nation designated as a land, sea, space and sun grant, Oregon State serves Oregon and the world by working on today’s most pressing issues. Our more than 31,000 students come from across the globe, and our programs operate in every Oregon county. Oregon State receives more research funding than all of the state’s comprehensive public universities combined. At our campuses in Corvallis, Bend and Newport, and through our award-winning Ecampus, we excel at shaping today’s students into tomorrow’s leaders.