Display of historical maps at the Orcas Island Historical Museum

Display of historical maps at the Orcas Island Historical Museum

by Antoinette Botsford

with Minor Lile

Special for Sonar

How to get to Orcas Island? How did early explorers find their way before they even knew what there was to find?

The Orcas Island Historical Society‘s new exhibit “Mapping Orcas: The Way Home” features an extraordinary collection of maps, most of which have been assembled, restored and reproduced by Orcas Island photographer Peter C. Fisher.

The museum also features stunning original hand-drawn maps by the late Jean Putnam.

Maps include the Townships Section Map (1888-1895) by JJ Gilbert, a variety of geological and navigational maps, and a number of maps specially created for the “edification” of tourists and the amusement of locals.

Also on display is a reproduction of a very old map, edited by three explorers in the 18th century, which certainly confirms the description made by Juan de Fuca in the 16th century of the islands he saw during his trip to the northwestern part. from a largely unknown continent.

Two mid-19th century maps by John Wilkes and his expedition show great leaps in imprecision in surveying and navigation methods.

Historic surveying and navigation tools lent by islanders provide support for the maps – and help the viewer understand how we found our way before Google Earth and GPS were everyday realities in the 21st century.

Fisher’s beautifully restored maps are available for purchase as reproductions, including sections of Gilbert’s extraordinary map, which tells a lot about how the land was farmed and used in the farm’s day . A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the museum.

A separate cabin in the museum is dedicated to the late Jean Putnam’s unique hand-drawn watercolor and ink maps of Orcas and the Greater San Juan Archipelago/Channel Islands that were created for individual patrons.

The Museum’s new Executive Director, Nancy Stillger, notes that the exhibit “will appeal to a wide variety of people of all ages.”

Stillger looks forward to the ongoing collaborative programs that will be offered during the fall and winter months, including lectures by mapmakers, storytellers and historians.

“They will all add depth and dimension to the exhibit, further encouraging the community and visitors to engage with the museum,” she said.

The exhibit officially opens on September 4, the same day as the museum’s WOWZA raffle for the electric car. More announcements will be made as the day approaches and more is known about the danger of the Delta variant.

The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It’s that cluster of log cabins on North Beach Road, just off the Village Green. Admission is by donation.


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