Office of Public Affairs

“Ushapia” Exhibit At The Osher Map Library

Puzzle map from Milton Bradley, Co.

The exhibition, “Iconic America:  The U.S. Outline as National Symbol” opens Tuesday, September 11, at the University of Southern Maine Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education, Portland. The exhibit is free and open to the public, 1-4 p.m., Tuesdays through Thursdays, through Thursday, February 28, 2013, and will be closed on holidays. See Osher Map Library for more information, including open hours and directions.

The exhibition takes a broad look at the symbolic use of the mapped shape of the USA – “ushapia” – in a variety of forms:  political campaigns, patriotic expressions, textiles and clothing, culinary and household goods, book covers, and magazine and newspaper graphics. John Fondersmith, a charter member and former president of the Washington Map Society, is guest curator for the exhibition that will showcase a number of items from his collection.

Fondersmith has been collecting various graphics and items that use the map shape of the United States for over 30 years. About 1990 he coined the word “ushapia” to describe a wide range of objects and graphics that, while not technically maps, use the basic map shape of the United States to symbolize the country. 

He hopes that the exhibition will spur further interest, discussion, and research on the symbolic use of the U.S. map shape.  Such logo maps are used daily in a range of media, and a variety of forms, to convey ideas about the identity and nature of the USA.  The “shape of the nation” is truly an important part of the American experience.