This collection includes some 300 maps and views, plus many atlases and rare books from America’s founding era, including a number of manuscript maps—exceedingly rare works drawn at the scene of action or in the aftermath of a battle. Noteworthy for its magnitude, the collection is also unique in the specificity of its focus.
Driven by a desire to make his collection more widely accessible, in 2010, Richard joined the Leventhal Map Center, a Boston-based nonprofit that digitized some 300 of Richard’s maps for its online collection. At the same time, he began work on a book telling the story of America’s founding through period maps, which was published in 2015. He also lent two dozen maps to an acclaimed traveling exhibition between 2015 and 2017. Still, Richard aspired to do more to make his collection available to a larger audience.
While considering potential collaborators, Richard was drawn to the Washington Library’s state-of-the-art facilities, scholarly network, robust educational programming, and cataloguing capabilities. He and Mary Jo Otsea also liked the strong connection to Washington, whose military career corresponded to the years represented in the collection, 1755 to 1783.
The Brown Map Collection arrived at Mount Vernon in the fall, and digitized maps were immediately posted online. Richard and Mary Jo look forward to seeing the impact of their generous gift on Mount Vernon’s scholarly staff and school-aged visitors alike. “In the context of Mount Vernon’s mission, we think the gift can be transformative. That’s the kind of legacy we would like to leave.”