In an event held May 5, the Newberry bestowed on Roger Baskes its most prestigious award, the Newberry Library Award. Established in 1987, the library’s centennial year, the award honors individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the humanities, particularly in fields of endeavor related to the Newberry’s collection. Mr. Baskes is the thirteenth person to be so honored.
Roger Baskes has long been a generous supporter of various organizations that compose Chicago’s cultural infrastructure: Lyric Opera of Chicago, Goodman Theatre, and Chicago Opera Theater, among others. He has also been an ardent champion of the Newberry, where his service has taken the forms of trustee and collector. Since the late 1980s Baskes has been assembling a collection of more than 19,000 volumes relating to cartography; when the gift of this collection is complete, it will more than double the Newberry’s atlas holdings.
“The Newberry is proud to acknowledge the people who have helped form an institution that preserves a rich cultural heritage and encourages new scholarship and lifetime learning in the humanities,” said Newberry President David Spadafora. “Roger’s immense involvement with the Newberry has helped make possible the successful pursuit of our general mission while bolstering a specific strength of the library’s collection.”
The Baskes Collection, by defining “atlas” in an expansive way, potentially re-maps the boundaries of its field of study. For Baskes, this definition includes not only books that most would recognize as dedicated atlases, but also geographies and travel guidebooks for migrants, railway and ocean liner travelers, motorists, and other restless souls on the move.
“The sheer diversity of the Baskes Collection has the capacity to change the way scholars and other readers think about maps, their history, and their use in different fields of study,” said James Akerman, director of the Hermon Dunlap Smith Center for the History of Cartography at the Newberry.
Previous recipients of the Newberry Library Award include David McCullough, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author; Hanna H. Gray, President Emerita, University of Chicago; Anthony Grafton, Henry Putnam University Professor of History at Princeton University; and Jonathan D. Spence, Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University.
Victoria J. Herget, chair of the Newberry Board of Trustees, presented the 2014 Newberry Library Award to Roger Baskes.