Sunday, August 10, 2014

A conversation with Kimberly Soerensen, owner of Omniterrum

     I discovered the lure of antique globes quite by accident, purchasing my first globe on a whim.  After that first globe I was hooked so I set out to educate myself, and of course acquire more globes, the second, third and fourth globes I ever purchased came from Omniterrum, an antique and vintage globe dealer in Lynchburg VA.  Omniterrum is owned by Kimberly Soerensen a globe collector turned dealer who is at present one of only 3 or 4 globe specific dealers in the entire US.
     I have had the benefit of meeting Kim early in my collecting, and her knowledge and advice over the years has helped me avoid costly mistakes, and helped me build a better collection than I could have otherwise. Kim is patient and generous with her time something not all antique dealers can claim, especially with new collectors.  I want to pass some of those benefits on to the viewers of this blog in the form of a conversation with Kim:
1. You are one of the few dealers in the United States that specialize in globes,  how did you get started?, and why not maps? 

Kim:    Maps are easy to store , collect and ship, yet they cannot provide me with the satisfaction I receive from exploring the 3 dimensional display of earth, a globe.
My passion for globes is a fusion of two of my greatest interests: design and political history.  I find globes to be the perfect merger of form and function.
     A terrestrial globe is a superb representative of its time. It does not share what the world looked like politically whit its display of countries, empires and areas of exploration, but can also share the progress of technology of its time by the products used to create a terrestrial globe.
For example, one can follow the advancement of print technology on a globe as early globes had been hand drawn and colored, followed by one color print (black ) and then hand colored up to the mid 1800s to eventually multi color plate prints and now digital.
     The same can be said for the mounts (bases). From simple to ornate, Victorian to Deco and Mid Century Modern mounds, one can follow the cultural evolution of society, design and manufacturing.
 It had never been my intention to be a “globe dealer”, it was a hobby that had grown out of proportion!
I started collecting and trading globes about 10 years ago. In 2005 I obtained original NASA documents and proof read gores to the very first Lunar Globe based on actual photographic cartography from the Apollo 10 Mission. The cartography included the dark side of the moon, never to be seen from earth. Understanding the importance of this Space Race merchandise I decided to donate it to ensure it remains in public domain.
     While none of the institutions and museums in the US returned calls, the Austrian National Library took advantage of the opportunity and obtained the artifacts.
I have to add, I am bi-lingual, fluent in German in addition to English. This was of interest to the director of the National Library of Austria as he intended to expand their vast collection of Globes and related planetary items to include US models.
     I was invited to become a “scout”, search for and obtain objects for them.
Eventually, by word to mouth, my clientele increased to several other National Libraries, museums and other institutions, including among others Cambridge University and the German National Library. Meanwhile our private clientele has grow quite a bit and ranges world wide. At the beginning of Omniterrum roughly 60% of purchasing was done by institutions. Meanwhile, due to the economy their budget cuts and the growth of private clients, only 30% of artifacts are sold to institutions.

2.  What is your best advice to a new collector

Kim: Advice to new collectors:   If you purchase purely for looks, purchase what you like. 
     Obtaining a globe can be viewed like obtaining a piece of art.
If you intend to view it as an investment and ensure your artifact is authentic, educate yourself on the subject. We have dedicated several pages on our website to share our knowledge of how to date and authenticate a globe.
     Or purchase only from respected globe dealers as they have the knowledge and will make sure the item is authentic and worth the investment!
     Ebay, Etsy, Fist dibs, and on line auction houses are a hit or miss. Often the auction house  does not have the knowledge required or purposely misleads. Here is a typical example:
Globe looks old, maybe 1800s? Great condition. …and you receive a 1980s plastic globe, made to look old.
     There are several reputable auction houses throughout the world that provide annual scientific instrument auctions (including globes) and have experts evaluating the objects. I would suggest to follow them.
 Investment value:
Strive to obtain an object in the best possible condition. At the end, that is what increases value. Depending on age, some globes can be restored but this is a very costly option and has to be done correctly. Newer globes, by which I mean post WW1 globes are often not worth the expense of restoration or have been produced in a non-restorable, modern technology.

3. What mistakes do you see new collectors make when starting out?

  Kim:   The biggest mistake to globe collectors is buying every globe they see, regardless of condition. Especially on-line. Collecting globes is a slow process…
I must confess, it has been quite an expensive learning curve for me, especially in the early years. This is why we provide our globe guide on line.
    Make sure the base of the globe  and the globe itself belong to the same manufacture. If the base is not original, the globe has lost all value. It would be like placing a ford door on a 57 chevy…
     Lately Ebay has been infused with sellers placing globes on candle-holders and other similar items….     Your best “weapon” is knowledge.

4. If you had to pick one globe as your favorite what would it be?
   Kim:  Asking me which globe is my favorite globe is like asking a parent which is their favorite child. I regret selling one specific globe though. It was not too old, a 1961 Columbus special edition illuminated floor globe with all its documents. It had a 24 inch diameter glass orb and a mid century modern styled v form base. I purchased it from the Columbus family directly and had it shipped to the US. I also received documents, showing the globe with Mr. Ostergaard, the owner in 1961, which I kept. Since I sold the globe I had only one opportunity to obtain another one, which was destroyed in shipping. That globe I would like to find again, and if I do, it will not be for sale.

5. How has globe collecting changed ( if at all ) since you started

  Kim:  Collectors are no longer mostly individual hobby historians, interested in old maps. Now globe collectors include people who have a passion for art and design, collecting globes as individual art pieces. There has also been an increase in purchasing the artifacts as investments and heirlooms to pass down to future generations.

6. Would this hobby exist without the Internet?
   Kim:  No

7. Globe collecting in America seems a fairly young hobby, is it more established in Europe? 

   Kim:  Yes, especially in the UK. That being said, Globes had been produced in Europe much earlier than the US even existed. Being scientific instruments they had been purchased and remained in families for generations. Eventually someone began to collect…
Furthermore Geography and History are still being taught in Western European countries as individual subjects. 
With that limited exposure to the subjects related to globes, it will more likely not awake interest in globes or globe collecting

As always lets discuss please feel free to comment, below! Or e-mail me 

P.S. If you ever find yourself in Lynchburg VA  I highly recommend the Craddock Terry Hotel.  The hotel was so nice I'm trying to find a reason to return! 


  1. Thank you for this great post!

  2. Kevin, thank you for reading, I hope your interest in globes is reinforced by Kim's knoledgable advice and this site in general, Happy hunting.....