Looking Down, Looking Out, and Looking Up: Maps and the Human Experience

The latest exhibit in Archives and Special Collections explores the history, art, and science of maps and their interaction with the people who create and use them. “Looking Down, Looking Out, and Looking Up: Maps and the Human Experience” will be open until June 23, 2017, in the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections.  Populated entirely with maps from our collections, this exhibit highlights the wide variety of uses and styles of maps and their applications in many aspects of modern society.  This blog post will highlight just a few of the maps and artifacts in the exhibit.


Navigantium atque Itinerantium Bibliotheca

Navigantium atque Itinerantium Bibliotheca…by John Harris

One of the earliest items on display is a large volume published in 1744, Navigantium atque Itinerantium Bibliotheca. Or, a Complete Collection of Voyages and Travels… by John Harris, a compilation of travel notes and discoveries of more than 500 writers.  The text includes extensive analyses of geography, science, and culture.  The book, which is dedicated to King George II, also includes a world map in the front.  Especially notable is the “Parts Undiscovered” over the area now known as Alaska and the northwestern regions of Canada.


Wright's history notebook

John S. Wright’s history notebook, 1889, MSA 27

In 1889, Purdue student John S. Wright illustrated and colored historical maps to accompany his history class notes and assist him in his studies.  Multiple maps are pasted into this notebook, illustrating wars and political boundaries from the Ancient Roman Empire to nineteenth century Europe.  The notebook must have served Wright well; after graduating in 1892, he became an executive of the Eli Lilly Company.


A General History of Inland Navigation

Canal map from A General History of Inland Navigation… by J. Phillips


This foldout map shows extant and planned canals throughout England, designated by pink or green lines.  The map is part of A General History of Inland Navigation, Foreign and Domestic; Containing a Complete Account of the Canals Already Executed in England, with Considerations on Those Projected, by J. Phillips, published in 1792.





Wilmer Stultz flight plan

Wilmer Stultz flight plan, 1928, MSP 38

In 1928, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.  The pilot of that flight was Wilmer Stultz, and this is his hand-notated map with extensive navigational notations and charting of multiple possible flight courses for that famous trip.  The exhibit also includes maps from the planning of Earhart’s final flight in 1937, during which she disappeared.


Cloth maps

Cloth maps used by Ralph Schneck, MSP 123

During World War II, cloth maps could be crucial to the survival of downed Army Air Force pilots.  These cloth maps were distributed to pilots and sometimes secretly passed into prisoner of war camps by concealment in books or games.  The maps in the exhibit belonged to Ralph Schneck, pilot in the 8th U.S. Air Force, and were carried in a waterproof bag marked “MAPS ONLY.”



Lunar surface maps

Lunar surface maps used by Captain Cernan, MSA 288

This book of lunar maps was used on the surface of the moon by Captain Gene Cernan during the Apollo 17 mission, the last human mission to the moon.  The book contains 24 segments of the Taurus-Littrow Valley along with a larger overview map of the valley.


map pins

Map pins owned by Lillian Gilbreth, MSP 8

Among the map-related items in the exhibit are these map pins owned and used by Lillian Gilbreth, Purdue professor and expert in efficiency and organizational management.  Pins like these were stuck into large wall maps for various purposes; the variety of colors and shapes allowed for the owner to create her own identification system using the pins.


You can see these items and many more in the exhibit, open until June 23, 2017.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.