Travel Series: Africa

This post was written by Tiffany Kajer Wright, research services assistant.

In the fourth installation of our blog series in conjunction with the Around the World in (Almost) 80 Days exhibit, we’re examining historical travel in Africa. At Special Collections Research Center, our Archives and Rare Books can bring the past to life and inspire future travel plans. Whether going on safari or seeking to understand other cultures and religions, travelling to Africa has been regarded with excitement and shrouded with mystery. From the Sahara to South Africa, travelers have recorded their thoughts, drawn maps, and photographed their way across the continent.

Always considered an exotic and wild place, Africa has captured the attention of Western cartographers and geographers going back to the Roman Empire. In the early 1700s, Herman Moll sought out the most well-traveled people of his time and constructed a book of maps and descriptions of lands and peoples. He called his compilation The Compleat Geographer. To the best of his ability, he included every bit of the known world, and Africa was no exception.

Moll, Herman, The Compleat Geographer, G114 .C74 1709, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.

The Sahara is the largest hot desert in the world stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, and from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sahel. Travel is traditionally done by camel, and Bryon Khun de Prorok did exactly that in 1920. He and his entourage ventured into the desert, and he wrote about their adventures in Mysterious Sahara. Throughout the book are plates of his journey, including a stop at the Oasis of Nefta in Tunisia.

Khun de Prorok, Bryon, Mysterious Sahara, DT333 .K4, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.

Dr. John Paden, a Clarence Robinson Professor of International Studies, donated his papers and books upon retiring. He conducted academic research in Nigeria during the 1960s, and has extensive materials from that time. Among the books and papers, he also donated a musical instrument called a yomkwo and several Qur’an (Koran) boards. These are boards used to help students memorize verses from the holy book, as well as practice their handwriting.

John N. Paden, Collection C0194, Box 132, Qur’an/Koran board, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.

John N. Paden, Collection C0194, Box 132, Qur’an/Koran board, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The word “safari” comes from the Swahili for “journey” or “expedition,” and was likely adapted from the Arabic “safar,” meaning “to travel.” If one goes on safari, one goes to Africa to do so. Edith McChesney Ker did, and later donated slides of her photographs from Africa and around the world. Her collection spans from the 1950s to the early 2000s and is about 10,000 slides. She demonstrated an obvious preference for wildlife and nature shots on her global travels, including the wildlife of Kenya and Tanzania.

Edith McChesney Ker, Collection C0077, Box 28, Page 21, Slide 1, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.

In February 2016, Atlas Obscura posted a story about the honeyguide – an unassuming bird that led hunters to bees’ nests practically upon request in Tanzania. Over the summer, the story gained ground as other news outlets ran similarly-themed pieces. However, this bird’s behavior was recorded as far back as 1881! Near the village of Kavimba, in the country now called Botswana, Dr. David Livingstone encountered this amazing bird in his travels during the mid-1800s. J.E. Chambliss compiled this tale and many more of the doctor’s expeditions – alone and with Henry Stanley – in The Lives and Travels of Livingstone and Stanley.

Chambliss, J. E., The Lives and Travels of Livingstone and Stanley, DT1030 .C44 1881, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.

Follow SCRC on Social Media and look out for future posts on our FacebookInstagram, and Twitter accounts. To search the collections held at Special Collections Research Center, go to our website and browse the finding aids by subject or title. You may also e-mail us at speccoll@gmu.edu or call 703-993-2220 if you would like to schedule an appointment, request materials, or if you have questions. Appointments are not necessary to request and view collections.

Travel Series: The Americas

This post was written by Tiffany Kajer Wright. “I am a grad student in the English department’s Professional Writing and Rhetoric program. If I’m not cooking, I’m probably watching a historical documentary on Netflix. I also love traveling with my husband – I’ve been to 19 countries and counting. I’m brand new to the SCRC, but I look forward to contributing more blogs in the future!”

This post is the first in a series of blogs coordinated with our Around the World in (Almost) 80 Days exhibit. We’re highlighting some of our collections and books that focus on travel and can be accessed here at the Special Collections Research Center. In this article, we’re taking a look at North and South America.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to see far-flung parts of the world? Two of our collections can take you virtually anywhere. The first is the extensive Edith McChesney Ker collection of slides, scrapbooks, and other documents covering her global adventures. The second is the largely insect-focused Kjell Sandved collection, of Butterfly Alphabet fame. Both photographers are notable for capturing animal and plant life, as well as striking landscapes.

Reviewing these collections can bring the distant and exotic corners of the planet a little closer to home. This is especially true for areas of the world that are difficult to access, such as Easter Island or Angel Falls. Other places, like the Galapagos Islands or Nova Scotia, have well-traveled routes but are no less fascinating. We’ll begin this week’s journey with Easter Island.

“Easter Island-Ahu Nau Nau”, Edith McChesney Ker papers, #C0077, Box 12, Page 28, Image 4, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.

The six stand in silent judgement, backs to the ocean. Their eyes are gone, but most still have their topknots. One is missing his head, and only the base remains for another. They are the Anakena Moai of Rapa Nui – Easter Island, to those outside of the South Pacific. Since 1888, it’s been a territory of Chile, and the mystery surrounding the immense statues has attracted travelers since the island was discovered. More than 800 Moai can be found on the island today, and most are easily accessible to the 80,000 tourists that stop by every year.

 

“Waterfalls: Amgel Falls World’s Highest Venezuela,” in the Kjell Sandved nature photograph collection #C0020, Box 4, Page 24, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

Water tumbles over the edge of a cliff nearly three-quarters of a mile high, often shrouded by clouds. Toward the bottom, the water dissipates into a fine mist before converging into the Rio Kerepacupai Meru. This is Angel Falls, the highest waterfall in the world, and it sits deep in the Venezuelan jungle. Named after American pilot Jimmie Angel, the first to fly over it in 1933, the falls draw visitors from all over the world each year.

“Fernandina Marine Iguanas and Bluefoots”, Edith McChesney Ker papers, #C0077, Box 13, Page 06, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.

Home to some of the most specialized wildlife in the world, the Galapagos Islands have been the location for numerous scientific surveys for centuries. When a young geologist called Charles Darwin visited in 1835, he was so inspired by the variations of birds and other animals that he wrote On the Origin of Species. Scientists and researchers continue to visit this volcanic archipelago to better understand our planet’s history and evolution. Ecuador governs the islands today and has declared them a national park, drawing over 220,000 tourists per year.

 

“Peggy’s Cover Near Halifax Nova Scotia” in the Kjell Sandved nature photograph collection #C0020, Box 4, Page 22, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

Nova Scotia is a breathtaking province, with Bay of Fundy and its extreme tides on one side and the battering North Atlantic on the other. Fishermen have done very well in this part of Canada for centuries, though not without cost. More than 5,000 shipwrecks are documented in the region. Despite this historical precedent, well over 2 million tourists visit Nova Scotia each year, with the percentage of Americans steadily increasing.

Sources:

Easter Island History

Island Heritage

Easter Island Tourism

Angel Falls History

Galapagos History

Galapagos Tourism

Nova Scotia History

Nova Scotia Tourism

Our exhibition will be up until mid-August. Stop by anytime to view our materials on display. Special Collections Research Center, go to our website and browse the finding aids by subject or title. You may also e-mail us at speccoll@gmu.edu or call 703-993-2220 if you would like to schedule an appointment, request materials, or if you have questions. Appointments are not necessary to request and view collections.

Celebrating 95 Years of the League of Women Voters

lwvfa

Special Collections & Archives is happy to announce a new exhibition in Fenwick Library’s lobby: Celebrating 95 Years of the League of Women Voters. Also coinciding with Women’s History month, this exhibition features items from the League of Women Voters of the Fairfax Area collection. The collection includes bulletins, pamphlets, meeting minutes, correspondence, photographs, and ephemera. More information about the collection is accessible via the finding aid.

The League of Women Voters was founded in 1920 by Carrie Chapman Catt, a leader in the women’s suffragist movement.  Maude Wood Park, another devoted suffragist, became the League’s first president.  The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization, which encourages citizens to participate actively in government by supporting the party of their choice.  It does not support individual candidates, but it does take a position on issues of a local, state, and national scale selected by the membership. The League of Women Voters has taken a particular interest in equal opportunity for women in government, child labor laws, fair housing, and affordable health care.

In Virginia, the League of Women Voters began as the Equal Suffrage League, which worked diligently for the ratification of the nineteenth amendment. The Equal Suffrage League joined the national League of Women Voters, creating a state league. The first local League in Virginia was established in Richmond, followed by chapters in Alexandria and Arlington.

The Fairfax County League was granted full League status in 1948.  To indicate that the members belong to more than one governmental jurisdiction, in 1964 the Fairfax County League became the League of Women Voters of the Fairfax Area.

Please visit Fenwick Library to view the exhibit through the month of March.

Voices from the FTP – a new exhibit from SC&A

We have recently installed an exhibit outside of SC&A in Fenwick Library focusing on the Federal Theatre Project titled “Voices from the FTP”. This exhibit takes the individual personal papers we have from FTP participants and integrates their story into the larger context of this government sponsored program. These may not be the most well known FTP participants but their stories are equally as interesting. Hopefully the exhibit will spark an interest in the people, productions, and experiences that transpired because of the Federal Theatre during the Great Depression across the United States.

The following blog post breaks down each of the four cases in the exhibit. Case 1 features the papers of Kate Lawson and serves as an introduction to the FTP. Case 2 focuses on the marionette units of the FTP and uses material from the Molka Reich papers and the Ralph Chessé papers. Case 3 briefly tells the story of Eda Edson and her vaudeville success Follow the Parade. Finally case 4 looks at the theme of controversy and the FTP and features Arnold Sundgaard’s play Spirochete as an example of some of the serious issues the FTP was exploring through the venue of live theater.

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On Exhibit: The 1960s

The 1960s is regarded as one of the most turbulent times in recent history. SC&A has a new exhibit that highlights elements of the dramatic changes that took place during this decade using materials from the collections. The exhibit is divided into three parts: Popular Literature, American Life, and Politics and the Cold War. There is a physical exhibit located outside the department in Fenwick Library in addition to the online version we created using Omeka software. The primary collections featured in the exhibit include: The Francis McNamara Papers, the Rare Book Collection, American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Records, the James McDonnell Transportation Collection, and the Oliver Atkins Photograph Collection.

The online exhibit can be found here: http://bit.ly/9xwTvL