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.

Multidisciplinary Exhibition

 

“Multidisciplinary,” the new exhibition in Fenwick’s A and C wings, highlights the variety of collections we have here in Special Collections & Archives. The idea for a multidisciplinary exhibition came from our desire to encourage scholars from throughout the University to examine our collections to find sources that are relevant to their fields. Archives are not just for historians—our collections touch on a variety of disciplines, and we are expanding our holdings constantly.  We want the rest of George Mason University’s community to know that SC&A’s holding are here for them, too.

 

Thesaurus temporum, Eusebii Pamphili Caesareae Palaestinae episcopi, Chronicorum canonum omnimodae historiae libri duo Call Number: D17 .E912 1658. Special Collections & Archives Rare and Antiquarian Books

 

To assemble this exhibition, the staff of SC&A looked through the lenses of disparate disciplines to find examples that speak to scholars in the natural and physical sciences, conflict resolution, and transportation, to name a few examples. Spreading our net wide also meant we could highlight works that we found particularly appealing or quirky or mysterious.  For example: processing specialist Greta Kuriger Suiter suggested looking at theatrical playbills in terms of graphic arts, or Japanese phonograph record covers as sources of language study; research services coordinator Christine Cheng plowed through the Poole cookbook collection to find choice items; long-time Northern Virginia resident and digital collections archivist Bob Vay selected a 1953 aerial photograph of Fairfax Circle and discerned its orientation; and SC&A head Yvonne Carignan found some beautiful examples from our large collection of performing arts sources.  SC&A is full of fascinating textual, photographic, audiovisual, and material items available to scholars who are looking for unique sources of inquiry.

 

Aerial Photograph of Fairfax Circle, 1953

Aerial photograph of Fairfax Circle looking southwest, 1953. Fairfax Circle is the confluence of Lee Highway (VA Rt. 29 which continues west through the circle) Old Lee Highway (which begins at the circle and continues south-west), and Arlington Blvd (which begins at the circle and continues east). This photograph was taken by Charles Baptie from a low-flying airplane. Baptie photographed locations of Texaco stations for the Texas-based oil company during the 1950s and 1960s. Charles Baptie photograph collection, Collection #C0032, box 4, folder 8. Copyright held by George Mason University. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries, speccoll@gmu.edu.