Amelia Earhart fans can learn more through her personal papers, collections

December 21, 2010

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Fans of the famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart can learn more about the pilot through the world's largest compilation of her papers, memorabilia and artifacts, which can be accessed by anyone online through Purdue University.

"In addition to aviation and professional documents, this collection also has Earhart's personal papers, such as her recipe for buttermilk waffles, her poetry and even photographs of her personal life, such as simply getting a haircut," says Stephanie Schmitz, special projects archivist. "Through these artifacts we get to see what she was like as a person."

Purdue is home to the George Palmer Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers, which includes documents related to Earhart's 1932 solo Atlantic flight, her second and fatal attempt at a world flight in 1937, and items related to her time at Purdue. All of the 3,500 papers and photographs are digitized and available at http://www.lib.purdue.edu/spcol/aearhart/

Interest in Earhart has been rekindled because of bone fragments and a campsite found on a deserted South Pacific island. Scientists at the University of Oklahoma are trying to extract DNA from the tiny bone chips to see if they belonged to Earhart, and thus, answer the question of what happened to her during her 1937 world flight.

Earhart, who was a Purdue career counselor for women and technical adviser to the Department of Aeronautics from 1935-1937, was recruited by then-President Edward Elliott, who was impressed by her spirit of adventure and her message to women. In April of 1936 an Amelia Earhart Fund for Aeronautical Research was created with the Purdue Research Foundation. The fund purchased the $80,000 Lockheed Electra that became known as Earhart's flying laboratory. With navigator Fred Noonan, Earhart disappeared July 2, 1937, near tiny Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean while attempting an around-the-world voyage.

More than a thousand people - including scholars, researchers and fans - from all over the world use the online archive each month to access information about Earhart.

Robin Jensen, a Purdue assistant professor of communication, also is studying Earhart's papers and writings to learn more about how she pioneered aviation as a woman and her messages to women in general about studying science and other non-traditional careers.

"Whether these remains are revealed to be hers or not, people will continue to be passionate about Earhart, and there is still so much we can learn from her today," Jensen says.

Writer:  Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

Sources:   Stephanie Schmitz, 765-494-2904, sschmit@purdue.edu

                    Robin Jensen, rejensen@purdue.edu

Related websites:

Purdue Libraries Collections

Purdue College of Liberal Arts