Earhart exhibit showcases world's largest display on pioneer aviator

March 1, 2010

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue Libraries' Division of Archives and Special Collections has opened a display for the world's largest collection of papers, memorabilia and artifacts related to Amelia Earhart, the pioneer pilot who paved new paths for women at the university and in society.

"Amelia Earhart: The Aviator, the Advocate, and the Icon" opened Monday (March 1) and will be shown through May 28 in the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center on the fourth floor of the Humanities, Social Science and Education Library in Stewart Center. The display is free and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each weekday. Beginning May 10, shortened summer hours will be in effect.

"This is the first time since 2003 that we've offered a major exhibition of our Earhart collection, and we wanted the display to coincide with Women's History Month in March," said Sammie Morris, professor, university archivist and head of the Division of Archives and Special Collections. "It's been more than 70 years since Amelia was tragically lost in 1937 while flying over the Pacific Ocean during her flight around the world, and she still continues to inspire people today, as evidenced by the movie "Amelia" released last fall. Our archives were a main source of information for the moviemakers and researchers, and we're proud to be able to display them for the public."

The exhibit features documents, photographs and other items, and explores Earhart's legacy. It chronicles her aviation accomplishments, her work as a role model and career counselor at Purdue, and her advocacy of women's rights. The materials come primarily from Purdue's George Palmer Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers, which is the world's largest compilation of artifacts on the late aviator and was given to Purdue in 2002 by Sally Putnam Chapman. George Palmer Putnam was Earhart's husband.

Earhart worked at Purdue from 1935-1937 as a career counselor for women students and an adviser to the Department of Aeronautics. While at the university, she lived on campus in what is now known as Duhme Hall in the Windsor Court complex. She met formally and informally with students, seldom speaking about her achievements in aviation, but instead focusing on vocational aptitudes, goals and careers for women. At a time when opportunities for women were limited and most studied home economics at Purdue, Earhart said all people - men and women - could be whatever they wanted to be.

Her Purdue connection is in evidence on campus. In addition to the vast archives, Earhart Hall opened in 1964, and an eight-foot statue of her was unveiled last April in front of the hall's dining court.

The Office of the Provost, Purdue Women's Resource Office, Susan Bulkeley Butler Center for Leadership Excellence and Women for Purdue are sponsoring the exhibit. Items from the collection were digitized in 2004 and are available online at http://www.lib.purdue.edu/spcol/aearhart
Writer: Jim Bush, 765-494-2077, jsbush@purdue.edu

Source: Sammie Morris, 765-494-2905, morris18@purdue.edu

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