Purdue continues enhancement of Armstrong papers, those of other historical flight figures

August 30, 2012  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University Libraries is continuing the process of preserving and providing access to the papers of late astronaut Neil A. Armstrong.

The initiative is part of Purdue's effort to be a focal point for researchers and enthusiasts of space and flight. With 23 alumni astronauts, including Armstrong and Eugene Cernan - the first and most recent people to walk on the moon - the university is known as the "Cradle of Astronauts." Women's flight pioneer Amelia Earhart was in an aircraft funded by the Purdue Research Foundation during her attempted around-the-world flight from which she never returned in 1937. Earhart was a career counselor for women students and an adviser to the Department of Aeronautics at Purdue before the flight.

Cernan also donated personal papers to the Libraries' Division of Archives and Special Collections. The division, housed 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, also has the George Palmer Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers. It is the world's largest compilation of papers, memorabilia and artifacts related to the late aviator.

Alumni astronauts Roy Bridges Jr. and Janice Voss also have donated personal papers to the archives.

"The Neil Armstrong papers document his life achievements before and after the moon landing and the manner in which he, a true hero, never took the credit alone but always conveyed that achieving a goal is done through collaboration and teamwork," Purdue Libraries Dean James L. Mullins said. "Archiving and stewarding the papers of Armstrong, Cernan and other leaders in flight and space exploration will be one of the most important responsibilities Purdue Libraries has now and into the future."

Last April, the university announced Purdue Libraries was receiving a $2 million grant from Barron Hilton and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to endow an archivist for its Flight and Space Exploration Archives. Tracy Grimm in July became the inaugural Barron Hilton Archivist for Flight and Space Exploration.

"Neil Armstrong's papers served as the impetus for the creation of what ultimately became known as the Barron Hilton Flight and Space Exploration Archives," said Sammie Morris, head of the Division of Archives and Special Collections. "Neil's gift of his papers inspired additional Purdue alumni astronauts, engineers and pilots to donate their papers as part of a larger collecting effort. Through the generosity of Eugene Cernan, Roy Bridges, Janice Voss and others, the collections have grown, and now the initiative has been endowed by the Hilton Foundation. None of this would have been possible without Neil's initial donation."

Armstrong graduated from Purdue in 1955 with a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering. The papers represent his personal files and date to the beginning of his career.

"Neil Armstrong's papers represent one of our most prestigious archival collections," Grimm said. "Libraries, Archives and Special Collections builds unique and distinctive original collections to support research and teaching needs. The research interest in Armstrong is international and includes historians, biographers and other scholars around the globe. Additionally, teachers will utilize the collection for K-12 educational opportunities to engage schoolchildren in learning about space exploration and the importance of math and science."

Purdue's Place in Space: From the Midwest to the Moon, with information on alumni astronauts is available online at http://www.lib.purdue.edu/moon/index.php?id=3

Writer: Jim Bush, 765-494-2077, jsbush@purdue.edu

Sources: James L. Mullins, 765-494-2900, jmullins@purdue.edu

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

Tracy Grimm, 765-496-2941, grimm3@purdue.edu

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