Have you seen our latest display in the Bookmark Café? From a distance, these maps–neither paintings nor drawings–look like antique marbleized papers with amorphous shapes in a dreamy blending of lavenders, corals, blues, golds and pinks. But up close another scene is unveiled: villages as they appeared nearly a century ago. Schoolhouses on hilltops. Green plantations on the banks of the Rio Grande river, looking out into Mexico. Islands in lakes. Cemeteries and church buildings. Serpentine trails that wander through the wilderness, terminating at lone cabins. On the south wall, you can visit Las Vegas back when it only had a dozen streets each way, dots indicating buildings.
For nearly 100 years, a large collection of these soil survey maps have been folded up and tucked in the back of U.S. Department of Agriculture documents in Mizzou Libraries’ Government Information collection. Although the project’s purpose was to document soil types and alkalinity, the maps show much more than that.
These maps are generally too fragile to unfold without tearing, but with the help of award-winning preservation specialist Michaelle Dorsey, some maps from a 1923 volume were very carefully opened up and placed inside clear plastic envelopes, custom made in our on-site preservation shop. See the original maps on display now because they are for the most part not available online. However if you want to see one for a different place or year, you can use this guide to discover which areas were mapped on which dates, and we can help you view others in our print collection.
Everyone knows you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and everyone knows we all do it anyway. But it’s a lot easier not to do in academic libraries because many of our books don’t have illustrated book jackets.
One alternative is to judge a book by its opening line. Does that line make us feel curious, perplexed, sad, anxious? If it engages us, we keep reading.
Maybe one of these will encourage you to take the book home and find out what happens next.
Photos by Notley Hawkins are now in display in the Bookmark Cafe. Subjects include our very own Columbia, Missouri, as well as rural scenes and natural vistas.
Notley Hawkins has lived in Missouri his whole life. Born and raised in Columbia, he studied painting and drawing at Columbia College with Sid Larson, a student of Thomas Hart Benton. He attended the University of Missouri in Columbia for his Master’s degree where he worked with noted artist and cartoonist Frank Stack (Foolbert Sturgeon). Notley did additional studies at the prestigious Skowhegan School in Maine.
He has held residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and the Ucross Foundation, and his work is in the collections of the State Historical Society of Missouri and the Ashby-Hodge Gallery of American Art, as well as many private collections. Notley he took up photography in 2005 after growing disinterested in painting and is now a full-time fine art photographer specializing in rural and bucolic images.