Hit the Road America: A Cartographic History of the American Road Trip

June 25, 2019
Andria Olson
Hit the Road America: A Cartographic History of the American Road Trip

Dads wearing socks with sandals, singing aloud (really loud) with your favorite songs, racing to beat your older sister at collecting all the letters of the alphabet from road signs, moms taking pictures, a favorite pillow forgotten at the motel, brothers silently poking you in the backseat, or the best BLT in the world from a small town diner.

The American Road Trip 

While our memories will be different, it is certain that with the dawn of summer comes the rise of one of America's favorite past times: the road trip. Somehow simultaneously miserable and unforgettably fantastic, the American road trip has been a part of our culture since the early 1900s and has only grown in popularity over time due to our love for seeing the sites, making memories to last a lifetime, or taking photographs to share on social media.

Hit the Road America: A Cartographic History of the American Road Trip

Hit the Road America: A Cartographic History of the American Road Trip

You may have someone in your life like my dad who avoids the use of maps to ensure "the scenic route" is being taken but alas, the time has come to avenge all those eight-hour trips that could have been done in five. Hit the Road America: A Cartographic History of the American Road Trip is currently on view at Branner Earth Sciences Library & Map Collections in the main display case as you enter the library and then continues upstairs in the mezzanine, home to Branner Library's map collection. 

Hit the Road America: A Cartographic History of the American Road Trip

Branner Library Display

In the display case, you will observe the evolution of the road map from the early 1900s to the 1950s and the impact historical events had on mapping intent and design. Woven into this cartographic history are the stories of two first-ever transcontinental automobile trips, each with their own elements of adventure, fun, and perserverance. As a nod to both contemporary and historic mapping techniques, follow along with these trips on the display's basemap created by Ryan Johnston, our student worker-map assistant, using GIS software.

Mezzanine Gallery Wall

From the display case, you can go upstairs to the mezzanine's gallery wall to view the connection between road maps and the National Park Service, along with more examples of road maps and information on how they are made. On this wall, we invite you to go old school and post your road trip stories or pictures using map flag pins and string.

Hit the Road America: A Cartographic History of the American Road Trip

Hit the Road America: A Cartographic History of the American Road Trip

Branner Earth Sciences Library & Map Collections

This exhibit will be on view for the duration of the summer and into the Fall academic quarter. All maps featured in this exhibit are a part of Branner Library's map collection, a circulating collection comprised of approximately 270,000 sheet maps on topics ranging from geology to travel and everything else in between. 

During the summer months, we are open Monday through Friday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. 

For more information, please visit Branner Library.

 

 

 

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