By RACHEL EVANS
Two tribal college librarians on a working visit to the Library of Congress this past July uncovered many surprises in the Library's map collections. They volunteered as part of a nationwide effort to produce a comprehensive database of all Native American lands throughout the United States.
Greg Chester, library director for Leech Lake Tribal College in Cass Lake, Minn., and Holly Ristau, archivist and librarian at White Earth Tribal and Community College and district librarian in Mahnomen, Minn., spent three weeks this summer working with the collections of the Library's Geography and Map Division (G&M).
Last year, Chester and Ristau took a tour of G&M when they visited the Library along with other members of the Tribal College Librarian Association. Robert Morris, a technical information specialist in G&M, and Pam Van Ee, a specialist in cartographic history, suggested that the two volunteer in G&M as a follow-up to their visit.
During their stay this summer, Chester and Ristau reviewed more than 1,000 pieces of Minnesota cartographic materials and entered 395 items into the database. "Their perspective when viewing the maps added value to the project," said Morris.
"We worked well together," added Ristau, who, along with Chester, was astonished at what they found in the Library's map collections.
While helping to create a checklist of cartographic resources for the study of Native Americans, the Minnesota librarians found a map that depicted a canal in Minnesota that was never constructed. Chester also discovered a period of 40 years, beginning in the early 1900s, when then-existing reservations did not appear on any maps.
"Finding information and details that we could share with the students and community was my favorite part of the experience," said Chester. "The artistry of many of the maps is just beautiful," said Ristau. Both were enthusiastic about being able to take some duplicate (surplus) material back to Minnesota to share with their colleges.
This is the program's first year but, given its success, it may be continued.
"We are hoping that in the future other librarians will come to G&M and widen the scope of the database," said Van Ee.
Rachel Evans was an intern in the Public Affairs Office.