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Friday, January 29, 2016

Hello again Graham,

It’s been a while since I’ve updated you on our progress here in the Burchfiel Geography Building for incorporating the map collection into our geography curriculum. Last semester, we tried a pilot project by designing a hands-on exercise that was given to several of our World Geography courses that tested the students’ abilities to investigate the maps, search for key items on the maps, and answer questions about the maps that made them truly inspect the map that was hanging in front of them. In the box that will soon be arriving to your Madison Avenue office will be 229 graded map exercises -- each one was three pages long but some students opted to not print out the exercise to save paper and ink (an expensive commodity for our student body here). Being on the 4th floor here, I often hear a lot of activity in the nearby hallway and was pleased to be able to take a few photos of the students completing their map exercises. These are attached. The last image (IMG_1698) was taken just a few minutes ago!

What I’ve noticed is that having students standing in front of the maps and intently analyzing them creates an “infectious” curiosity among students and others who visit our building! Once the students move on to other maps to answer their questions, others move in behind them to inspect and appreciate the maps, curious about what the original students were gazing at. I approached a married couple last week who were standing in front of one of the maps and asked them what made them curious, and they said that while they were waiting for their daughter to come out of her classroom, they noticed all these students peering intently at the maps and so they had to find out what was fascinating the students. Of course, I was elated. Once I explained to them more about the maps, they were very impressed by the overall collection.

I have to tell you, also, that a few times I’ve had to correct students because they thought they were looking simply at copies of maps. I then explained to the students that, no, these are all originals, in their original conditions, with original water colors, donated by generous patrons of the arts and supporters of geography, with some maps dating back to the 1600s and even 1500s. This resulted in big smiles and wow expressions.

Just so you know, Graham, I literally have to reference your two volumes on conifers almost daily! Thank you for your generous gift!

All for now, but more to come, I’m sure!

Dr. Henri D. Grissino-Mayer
Professor and Associate Department Head
Department of Geography
1000 Philip Fulmer Way
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville, Tennessee 37996-0925 USA

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