Rare document from SMU used in Burns’ “National Parks” film

 

September 29, 2009

A rare brochure from SMU’s DeGolyer Library is featured in Ken Burns’ PBS documentary series “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.”

The 1886 Northern Pacific Railroad brochure featured in the documentary,  “Alice’s Adventures in the New Wonderland: The Yellowstone National Park,” capitalized on the popularity of Lewis Carroll’s book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to promote the park. In the brochure the fictional Alice writes a letter to her friend Edith describing the wonders she sees.

“Well here I am rubbing my eyes every day, to be sure I am not either in a dream or a new world. You never saw nor could you ever imagine such strange sights as greet us at every turn.”

Burns’ six-part film series (September 27-October 2) traces the birth of the national park idea in the mid-1800s and follows its evolution for nearly 150 years. Burns and his team have spent the last six years creating the series using archival materials such as the DeGolyer Library brochure, historic photographs and first person accounts. SMU was first contacted in 2006 for permission to use the brochure.

DeGolyer Library is a special collections library at SMU known for its collection of Western Americana and transportation history, particularly the history of railroads. The library’s collections include 110,000 rare books, 2,500 separate manuscript collections, 500,000 photographs, 3,000 early maps, 2,000 periodical and newspaper titles and a sizable collection of printed ephemera.

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