Artifact of the Month: 1950s globe

In 1955, UNC’s senior class generously donated a large globe to the University Library. It’s still on display in the North Carolina Collection Gallery, and it’s our August Artifact of the Month.


I wonder if the donors could have known the many lessons the globe would impart beyond the ones they intended? Three that easily come to mind:

Lesson #1: Sixty years of geopolitical change can render a globe nearly unrecognizable. Gallery visitors remark about the globe’s mid-twentieth-century boundaries and country names. An undivided Korea. The size of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Unfamiliar nations like Tanganyika. The legacy of European colonialism: French Indochina, British Somaliland, Belgian Congo, Spanish Guinea.


Lesson #2: There’s a reason why museum professionals tell you not to touch things. The globe is in remarkably good condition, with two exceptions. The first is a dent near the North Pole. The second is a fingertip-sized place that’s been worn down to the metal… right smack in the middle of North Carolina. Decades of people pointing to home have rendered home invisible.


Lesson #3: There’s no substitute for a three-dimensional representation of Earth. Visitors of all ages are magnetically drawn to the globe, despite carrying around high-powered, handheld computers that can simulate the experience of manipulating the planet from outer space.

You can view the globe in our digital collection, Carolina Keepsakes. But remember lesson #3: Nothing beats seeing it in 3D.

Come visit us in person!

One thought on “Artifact of the Month: 1950s globe”

  1. Excuse my unprofessionalism, but to me the bare spot adds to the globe’s appeal — imagining all those generations of gallery visitors instinctively finding their place in the world….An early (unauthorized) foreshadowing of the “hands-on” museum?….

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