Restored, historic plaster relief map on display

August 06, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- On Tuesday, Aug. 11, a recently restored, historically significant map was installed in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ (EMS) Museum and Art Gallery. EMS will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. Tuesday showing the installation of the map in the gallery. Representatives from the museum and Materials Conservation, the restoration company, will be available to discuss the rehabilitation, installation and plans for the map. The museum is located on the ground floor of the Deike Building and the press conference is open to the public.

The map is a large (7.5 feet x 17 feet), three-dimensional, plaster relief map that shows the geology of Pennsylvania. Created by Edward B. Harden of Philadelphia, the map dates more than 100 years. It was first displayed at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago — the same fair where a Ferris wheel was first unveiled to the public.

Since 1897, the map has been on display on Penn State’s University Park campus. It was first displayed in the original Old Main building as a visitor attraction. In 1910, it was relocated to the Geological Museum, which had been located in the old Mining Building (1906-1930). It was later moved to the Mineral Industries Building (completed in 1929), which housed the School of Mineral Industries – the precursor to EMS. The Mineral Industries Building was renamed the Steidle Building in honor of Edward Steidle, dean of the college from 1929 to 1953.

Renovations of the Steidle Building started in fall 2014 and the map was removed by the museum and Penn State’s Office of the Physical Plant (OPP) for restoration. After removing the map, it was sent in pieces to Materials Conservation Co. LLC in Philadelphia to be painstakingly refurbished. Conservators used thousands of Q-tips to clean the map and areas were touched up with new plaster and paint. The process took several months and the map is now restored to its original condition.

“This map is an extremely significant artifact of the history of science at Penn State and will now be the core of a new exhibit on contemporary research in college,” said Russ Graham, director of the EMS Museum and Art Gallery. “It is like creating a new exhibit on aviation with the Wright brother’s first plane as the focal point.”

The map can be viewed in the EMS Museum and Art Gallery in 16 Deike Building from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated August 12, 2015