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Dec 24, 2005

Remembering The Past: Lewis and Clark

Visitors to "Lewis and Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibition"’ currently at the Oregon Historical Society get an intimate look at two of the greatest explorers and cartographers in U.S. history. According to the Albany Democrat-Herald, the exhibit contains 450 artifacts from their historic exploration of the northwest United States in 1805-06.

Among the items on display are letters, diaries, watches, telescopes, plant samples, a dried woodpecker, a branding iron and even a sewing kit. While such ordinary items may not seem very exciting but the Herald quotes James Ronda, a scholar on their voyage as saying that such things serve to humanize them.

One of the most memorable pieces is William Clark'’s hand-drawn 1806 map. This was the first map to show the Rockie Montains, the Cascades and the rivers of the West. The exhibit contrasts Clark's map with what Mr. Ronda calls "“conjectural geography’," an 1802 map which shows no mountains in the west and a river passage to the Pacific.

Lewis and Clark's expedition was a diplomatic mission, a science mission, but more than anything it was a mapping mission. As Mr Ronda says, "The map is the legacy."