Kinsey and the Wasps: Mapping a Journey
Part Four, in Which Kinsey Wields Writing Utensils
Alfred C. Kinsey autographed lots of things. In addition to the items one would expect him to sign, such as copies of his own books and other publications, he signed lots of other things as well, seemingly willy-nilly sometimes. I had a chuckle when I checked eBay and found a number of items being sold at fairly high prices in relation to their value, simply because they had been signed by Kinsey. I found myself wanting to warn the buyer: “Listen, pal, I hate to break it to you, but that signature’s near worthless, because it’s all over the place!”
For purposes of this project, Kinsey’s signature was important mainly because it was present on many maps in the IU collection that were either peripherally related or completely unrelated to Kinsey’s wasp research—they were simply maps he had signed because he owned them. This required internship supervisor Theresa Quill and me to consider whether or not to include them in the collection. I will explain our decisions in the next blog post, focused on project development.
Kinsey’s signature (last name only), shown at left, on the bottom-left corner of the map pictured at center (partial view only). It is a 1933 Spanish-language map of Guatemala and El Salvador owned by Kinsey.
In truth, Kinsey didn’t sign everything. Just almost everything. As it happens, some of the most unique and irreplaceable items Indiana University owns he did not sign. Some manuscript maps, of which there is only one known copy, bear no signature, nor do many of his painstakingly annotated base maps. What to infer? Were his research maps so clearly and unmistakably his that he felt no need to sign? Did he loan his topographical and other maps to students or fellow researchers, with the signature there to remind the borrower of the map’s rightful owner? I cannot answer these questions with the research I have done so far, but I imagine there are some good anecdotes to be found out there somewhere.
Heather Sloan is an ILS Master’s student with a specialization in Digital Humanities. She is a full-time staff member in the Media Services and Government Information, Maps & Microform Services (GIMMS) departments of Herman B Wells Library. She has a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Percussion Performance from SUNY Stony Brook, and her interests include Caribbean folkloric music, Latin music, record collecting, and design in popular culture. Her Digital Humanities work focuses on intersections between digital and humanitarian mapping, the environment, and arts advocacy. She is a 2019-2020 HASTAC Scholar.