Albert Einstein once said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world." When people ask the National Museum of Surveying, “Why a surveying museum? How boring!”-Einstein’s statement has become our motto.
I’m not a surveyor. No one in my family is a surveyor. A few years ago, my only knowledge of surveying was driving along the road and seeing a field crew outside, one person halfway down the road while another looked through a device. If someone had asked me what they were doing and why, I wouldn’t have been able to say.
However, my perception and knowledge about the surveying profession changed a great deal after I accepted the position as associate executive director for the Illinois Professional Land Surveyors Association in February of this year. Around the same time, the National Museum of Surveying (NMoS) was going through a leadership transition and needed an individual who could focus on the business aspects, such as fundraising and marketing. I decided to volunteer my assistance; after all, that was where my experience lay. As a tenant in their building, it was the least I could do.
Little did I know that this museum would completely change my appreciation and respect for professional land surveyors.
I now know that seven signers of the Declaration of Independence were land surveyors, and that Mount Rushmore is actually three surveyors and one other guy. I've learned that Jefferson devised the rectangular system to lay out the land west of the Appalachian Mountains, and that a portion of the land sold was used to pay for the Revolutionary War. I can tell you why a mile is 5,280 feet, and I can list numerous reasons why it is important to have your land surveyed.
And that’s simply a minuscule glimpse at the impact the profession has had on our country, shaping its growth, and the key role it has played, and continues to play, in the development of our nation. Now, is that boring?
There is definitely a gap between academic, public and professional interpretations of land surveying and the history of the profession. The National Museum of Surveying has the opportunity and the responsibility to help narrow this gap by presenting multifaceted historical narratives while showcasing vivid explanations of the present and future of land surveying.
For the majority of individuals, it is hard to fully grasp everything that is said in a lecture. It is challenging to imagine what every word in a text book means or how an actual piece of surveying equipment featured in an exhibit is (or was) used.
NMoS is a unique destination for students, individuals, families and groups-a place where history, math and science meet the real world. In 10,000 square feet, the NMoS will take people on the journey of Lewis and Clark; become enthralled by the story of the former deputy surveyor of Sangamon County, Abraham Lincoln; experience Washington’s and Jefferson’s surveying careers; take part in interactive exhibits and activities in and around the museum that encompass surveying techniques while educating them about mathematics and science; and be taught how the instruments of yesterday have turned into the technology of today.
One way this will be done is through the museum’s Science on a Sphere exhibit. With the use of high-speed computers, projectors and advanced imaging techniques, this exhibit houses more than 200 data sets that display a wide range of pictures-all taken from satellites. This awe-inspiring presentation uniquely ties surveying to the tools and techniques used in the field and will attract visitors from all over, as there are only 36 such spheres in the world. The museum also hopes to become an online and interactive resource in addition to being a physical museum.
The hammering and drilling have fallen silent. The construction is now complete on this $1.5 million endeavor, and the museum has received its occupancy permit. Unfortunately, due to changes that needed to be made to the historic building to meet safety codes, the museum hit a $200,000 shortfall. This monetary amount needs to be met to pay the remaining construction bills, ensure that the proper cases are purchased for the exhibits and provide general operating support for a portion of the year.
The museum was thrilled in June when it received notice that the board of directors of the National Council of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors (NCEES) granted the Museum $75,000 designated for education purposes, including the installation of a mini-theater and curriculum packets for teachers in grades K-12.
Local fundraising has brought in $13,000, which will be used for general operating support for the NMoS. But more is still needed.
There are approximately 26,000 professional land surveyors across the U.S. If each professional surveyor donated $20 (thank you to those who have already contributed quite a bit more to this endeavor), we would have $520,000. If each state association contributed, $2,000, the museum would have $100,000.
We can display antique surveying instruments donated and on loan to the museum, but is that the way we want land surveying represented? With the great presidents who helped shaped this profession to the issues today of property fraud, misuse of land and talk of individual’s buying property in outer space-aren’t there better ways to show why we need professional land surveyors? We need to educate people that as individuals, we strive to own land, and without boundaries we’d be a world of chaos.
So, we built it-now will people come?
In 2008, 349,000 individuals visited the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum; 100,000 people visited the Old State Capitol; and 25,000 toured the Lincoln Herndon Law Offices. All these tourist destinations are located within one block of the National Museum of Surveying. Downtown Springfield’s museums and historic sites had over 1 million visitors last year alone.
If this museum could get a 31-year-old communications professional who had no previous ties with this profession intrigued, who’s to say there is no market?
I encourage you to visit the museum’s Web site atwww.nationalmuseumofsurveying.org. Here, you can view photos of the NMoS, read updates, donate securely online and read other articles about the museum. We are also looking for people to donate their time to help with exhibit planning, volunteer coordination and other tasks that may come about in the process of getting this museum ready to open.
With those who have supported us, we have come this far. Just think about the possibilities of tomorrow.