In my position, I am lucky enough to be able to dig through our manuscript collections in order to help patrons with their reference requests. As I help patrons interested in a variety of our materials, I can’t help but learn more about these collections, picking up knowledge of some truly extraordinary individuals and events along the way. One of the most striking examples of this was when a reference request led me to learn about a remarkable but inadvertent early flight around the world. A patron had sent in an email in reference to our Pan American World Airways collection, asking if we had ever heard of an incident shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, where a Pan Am flight in New Zealand was forced to fly back to the United States via Asia, Africa and South America as opposed to the planned Pacific Route that Clippers at the time were taking. After some quick research, I was able to find an account of the journey our patron was referring to. In an amazing example of courage and ingenuity in the face of great danger, Captain Robert Ford explains how he and his crew made the unplanned aerial trek from New Zealand all the way to New York City, on a route that took them from Pakistan and India, into the Middle East and Africa, over the Atlantic Ocean into South America, and finally back to the United States. This is just one of many great stories that can be found living in the documents of the Pan Am collection, and it was a great experience to help the patron and learn about the flight at the same time.
Because of the volume of reference questions answered by the staff in Special Collections, we must limit research time associated with each query to twenty minutes. Should your request take more time to answer, and if you can’t visit us in person, please call the front desk at 305-284-3247, or write us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will put you in contact with qualified independent researchers.