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Restoring an icon: Yellowstone historic map shines again

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK – When you enter Yellowstone, rangers give you a map of the park.

However, there is another map in Yellowstone – a map of the United States that’s been a feature of the Mammoth Hotel for 80 years. Thanks for restoration efforts this summer…this wooden icon will be a part of Yellowstone for years to come.

“It was created in 1937 by Robert Reamer W. H. Faye who were Seattle architects,” explained Colleen Curry, Yellowstone National Park Map Room Museum Curator. “Reamers are very well known for being the architects of the Old Faithful Inn. He was brought in to do some renovations to the hotel here and they created this map.It took about 5 months for them to create it. It actually contains 2,544 pieces of very thin wood veneer – they’re actually 1/32 of an inch think. So very thin veneers from 15 different kinds of wood from 9 countries.”

The map has been cleaned and repaired before and the original rubber cement was replaced in the 1990s. This time though, the map was taken down. And for the first time since arriving in 1937, it left Yellowstone.

“(We)Took the map off the wall and for the first time it was able to be transported down to the park service lab in Tucson, Arizona where they could actually they could do a lot more in-depth work on the map since they were in the lab setting,” said Curry. “They were able to kind of clean off the old varnish re-adhere some pieces that were buckling and do some painting and put a new surface on it so it actually cleaned it up quite a bit.”

The goal was not to make it look like new, rather simply highlight its 8 decades. New windows in the map room will now help prevent fading and the map has faded over the years. Curry says taking the map to the lab this summer may be the best thing to happen to it since it was made.

“I think they were able to do a lot more in-depth work than if, they would be very limited if it was here in the Map Room. They had a lot more of their tools and supplies in the lab setting,” said Curry. “And I think it was also interesting to just taking it off the wall, seeing how it was fabricated and getting a better sense of that for its preservation.”

Next time you’re in the park go to the Map Room in the Mammoth Hotel and look for the railroad hotspots of 1937 and see if you can find the mistaken state capitol. But most of all enjoy this iconic piece of Yellowstone that really has very little to do with Yellowstone.

By the way – the incorrect state capitol is in one of the east coast states. We’re not going to give it away, you’ll have to find it yourself.

-Chet Layman reporting for MTN News