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Object Timeline

  • We acquired this object.

-0001

1950

  • Work on this object began.

2014

2019

  • You found it!

Stick Navigation Chart (Marshall Islands), Before 1950

This is a Stick navigation chart.

This object is not part of the Cooper Hewitt's permanent collection. It was able to spend time at the museum on loan from National Museum of Natural History as part of Tools: Extending Our Reach.

It is dated Before 1950. Its medium is carved wooden sticks, cowrie shells, twine lashing.

In the Marshall Islands, a small Micronesian community, the organization of society and views of the universe were, and are, influenced by relationships with the sea—as a source for food and transport as well as occasional devastation. While known for its canoes, it is the navigation stick chart, a visualization of seafarers’ secret knowledge obtained over generations, that defines the Marshallese rapport with the sea. Acute sea observation yields a familiarity with ocean swells, what happens as they approach and pass land, and the characteristics of swell pattern interaction. From this complex information, a system of navigation depicted in stick charts developed in two ways: as models and as piloting instructions. Stick chart data are indicated by the arrangement of the sticks and by the forms given to them by bending and crossing, resembling the visual language of grid maps. Never taken aboard, these charts existed solely in the navigator’s memory.

It is credited Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, E432083.

  • Sextant And Case (England), ca. 1865
  • sextant: brass, silver, glass; case: mahogany, brass, felt.
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 1980.0318.03.
  • 14.2012.23

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Its dimensions are

H x W x D: 99.4 x 101.9 x 4.4 cm (39 1/8 x 40 1/8 x 1 3/4 in.)

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Tools: Extending Our Reach.

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520475/ |title=Stick Navigation Chart (Marshall Islands), Before 1950 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=12 December 2019 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>