In July 1937, Amelia Earhart disappeared over the Pacific. She was the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and Michigan’s very own Rep. Larry Inman has spent 22 years collecting original artifacts from her inspiring life.
Inman has the world’s largest private collection of items related to Earhart’s life, including more than 1,000 original photographs, some of which are signed by the aviator herself. His collection also includes more than 4,000 additional items including documents, flight plans, letters, books authored by Earhart, and aircraft engineering drawings for her custom aircraft, a Lockheed Electra 10E Special.
It all began with the representative’s interest in historical events and well-known shipwrecks including the RMS Titanic and USS Arizona. Inman attended museums and historic auctions years ago, and he then became interested in Amelia Earhart.
His intrigue in Amelia, Inman said, soon became a more than two-decade passion. His goal is to acquire all remaining photos and artifacts of Earhart for his collection, many of which are one-of-a-kind items.
As one of the top educators, collectors and historians on the life and disappearance of Amelia Earhart, Inman is determined to exhibit his private collection across the country with the hope of inspiring people of all ages.
When I do presentations about Amelia Earhart, it’s about the person and her achievements. The legacy that she left and the message that she left is that women can do the same things as men. She broke the barrier back in the late ’20s after her first transatlantic flight.
–Rep. Larry Inman
Inman has agreements with Harvard and Purdue universities to combine their archival information and artifacts on Amelia Earhart with Inman’s notably larger private collection.
“You have to have a trademark and permission to exhibit using her name,” Inman said. “I put the trademark under ‘Remember Amelia’ and it just got approved. In determining the trademark name, I felt ‘Remember Amelia’ would emphasize the importance of her achievements and the legacy she has left today as a role model.”
Inman commissioned one of his good friends, Dey Young—a Hollywood actress and nationally recognized sculptor—to create two unique, specially commissioned pieces to accompany the exhibit. The first is a foot-tall bronze sculpture of the aviator holding flight plans and wearing her leathers and flying cap.
The other sculpture, Inman said, is Mt. Rushmore-like, where Amelia’s head is carved out of marble. One facet of the marble piece was left naturally rough, and another facet is inscribed, “Remember Amelia.”
This spring, Inman will be flying out to North Hollywood, Calif.—the home of Amelia Earhart—in hopes of meeting with multiple museums and organizations interested in being a part of the kickoff event for his traveling exhibit on Amelia.
While he has mostly been focused on Earhart’s life—the sixteenth woman to receive a pilot’s license—the mystery of her disappearance is being researched to this day.
“I have original designs and engineering drawings of Amelia’s plane on microfilm,” Inman said. “I had them digitized and cataloged recently, so when plane parts are found, we can conclusively identify her plane.”
In June, Inman will be joining the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery in the the western Pacific Ocean to aid the search for her plane. The group will be touring on and around Gardner Island—known today as Nikumaroro—a possible location of Earhart’s disappearance.
National Geographic has expressed interest in Inman’s historical collection and national exhibit if the 2015 expedition successfully recovers evidence of Earhart’s disappearance.
In the meantime, Inman will continue educating people about Amelia Earhart.
The aviator visited northern Michigan when touring the country in the 1930s, and Inman will give a presentation at Marquette High School’s Kaufman Auditorium on October 2—the same place and date where Earhart spoke more than 80 years ago.
“I’ve been working on this event since last fall,” Inman said. “I’m bringing my historical collection on Amelia, bringing her back to Marquette.”
He’ll also be presenting and displaying his collection at a fundraising event for the Marquette Regional History Center that evening.
“I didn’t begin all this to exhibit or present,” Inman said. “I was just passionate about and interested in who Amelia was as a person.”
Amelia herself always said she ‘did it for the fun of it,’
and Inman said he feels the same way about his passionate endeavor.
Inman concludes his presentations with a poem Amelia Earhart wrote during her early aviation years, which reflects the core of her legacy for all to remember.
Courage is the price that Life exacts for granting peace, The soul that knows it not, knows no release from little things;
Knows not the livid loneliness of fear, Nor mountain heights where bitter joy can hear The sound of wings.
How can life grant us boon of living, compensate For dull gray ugliness and pregnant hate Unless we dare
The soul’s dominion? Each time we make a choice, we pay With courage to behold the resistless day, And count it fair.