About the Exhibit

The fifth floor of Northwestern University Libraries is home to two distinctive collections of international importance: the Transportation Library, which is home to the largest collection of transportation research information in the United States, and among the largest in the world; and the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies, which is the largest separate Africana collection in existence. Independence in the Air brings together timetables, annual reports, and other materials from the collections of both libraries to illustrate the story of commercial passenger aviation in Africa during the period of independence.

This exhibit was curated by Rachel Cole, Public Services Librarian at Northwestern University’s Transportation Library, with contributions from Gene Kannenberg of the Herskovits Library.

The header image is from the cover of Ethiopian Airlines’ 1958 Annual Report.

Royal Air Maroc 1966 Timetable

About the Transportation Library

Founded in 1958, the Transportation Library supports the research and educational needs of Northwestern University students and faculty, as well as a global community of transportation researchers. Supporting the research needs of our students and faculty is central to our mission, activities, and the development of our collections, which number over 500,000 items, and which are curated to support cutting-edge research in all transportation modalities including air, rail, highway, pipeline, water, urban transport and logistics. Our digitization efforts, online exhibit, and social media platforms are produced to connect and promote our collections to a worldwide audience.

About the Herskovits Library of African Studies

Established in 1954, the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies at Northwestern University is the largest separate Africana collection in existence. Its scope is as wide as the continent of Africa itself; its subject matter ranges from art, history, literature, music, science, technology and religion to communications, engineering, management and cooking. The Africana collection is a resource for the entire university, and most of Northwestern’s disciplinary programs are reflected in the collection. In addition to serving the NU community, the Herskovits Library also serves regional, national and international scholars.
About the Herskovits Library of African Studies

Special Thanks

Special thanks to Transportation Library director Roberto Sarmiento for curating the library’s collections – especially for starting a special collections program in the Transportation Library – through which our exhibit program is made possible, as well as for input, support, encouragement, and patience in executing Independence in the Air. Thanks to Transportation Library Specialist Joe Ellison for coordinating the processing of the George M. Foster timetable collection, and Archival Processing Aide Elizabeth Kahakulani Blaisdell for her work with the collection to make these materials discoverable.

Our exhibits would not be possible without the materials generously donated by library patrons like George M. Foster, whose timetable collection was instrumental in illustrating the development of airlines in Independence in the Air.

Sincere thanks to colleagues and friends at Northwestern University Libraries for taking the time to review this exhibit: African Studies Librarian Florence Mugambi, Accessions Specialist Brittan Nannenga, and Latin American Studies Librarian Michelle Guittar, and to Geospatial and Data Analyst Kelsey Rydland for sharing his GIS expertise.

Thanks also to Dr. Gordon Pirie of the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town for graciously and cheerfully sharing his expertise on the African airline industry during a serendipitous and timely visit to our libraries and after, and to Heather Hughes of the University of California, Santa Barbara Library for help with translation.

Additional thanks to Northwestern University Libraries’ Copyright Librarian Liz Hamilton, as well as Clare Roccaforte, Drew Scott, and Lauren McKeen from Library Marketing & Communications for their continued support of the Transportation Library’s exhibit program.


Northwestern University Libraries is dedicated to the fair and ethical preservation, digitization, curation, and use of its collections. This exhibit is made available to the public under Fair Use (Section 107 of the Copyright Act) for learning and teaching purposes, as well as to promote the mission and activities of Northwestern University Libraries (ARL Code of Best Practices in Fair Use). Northwestern University Libraries does not claim the copyright of any materials in this collection. If you are the copyright holder of any item(s) in this collection or have questions, comments or concerns about this exhibit, please contact us via email at library@northwestern.edu.

More Information

Items in the exhibit are housed at Northwestern University’s Transportation Library and the Herskovits Library of African Studies. Email transportationlibrary@northwestern.edu or africana@northwestern.edu with questions, or to schedule an appointment.