Monday, March 1, 2010
I've been working in this library for more than 20 years and there is no government publication here I haven't handled at least once. And yet there are still surprises. Take the attached brochure for Asir National Park, dated 1986.
If you have been to any of our wonderful national parks you probably recognize the format of this brochure (the original is in color, by the way). The National Park Service has been using the same format for their publications for a long, long time. I remember reading an article in a design magazine praising their grid format for its flexibility, clarity, and consistency.
So, hooray, a government program that works. A little unusual, perhaps, but why would I say it's a surprise?
Weirdness Number 1. Asir National Park isn't in the United States. It's in Saudi Arabia. Notice the photo of the Red Sea.
Okay, that's a little more unusual. But not a great shock. Another government liked the style and copied it. U.S. federal documents aren't copyrighted, so no harm done. Flattery is the sincerest, etc. What's the big deal?
Weirdness Number 2. This brochure is in the federal documents collection as an official U.S. National Park Service publication. Sudoc number: I 29.6: As4.
Fair enough. Our National Park Service helping out a sibling agency. All in the best interest and tradition, etc. So?
Weirdness Number 3. Nowhere on the publication does it mention the U.S. National Park Service. It says the publisher is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of Agriculture and Water.
So it is a federal document that dares not speak its name. The only similar examples I can think of are the street atlases of places like Beijing and Moscow that were put out by the Central Intelligence Agency. Apparently no one wanted to stroll through those cities with a book with CIA stamped on the cover. Go figure.