Calls for a permanent Amelia Earhart centre have been raised during the launch of a new temporary exhibition charting her historic landing in the city in 1932.
Local people involved in keeping the Earhart legacy alive in Derry were joined by a members of the Stratus company, the trans-Atlantic team who are trying to trace the whereabouts of Ms Earhart’s remains in the Pacific, at the launch on Wednesday.
The pioneering US aviator’s arrival in Ballyarnett is recalled in the new exhibition, which will remain open daily up to and including Saturday from 10am to 4pm at the corner entrance to the Northern Counties Building on Waterloo Place.
Amelia Earhart touched down on Derry on May 21st, 1932 after crossing the Atlantic.
Her surprise arrival in a field owned by local farming family the Gallaghers at Ballyarnett ensured her place in history as the first woman to ever complete a solo trans-Atlantic flight.
It is understood that she had been aiming to reach the bright lights of Paris, but trouble with her aircraft resulted in her pulling up a few countries short.
Five years after she landed in Derry, Ms Earhart mysteriously disappeared somewhere in the Pacific while attempting to fly around the world. No trace of Amelia, her navigator Fred Noonan, nor the plane they were flying in, has ever been found.
The new exhibition features stands, panels, artefacts and information about Ms Earhart, her visit to Derry and also Derry and Donegal’s diaspora, who have made such an impact abroad.
Chairwoman of the Friendship Society Eilish Quigley told the Journal at the launch: “Basically today is the 82nd anniversary and it is incredible to think such a global happening is not celebrated enough.
“I think if we had something more permanent and tangible to reach out to visitors from all across the globe then that would actually in turn hopefully increase revenue for the tourism economy. That’s the major aim and also to bring work to the young people here.
“We really feel fundamentally if there was a major centre, for example in the Ballyarnett field where she landed, we could create jobs out of this.”
Local musician Dougie Breslin and his daughter Emma performed their song ‘Amelia’, which has been chosen as the theme song on the official Amelia Earhart website in the US, at the launch yesterday.
Mayor Reilly said at the launch: “We have both a story of people naming places after our city. We also have Amelia, who flew here and landed here and brought the spotlight to our city some decades ago.”
The exhibition is in the same building that Amelia Earhart stayed during her time in Derry.
She had to take countless phone calls from the world’s press in the days after her arrival in the neighbouring General Post Office.
It is being staged without funding by the Amelia Earhart Friendship Society, in partnership with Greater Shantallow Community Arts, who run the annual Earhart Festival, and Foyle Civic Trust.
Joe Campbell and Felicity McCall, the authors of the recently published books on Ms Earhart’s landing in Derry, ‘One Day In May’ and a graphic novel, were also at the launch yesterday.
Ms McCall praised those who had worked so hard over the past 10 years to “remind the world we have our own unique place in aviation history”.