See more objects with the color darkkhaki peru silver sienna darkolivegreen or see all the colors for this object.

Object Timeline

  • We acquired this object.



  • Work on this object began.



  • You found it!

Stick Navigation Chart (Marshall Islands)

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)
  • sextant: brass, silver, glass; case: mahogany, brass, felt.
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 1980.0318.03.
  • 14.2012.23

Our curators have highlighted 6 objects that are related to this one. Here are three of them, selected at random:

  • Pleated Fan (France)
  • paper leaf with hand-colored engraving embroidered with metallic spangles,....
  • Gift of the Estate of James Hazen Hyde.
  • 1960-1-87

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.

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use page.

If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Stick Navigation Chart (Marshall Islands) |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=6 October 2022 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>