By Barbara J. Little, Editor
As the readers of CRM Journal and all CRM practitioners know well, cultural heritage presents us with both comforts and challenges. Our experiences with our histories can leave us both heartened and dismayed, sometimes simultaneously. For example, as a visitor to any number of parks or memorials, I can find myself impressed and inspired by the intrepid resolve of early European explorers, yet grief-stricken by the deadly, reverberating consequences of their actions for Native people.
The historian John Hope Franklin spoke about this “sense of mingled pride and sadness” apparent at many historic places, including those preserved within the national park system such as national military cemeteries and more recent additions such as the site of the Japanese internment camp of Manzanar. His observations are relevant to the broadest range of activities gathered under the rubric of historic preservation, as he calls on practitioners to consider the impact and meaning of recognized and preserved places where history happened. I quote Franklin’s words at length because they resonate with the relevance of our cultural heritage and the ways in which we learn from and commemorate it.1
During the 1930s, the great historian, sociologist, and public servant W. E. B. Dubois wrote in his study of black reconstruction this statement, and I quote, ‘One is astonished in the study of history at the recurrence of the idea that evil must be forgotten, distorted, skimmed over…. The difficulty, of course, with this philosophy is that history loses its value as an incentive and as an example; it paints perfect men and noble nations, but it does not tell the truth.’
The key words are incentive and example. The places that commemorate sad history are not places in which we wallow, or wallow in remorse, but instead places which we may be moved to a new resolve, to be better citizens.
The upward progress of this nation has been achieved by the struggles of people whose heroic actions on our behalf we are learning to celebrate. Patriotism and loyalty are aroused by full sense of participation. That is why it is important for us to hear, in our parks, as in our classrooms, about labor struggles, about heroism in the achievement of racial justice, and to listen to the voices of women in their struggles.
The writer Barbara Kingsolver has expressed one of the historically entrenched dilemmas of the modern world this way: “The legacy of colonialism is a world of hurt and cross-pollinated beauty, and we take it from there.”2 How we “take it from there” is a question for cultural resource practitioners to ponder.
El Morro National Monument in New Mexico is one of those places illustrating historic bravery and contemporary courage. It takes courage and resolve to listen for and acknowledge competing stories and to take seriously the continued unfolding of America’s quest for a more perfect union.
Thomas Guthrie’s case study is El Morro but his argument reaches far more broadly as he challenges us to look deeply at the layers of meaning conveyed by our presentations of history. Guthrie asks us to take the legacy of colonialism seriously and to confront it through the interpretative stories of our national parks. Guthrie’s article and the research report by Clay Mathers, Charles Haecker, James W. Kendrick, and Steve Baumann complement each other in revealing the richness of heritage at El Morro. The latter authors report on the exciting discovery of clear physical evidence within the national monument for the 1540-1542 Spanish entrada of Coronado. Their work follows up on a report in the Summer 2009 issue of CRM Journal about other Coronado-associated artifacts discovered within Zuni Pueblo. Piecing together the full landscape of this early Spanish presence in New Mexico and its far reaching effects on Native peoples is an ongoing, collaborative effort.
Indeed, it is the landscape scale of such research efforts that start to change our understanding of both past and present and the relationships between people and the land.
Brenda Barrett calls on the National Park Service to take an active leadership role in the nationwide effort to identify, protect, and sustain the landscapes we treasure. Many different groups work on various aspects of landscape preservation. Barrett sees effective collaboration as a daunting, but achievable, mission. While describing how administrative and funding tools are essential, she also writes that telling the stories may be the most powerful tool available.
The protected areas of Ngorongoro and Serengeti in Tanzania are vast, internationally treasured landscapes. Audax Mabulla and John Bower describe challenges to cultural heritage preservation and management in those protected areas, highlighting the need to integrate cultural and natural resource stewardship along with the needs of Indigenous people. Both the challenges and proposed actions will be familiar to practitioners in many countries, including the United States.
Across the globe, many local populations would benefit from more awareness about the richness of their histories. That is true not only in Tanzania but also in Maryland, Missouri, and elsewhere. Michael Roller reports on the Bladensburg Archaeology Project, which includes archeological excavation, documentary research, and architectural inventory in this Maryland suburb of Washington, DC. The core of the project is civic engagement with and within the community to assist people in exploring and sharing their histories. Andrew Weil and Andrea Hunter tell the moving story of preservation through the purchase of Sugarloaf Mound in St. Louis by one of the descendant tribes. The Osage Nation purchased this surviving example of earthen architecture with the intention to build an interpretive center to tell the history to non-tribal local people who may be unaware of their city’s deep past.
As we research, document, preserve, and interpret our heritage, we continually make connections. We pull together the recognition and management of natural and cultural resources so that we are better able to appreciate and protect the fullness of our world. We pull together the experiences, values, and expertise of ever-widening circles of stakeholders.
In this issue’s interview, we celebrate both an individual’s achievements and the 75th anniversary of the Historic American Buildings Survey. John Bostrup was only 20-years-old when he joined HABS as a photographer in 1936. The contributions of this young man speak well of the current emphasis on involving youth in service on public lands and in heritage preservation.
As we share, listen, and respond to the personal experiences and many stories connected to places and people, we connect past, present, and future.
Additional Note to Our Readers
I’d like to thank all of you who continue to respond to the invitation to review materials for the journal. The invitation is open: If you are interested in contributing to CRM as a reviewer, please contact the editor at NPS_CRMJournal@nps.gov with your name, email address, mailing address, phone number, and areas of topical and/or geographic expertise.
I am also very pleased to welcome Pat O’Brien as the Book Review Editor and Brian Joyner as Exhibits and Multimedia Review Editor. Rebecca Shiffer is now a Research Report Editor, joining Lisa Davidson and Virginia Price. Virginia Price is also filling the new position of Associate Editor.
1. John Hope Franklin, “Cultural Resource Stewardship” (Keynote address, Discovery 2000: The National Park Service General Conference, St. Louis, Missouri, 11 September 2000.) http://www.nps.gov/discovery2000/culture/keynote.htm, accessed March 22, 2010.
2. Barbara Kingsolver, “The Vibrations of Djoogbe,” pp. 181-193 in High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never (New York: Harper Collins, 1995), 193.