The Preservation Technology Podcast


Preservation Technology Podcast

Welcome to the Preservation Technology podcast, the show that brings you the people and projects that are bringing innovation to preservation.


154. The Material Culture of Writing


Catherine Cooper: Hello, my name is Catherine Cooper. I am here with-- Cydney Alexis: Cydney Alexis. I am an Associate Professor of Composition and Rhetoric at Kansas State University. My favorite National Park is Grand Teton National Park. I was very excited to see that you work for the Park Service, because I am a big fan of the National Parks. Hannah Rule: And I'm Hannah Rule. I'm an Associate Professor of English and Composition Rhetoric, sometimes called Writing Studies, at the University of South Carolina. And my favorite National Park is … --I'm afraid of the outdoors!. [laughing] Catherine Cooper: Thank you both so much for joining me today. So, you just wrote a book called The Material Culture of Writing. And I was wondering what led each of you to be curious about the objects that surround and are used in writing practice? Cydney Alexis: Well, we were lucky in that we had a friend professor bring us together, because she knew... She had been working with Hannah closely, and she knew that I was writing about objects. And so, we did a presentation together at a conference, which was great. And quickly the book idea began to evolve, but I'd always been interested in objects. When I was a little kid, I loved Richard Scarry's Best Story Book Ever!. And I would just spend countless hours for years with this book. It has little people and little objects that are labeled. Never knew you could study objects in this way, until I landed at University of Wisconsin-Madison. And I was in the English Department studying Composition and Rhetoric, but found that they had a Material Culture program and a Material Culture certificate. And that's when I began to study objects in a scholarly way. The field merges art historians, archeologists, historical archeologists, people from every discipline really. And so, I was so excited to actually be able to study the theory behind this obsession that I had always had. Hannah Rule: Just to go off what Cydney was saying. I think that the origin story of us getting together was possibly eight years ago, and that original conference presentation, from then we were starting the book in a sense. So, it's been a long time coming. But I think for me, I think what brought us together, Cydney is really coming from the material culture studies perspective and has taught me a lot over the course of our collaboration. For me, my work in composition and rhetoric has been focused on composing processes and how people get writing done. Writing itself is a technology of human invention, and it exists only by virtue of things. It literally could not exist if humans didn't take up various objects to make writing also a thing, a material thing that exists and circulates in the world. So, oftentimes in my discipline, people talk about writing in terms of something that happens in the mind or in the imagination, as this ephemeral human act, but I'm really insistent upon and interested in the ways that it's full-bodied and material. So, that's part of, I hope, the work that the book does for people, both inside our discipline and interdisciplinary audiences as well. Catherine Cooper: What was the impetus for putting together these passions into a book and at this particular time? Cydney Alexis: I don't know if Hannah had also been thinking about this book, but I had been obsessing about it already. But when you're thinking about a book and you have no idea how that works, it felt very distant and far away. And when our colleague and friend, Laura Micciche, did bring us together, she said, "You two should know each other. You two should work on this project together." And every time someone encourages you, it just feels a little bit more possible. And of course, Hannah had already been working on a book. I think you were already working on your book when we met. She was able to also show me how it works, which was really nice. Hannah Rule: Yeah. And I think part of our coming together that's been really fruitful, is we've been able to encourage one another that our passions or just casual interests... With that conference that we keep referencing, I was on about writing about keyboards and the stability of keyboards over technological change. And I thought, "Is this a thing? Is it interesting? Does it have stakes?" And I think over our collaboration, we just encourage each other that, yeah, there's something there. There's something interesting. So, I think that's something that we've really benefited from in collaborating is coming from different perspectives and different frameworks, and using them to write about things that we think are cool. And that's been a real pleasure. Catherine Cooper: You mentioned in the book that the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement impacted your thinking while you were putting the book together. Would you be willing to share some of your thoughts on how the material in the book, the choices you made, what chapters you included, how you would approach that possibly differently if you were to do an edited volume or a second edition? Hannah Rule: Cydney and I have thought a lot about this, and I think there's two things that came up while we were in the long process of publishing the book. And one was really aided in part and brought to light through Laura Micciche, who is a mentor of mine and who, again, brought us, Cydney and I, together. And she wrote a foreword for the book where she muses on access. And that's something that we realized was of course part of the book the entire time, but it wasn't at the forefront of some of the stories our contributors were telling. And the other was preservation, which is to say many of our contributors are thinking about contexts, human lives that are historical. And we took for granted, to some extent, the amount of effort and leveraging of power and money that it takes to get someone's stuff to remain. Jefferson's chapter, that Diane Ehrenpreis contributed, she's a Curator of Decorative Arts and Historic Interiors at Thomas Jefferson Foundation, at Monticello. And she was writing about Jefferson's writing suite, his furniture. There's fascinating stories to tell there, and she tells it. But it also made us really think about his own legacy, and why it is that we have access to these pristinely preserved objects, and what we don't have about the lives that moved through Monticello. And Diane, along with us, we really thought hard about that chapter and whose stories we could try to tell on the margins of this very well-preserved and curated sense of this historical figure, and try to see him truthfully in an extremely complex and fraught context that it would be unethical to ignore. Cydney Alexis: These are issues that I think Hannah and I have always cared about, but new horrors, what else can you say, emerged throughout the pandemic, that just make the issues crystallize in different ways. And like Hannah said, the various contributors, our Afterward contributor, Kate Smith, and Laura's chapter, it's very interesting to see the touchstones that they pick out. It just raises to the surface the way that someone reads the book. And so, that was very fascinating for us. And then, we could pick up on those issues too. It was something that with us the whole time, and it was very important to us. Catherine Cooper: Is there a second book? Cydney Alexis: Yes, we have a proposal drafted. Catherine Cooper: So, did putting together The Material Culture of Writing spark any ideas of what you want to study next or where you'd like to take your next deep dive? Cydney Alexis: I've been obsessing over a couple of things, other things as well. And one is, I directed the writing center at K-State for a little over five years and came in contact with work in a lot of different fields, the hard sciences, for example. And I would bring in guest speakers from the hard sciences. And they, as you probably know, work on a lot of shorter, newer, fresher research, on short pieces called communications. And it blew my mind that we're still in the 25 pages in terms of consumer research, another field I work in, sixty-page articles in journals. But what people in the sciences are able to do is really prioritize this quick, new, fresh research so that you're not necessarily working for eight years, for 10 years on a project, but you're allowed to take that well-researched quick dive into issues that come up. That and also just reading the research about everyone who got left behind in the pandemic, parents, moms especially, productivity rates and publishing rates just plummeted throughout the pandemic, because people in parent roles were having to caretake during the pandemic, so much harder to get scholarship out, and underrepresented groups who had suffered in the pandemic because of unequal access to healthcare. And so, Hannah and I talked and said, "I'm starting to think a lot about a book that has shorter pieces, where we generate more histories of writing artifacts that are missing in our field and do it more quickly, and allow lots of different voices to contribute." Because you can take a look around your house or in your collection and find an artifact that you want to research, and write a shorter piece instead of that 25 page piece. Hannah Rule: Yeah, I think part of the drive, in addition to a lot of the touch points that Cydney laid out is, I think we're excited to really allow scholars, not just in English Studies or Writing Studies, but those working across disciplines potentially. That's something I've really valued about our collaboration is, it's not easy to do cross-disciplinary or interdisciplinary work. Part of the drive too is that I think people want to write about and think about their stuff, the writing stuff. There's something alluring about it. And I know Cydney and I feel that and we try to spread it about, but I think common people... Cydney described when she was kicking around this idea with her family, that her father-in-law was like, "I want to contribute something," but what was the object that he was- Cydney Alexis: And he wrote it. Office printers from the 1980s. Hannah Rule: There's just something about this that compels people, it's part of people's lives as they make their way in the world in various ways through literacy, through reading and writing. It's through stuff, I think. And I think there's something, I don't know if it's thoroughly scholarly or not, but nevertheless it does compel. And so, we want to give some space for those stories of both personal connection and objects of study. Cydney Alexis: People are really compelled by this, but there's often also a knee-jerk reaction of, stuff is superficial. Stuff is material, it doesn't matter. And so, people can not have a sense of how deeply this matters. And there's some touchstone figures, historical archeologists, James Deetz and Henry Glassie, folklorists, and their work is so incredible in showing why every day vernacular stuff matters. Deetz was looking at deeds, old house deeds, or a lists of items sold on a farm, whatever it was, to actually find out how did people live? How did these stories that, again, we don't have documentation of because these are people who weren't paid attention to, their stories and lives. The stories of the poor, for example. The objects that they had in their home didn't matter. Material Culture scholars came through in the 70s, ever since then and said, "Yeah, this stuff really matters. You're not seeing it in museums, but you should. We need to look at the "low art, hip artifact". We need to look at the everyday form. This is what Hannah and I have been thinking a lot about, and we tried really hard with the first book. We wanted people to pick everyday objects and fell in love with some of these artifacts, like one of the writers in the book who was a student of mine, a grad student. And she wrote about the Victorian baby book. And it is just such an amazing artifact, because this is something that you would see in so many homes. Catherine Cooper: What would you like people to take away from your book? Cydney Alexis: That writing objects matter. Attention to them is a serious thing. Yes, our focus is we're Writing Studies scholars, but we get so much pleasure from the objects that we work with and around, and they also enable our work and writing lives and personal lives in so many important ways, that there is serious work going on there. Hannah Rule: I think that in our field, in Writing Studies, we can overlook this dimension, even though there are competing underlying impulses that do draw individuals towards these stories and these inquiries. And so, I want people to maybe see writing differently. I think there's an important interdisciplinary reminder that many people in many fields are interested in writing, and writing objects or writing artifacts. There's plenty of work that the discipline of Literary Studies can do, I’m thinking about what it's doing and so on. And one thing I would advocate for is that, we are more alike, us in Writing Studies, interested in everyday writing, and writing broadly construed and what's going on in Literary Studies. After all, we're just all human beings making our way in language. Catherine Cooper: Are you also looking at other forms of writing? So, quilting or knot work, or there are these other languages that we inscribe into objects that it could just keep going? Cydney Alexis: Absolutely. That was the main... I did present that piece on the roller skate at our field’s national conference. And it's not the skate that's doing the writing, but the skate is facilitating all of this writing work on Instagram, because people... Skating exploded in popularity in a lot of communities globally, throughout the pandemic. And so, people were turning to Instagram and TikTok to document this, and just creating this voluminous body of writing because of this artifact. So yeah, we have been thinking really expansively. We're so thrilled about the chapters in the book that helped to broaden what people would see as writing. The conservators file was so exciting to us for that reason. Hannah, I don't know if you want to pick up on- Hannah Rule: This is a proverbial open question, I suppose in our field. What are we picturing when we talk about writing? Because there's obviously, through various movements... In our field, we think about multimodality, which is the other symbolic systems that we use to make meaning, that exceeds language. So, Patricia Dunn is one scholar who's thought about that we over emphasize or value especially written language, as the chief way to do, let's say, intellectual work. And her point is to say, there are so many other ways, symbol systems that humans use to think, and to learn, and to communicate what they know. And so, she's one of many people who has helped us in the field say, let's not over invest or overvalue the word. But we get into trouble, because then it questions where are our boundaries, the way we might conventionally think of writing. But it might be other stuff, right? Writing is always getting mixed up with other modalities. So, I'm thinking of the baby book chapter. That's a good example. That's a writing practice. That's what the woman whose book that is, that Emilie Merrigan is thinking about. But if you think about the artifact of the book, even this older, not current artifact, a historical artifact, is already... That technology of that book is an entailing image and layout and spatial arrangement, and alongside scribal activity, which we might conventionally think of as writing. But I think our field of Writing Studies in some way, is always pushing the boundary, I think often to good ends, even as it's like, well then what are we actually talking about when we say writing? We don't just mean words on the page, we mean more than that. But then it's like, again, where do you draw the boundary? Cydney Alexis: There's of course symbolic language systems that complicate the idea of what we mean by writing. But I was thinking as Hannah was talking about a piece that was really electric for me in our field, called “Chronotopic Lamination” [By Paul Prior and Jody Shipka], when I first read it. Because what the authors argue is that, yes, writing can be the final piece, but it's also everything you do in between. So, it's the gardening you do while you're thinking about writing, and it's taking a walk and how you formulate thoughts in your head. The people who can formulate thoughts that way. We're finding out how many people actually don't have internal thought, which is really fascinating in terms of meaning making. And I talk a lot with my students about this, for example, and I have them document all those interstitial moments where they're working on the text, but they're not actually sitting down to write. “And I did a load of laundry, I worked on the problem.” There are a lot of ways to complicate what we mean when we say writing and everything that goes into that final act, sitting down to put words on a page. Catherine Cooper: Thank you both so much for joining us. Cydney Alexis: Thank you so much. Hannah Rule: Thank you so much. This was so fun. Cydney Alexis: Yeah Catherine Cooper: It's been an absolute pleasure.

Catherine Cooper speaks with Cydney Alexis, Associate Professor of Composition and Rhetoric at Kansas State University, and Hannah Rule, Associate Professor of English and Composition Rhetoric about studying the objects that are part of writing practice.

153. Cherokee Rose


Subheading: What is “The Cherokee Rose?”

Megan: This is Megan Reed from the Preservation Technology Podcast and I am here with... Tiya Alicia Miles: I’m Tiya Miles, I’m very happy to be here, Megan. Megan: The book “The Cherokee Rose”, can you briefly describe that? Tiya Alicia Miles: It's a very different kind of book, but there are also many echoes and intersections across these two books. “The Cherokee Rose” is subtitled A Novel of Gardens and Ghosts. It is a work of fiction, though very much like “All That She Carried” in spirit. It is a work that is situated in a southern place; it is very much about the environment surrounding a group of people. And in the case of “The Cherokee Rose,” those people are fictional or fictionalized. But the book is also based on quite a lot of historical research. It was inspired by research that I started when I was a graduate student writing my dissertation, and by research that continued in my first two books, which were about the history of slavery in the Cherokee Nation, about African-American, African-descended people who were sadly and unfortunately and immorally owned as slaves, held as property by Cherokee people in the 19th century. “The Cherokee Rose” is a novel that takes place in two time periods; it's situated in the 19th century and also in our present time. “All That She Carried” is very similar, actually. It is a work of history, but it's also very much about what the history means to us today and about the preservation of the past today, the interpretation of the past today. On “The Cherokee Rose,” I had more leeway, more room to explore, the contemporary period because it was about a fictional set of characters. There are three main characters, all women from different racial and cultural backgrounds, from different parts of the country, who are drawn to one place: The Cherokee Rose Plantation. “The Cherokee Rose” is located in what we now call Georgia, but what used to be the Cherokee homelands and Cherokee territory. These three women come to “The Cherokee Rose” for what they think are their own reasons, but in actuality, they are called there by the ghost of a historical figure, a young girl who used to be a student at a missionary school on the same grounds of The Cherokee Rose Plantation. The women in the present-day time who are named Jinx, Ruth, and Cheyenne, arrive thinking that they've got a plan and thinking they have their own intentions, and then find themselves drawn into and swept up by a mystery, which has to do with the history of that house and with what took place there 200 years before. Megan: Wow, that's great. You said you had years of research; I believe you said you had 15 years of research in African-American and Native American relationships that were basically the foundation of how this book created. You wrote it from primaries. What historic sources and ideas that you came during that research that helped you, inspire you to tell this story in the way that you have told it? Tiya Alicia Miles: The first primary source was the plantation itself. I really do think of places, human-built structures, and natural features of the landscape as being sources. They inspire me, and they also give me information about things that took place in the past and the people who lived in the past, events that transpired in the past. And in the case of “The Cherokee Rose,” that place is the Chief Vann House State Historic Site in Chatsworth, Georgia. I visited the Vann House many years ago when I was a graduate student, and I went there as I was trying to better understand this history of enslavement in the Cherokee nation, the history of Black and Cherokee, and Black and Indigenous relationships. And back at the time when I first went, which was in the late 1990s, the Vann House State Historic Site was not interpreting the presence of Black people at all. It was in many ways, a typical plantation museum where the focus was on the people who lived in wealth and luxury on that plantation. The focus was on the architecture, and on the furniture, and on the linens, and on the wealth, and the entertainment, and the recreational pursuits of the people who lived in the house. As opposed to on the people whose labor made all that possible. So that was the first tour that I took of the Vann House. I noticed right away that they weren't doing anything about enslaved people, and I decided that I wanted to try to remedy that in whatever way I could. And so, I wrote about the Vann House in the form of a history and some articles. Visiting that house over the years, because I went back many times, always left me with a very strong sense of the presence of the place -- I mean, the presence of the house itself, the presence of the grounds, the presence of the tree, some of which had been there during the time that the Vann family, a Cherokee family, had lived there. And during the time that the people they enslaved, who numbered more than 100, had lived there. And it seemed as if every time I went back to the house, I noticed something different about the structure itself or about the landscape. One of those things that really stood out to me was the carved roses that actually do exist in the Vann House. I don't think I noticed those roses the first time, maybe even the second time, possibly the third time that I went. But at some point I started noticing them, and they really caught my attention, that level of detail in the architecture. And that detail stuck in my mind as I thought about the history of the Cherokee people, of the Cherokee nation of Afro-Cherokee people, and also the meaning that had been connected up with the flower, The Cherokee Rose flower, in Cherokee cultural life. Cherokee people had connected, The Cherokee Rose, the flower, with the history of removal, and they had a story about how everywhere that a Cherokee mother's tears touched the ground during this very difficult period in Cherokee history, a Cherokee rose would grow. And so, this place of the plantation, the house, its gardens, were incredibly inspiring for the novel that I ended up writing called “The Cherokee Rose.” And that was just one primary source, but it was a fundamental, foundational primary source for me. I could never have written this novel if I had not walked that landscape and visited that house numerous times. I'll mention another source because I find it very helpful and constructive to pair places with written materials, with documents. So the other source I will mention are the Moravian missionary records. There are a whole lot of them. The missionaries of the Moravian Church, a Protestant denomination, lived in the Cherokee nation for decades. Starting in the late 18th and the early 19th century, they were invited to come to the Vann grounds by the Cherokee owners of that plantation. They wrote diary entries just about every day. They wrote letters back to their home community and around the world all the time, and they wrote reports of what they were doing several times a year. There are hundreds of pages of description and documentation about this plantation and about this place. So marrying those two major sources, I was inspired to write something beyond the history that I had written about the place, to write a novel, which is what we're talking about right now. Sub Header: Discussion on writing non-fiction verse fiction narratives Megan: In your first part of your introduction, you mentioned, and I quote, "If history is intended to enlighten readers about change over time, fiction is intended to take readers on an emotional journey through identification with characters." Was that your intention? Because I know you wrote in your previous history , “The House on Diamond Hill,” about the plantation. Was that your intention with trying to convey to your readers an emotional journey in telling these stories in “The Cherokee Rose?” Tiya Alicia Miles: I had written a history called “The House on Diamond Hill,” which reconstructed the past of that plantation, and that's a nonfiction work. And I had also published an article called “The Showplace of the Cherokee Nation,” which is in The Public Historian journal. I'd given lots of talks -- academic talks, community talks about this place. And I'm very pleased with that work. I was satisfied with what I was able to put together as a scholarly reconstruction and analysis. But, there are limits to what we can do in academic formats and in even public historical forms. We really do have to adhere to the evidence. We really do have to interpret, translate, and share out what it is that we have found in those sources. And we need to be, in my opinion, true to those sources. For me, that wasn't enough. I wanted to go further. I wanted to be able to think about and to share something having to do with the emotional lives of the people who had lived there. And the existing documentary record wasn't allowing me to do that. There are just places that we cannot go in terms of the interiority of human experience when we're only using historical documents. I wanted to think about feelings and emotional journeys, especially of women who had lived on this plantation in the past, and that includes Indigenous women, African women, and Euro-American women because they were all there together. They were all there, living in very close proximity in the same buildings, and they were shaping each other's lives. But the record couldn't really go into full detail or into great depth about what that meant for them and about whether change was possible for them as they got to know one another when it came to the racial lenses that they wore and walked around with. I wanted to explore that. And once I started to think about the women in the past and how they related, I started to think: these women were people who may have, might have, could have become friends. May have, might have, could have supported one another. I then wanted to kind of time travel and bring that idea into the present time on those same plantation grounds, to bring women together who were, again, very different, who had different backgrounds, who had different racial lenses, who had different class backgrounds, who had different power in relation to one another when it came to societal views about where they stood. And I wanted to test if, in the present time, if I brought contemporary characters to the same place, to these very same grounds, to the same plantation house that had shaped the lives of women in the past, could they come to know one another in a different way. Could they come to understand each other's deep-seated needs and doubts, and even traumas? Could they come to support each other? Could they come to see each other in a different way? Could they possibly even become friends? And if they could become friends, could they see this place that had made that possible as being worthy of their care and attention, of being worthy of preservation? Sub Header: Ghost lore as a way of confronting difficult social history Megan: That is a beautiful way to put it. And that goes into my next question: how this book, along with another one I think that you had before about ghost lore, and how you were using it as a tool to confronting those troubled, social history, and dynamics. Can you brief it into about how you use the superstition of ghost lore and how you tackle that difficult subject and title? Tiya Alicia Miles: Yes, a book called “Tales from the Haunted South,” several years ago. In that book, I visited a number of so-called haunted places in various southern cities. I paid attention to whether or not and how enslaved people, how Black people, how Native people were represented in those ghost tours. Now what I found out, Megan, was actually pretty disturbing. These ghost tours tended to romanticize, exoticize, and to paint in violent terms for the titillation of tourists, the histories of slavery. I wrote about that, and I was critical of that in the book. But I also noticed while I was on those tours that a number of people who might not think of themselves as history fans, or historians, or scholars went on those tours. Those tours caught their attention; those tours caught their interests. And on those tours, they were actually going to historic sites. They were actually hearing about people who had lived in the past. And I thought, "Could there be a way to draw that interest and to take advantage of the spark that people feel when they hear about ghosts and connect it up with a well-researched history that is intending to present people with a greater sense of the realities of the past? That is intending to humanize the representation of enslaved people and to actually bring people together across differences? The figure of the ghost in society and in American culture often represents the past. The ghost is a way that people can connect to the past; the ghost tours are a way that people can briefly visit the past, and that we as public historians can, in a positive way, draw on to present people with a fuller, better researched, more from-the-heart representation of slavery in the South. Sub Header: How to encourage other writers to tackle these untold or challenging history topics? Megan: How would you advise or encourage other writers to tackle these untold or challenging history topics that you describe in The Cherokee Rose? Tiya Alicia Miles: Don't avoid it. Don't tell yourself that you can't do it because you don't have the sources or because it's a sensitive topic. We need people and all kinds of people in different positions, from different backgrounds, with different experiences, who are willing to go to these places of pain in the past, to dive into these documents and these oral histories that may be difficult to read, and to help us all to confront them together. Because I really do believe that it's in the past that we find ourselves; it's in the past that we find resources. We're contending with our present experience and our future. We need writers, we need storytellers, we need artists, we need preservationists to help us to go back into that past -- to see it, to interpret it as faithfully as we can, and to save it. Megan: Thank you so much, Tiya, for being with us. It was great having a conversation with you.

Megan Reed speaks with Tiya Miles about how historical fiction can help people understand difficult histories.

152. All that She Carried


Megan: This is Megan Reed from the Preservation Technology Podcast and I am here with...

Tiya Miles: Tiya Miles.

Megan: Thank you so much for being with us. We're here to talk about your book, “All That She Carried.” Can you briefly describe to our listeners what the book's about?

Tiya Miles: “All That She Carried” is the history of an artifact and the people who used this artifact and cherished it over the years and across the generations. The artifact is an antique cotton sack that was produced in South Carolina around the 1850s. It was used by an enslaved woman named Rose, to try to care for and support her daughter through an incredibly difficult time in both of their lives, which was the sale of Rose's daughter, Ashley, during the period of the domestic slave trade in the United States. Rose packed this sack with various items that she thought her daughter Ashley would need to be able to survive the separation from her mother and to persevere into the future.

Megan: You did a lot of heavy research and background into Ashley's sack. Can you describe how you were able to search for Rose?

Tiya Miles: I'd like to back up and fill listeners in on how I even knew to try to identify this woman. This sack is incredibly special because it is not only a bag, it is also an artifact, an object, a piece of material culture that is also a work of art, also, a text. In the book, I talk about it as being poetic. It's like a poem because a descendant of Rose and of Ashley, named Ruth Middleton, told the story on the sack itself. She picked up her needle. She picked up different colored spools of thread, and she sewed sentences onto the sack. So this bag becomes a document in many ways. In that embroidered inscription, Ruth Middleton names Rose, who is her ancestor. She also names Ashley, who is her grandmother. She talks about the separation of the mother and the daughter. She talks about that terrible sale, and she lists all the things that Rose packed into the sack.

So that's how I knew that I needed to look for Rose. There are no surnames on the inscription above the signature. There aren't really specifics beyond the fact that it took place in South Carolina, and all those details needed to be filled in in order to reconstruct the history and to tell the story. I started looking at records that have to do with enslavement in South Carolina -- enslaver's records because unfortunately, that is where information about enslaved people is most likely to be found. I was looking at the records at the South Carolina State Archives and also in a wonderful digital archive that was crowdsourced and is available online.

I searched for the name Rose in all these records across all these plantation documents that were onsite in South Carolina (the physical documents), and also that had been digitized. I learned through that search that the name Rose, was a common name for enslaved women in the mid-19th century. There were dozens of Roses. Ashley, as it turned out, was a very uncommon name. Ashley was, at this time, more of a masculine name than a feminine name. It was a name that tended to be given to white men. It was the name of a river in a certain part of South Carolina. So with Rose being a very common name, Ashley being a very unusual name for enslaved people, especially enslaved women, I then knew that I was looking for a Rose and an Ashley who might appear together on the same document. I did find that. I found just a couple of examples of Rose and Ashley together, and some of those examples were not in the right time period, which then ended up pointing to a particular Rose and a particular Ashley.

Megan: You also mentioned trying to find Rosa Jones, which is I believe Ashley's daughter. How was that?

Tiya Miles: On the embroidered sack, there are only three names. The name of Rose, the original mother, who packed the sack, There’s the name of Ashley, her daughter who received the sack, and the name of Ruth Middleton, who was a granddaughter and great-granddaughter who saved the sack, preserved the sack, and sewed the inscription onto it.

Ruth Middleton is the recorder. I talk about her as an oral historian in the book. She's the person who makes this story accessible to us. For whatever reason, she did not choose to inscribe her own mother's name in the sack. Ruth's decision not to include her own mother's name on the embroidered inscription left a gap. And the challenge then was to try to identify who stood in that gap. Luckily, time had passed, and record keeping was more helpful because Rosa could be identified in census records. We must say, as I mentioned in the book, that there are places in the reconstruction of this family line and of this history, where I had to make educated guesses. In the book, I always let readers know when I feel more certain or when I'm making an educated guess, when I'm relying on primary sources, and when I'm relying on secondary sources.

Megan: You identified there are three objects that Ruth mentioned that were in the sack. Can you tell our listeners what those objects were and how you used that to describe the identity of Ashley in that time period, and how you used to identify what their way of life was?

Tiya Miles: There weren't very many documents that pointed directly to Rose and Ashley, and to their story. Like many enslaved people, they did not have the ability, the capacity, the freedom to create or to preserve a cache of papers that would tell us about their lives, and so the sack itself, and the inscription on the sack that Ruth Middleton sewed, really became my major source for trying to identify them, for trying to interpret their lives, for trying to understand what they valued and what they cared about. By focusing on the sack as the source, I was able to open the reconstruction of that past out into various contextual directions.

The inscription says that Rose packed a tattered dress, three handfuls of pecan, and a braid of Rose's hair for Ashley. So those were the physical material things she packed. The inscription on the sack also tells us that Rose packed her love for Ashley. The word love is the centerpiece of the inscription, beautifully sewn in large red letters. When I was doing the research and writing the book, I tried to think about each of those items, and then to share how it was that enslaved people might have gotten ahold of those items, how they may have used those items, how they may have interpreted those items themselves and assigned meaning to them.

To offer one example, the dress is evocative as one of the things that Rose packed because enslaved women didn't have the capacity, the ability, the freedom, or the resources to possess a large wardrobe that they could choose of their own accord . Instead, they were assigned a certain amount of fabric per year. They were given a very small number of clothing items. They were never provided with enough clothing by their enslavers to keep them covered and warm throughout the seasons. By the end of a year, enslaved people's clothing would be worn, torn, stained. They wouldn't have shoes. They wouldn't have the items necessary to protect their bodies, so clothing was a very important category of material goods for enslaved people.

I write about how enslaved women recognized that clothing was sort of a battlefield in which there was a wrestling match going on having to do with human dignity. Their enslavers intended to provide them with the cheapest, most minimal amount of clothing as a way to demean them and to classify them as belonging to a certain category; the category of the enslaved, the category of people who didn't deserve to have beautiful, durable, comfortable, well-fitting clothing.

Enslaved women fought against this by doing all they could to quietly or secretly attain fabric on their own. Sometimes they would stay up all night making clothing for themselves or for their children and families. They would embellish this clothing, and they would then dress themselves on Sundays when they were going to church in articles of clothing that they had made that expressed their artistry, and their care for themselves and their family members.

So by packing a dress for Ashley, one of the things I think Rose was saying, is: you are worthy of care. You are worthy of love. You are worthy of being covered in a fabric, and dressed in an item that was selected for you. There are other ways in which I talk about clothing as well in the book, in relation to the vulnerability and exposure of enslaved girls and enslaved women, and how important clothing was or could have been as a barrier for them, protecting them from the views of people who would be attempting to buy them on an auction block, from overseers, from enslavers who meant them harm, and especially from people who might wish to exploit them sexually.

Megan: My final question to you is did you ever think your book would be such a success that you would win so many awards for it, and that is now on the top eight books for the National Trust of Historic Preservation books about preservation?

Tiya Miles: I am astounded and so honored by the attention the book has garnered, by the recognition that the book has garnered, which shined the light on these women who preserved their own lives, and preserved this sack, and preserved the story which we can now all share in. Back when I started the book, Megan, I wasn't sure I could even finish it because I didn't know if there was going to be enough material. To now see the book having such a wide readership is such a gift.

Megan: We have a project going on about documenting slave cabin and tenant farming houses across, and we were actually at St. Simon's Island documenting, and people came up to us like, "Have you read this book? You really need to just read this book." So that's when we first heard about it. We're like, "Okay, we got to read it."

Tiya Miles: That's wonderful. That's wonderful to hear.

Megan: Thank you so much, Tiya. That was great. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation, and thank you so much for being with us.

Megan Reed speaks with Tiya Miles about her book "All that She Caried" and Tiya's deep dive into the history of an object to tell a family's story.

151. Water Conservation and Use in the Western United States


Catherine Cooper: Hello, my name is Catherine Cooper. I am here with ... Bob Crifasi: Bob Crifasi. Catherine Cooper: Thank you so much for joining us today. Bob Crifasi: Yes, thanks for having me. Catherine Cooper: What first interested you about water in the West? Bob Crifasi: I've always been interested in doing things like backpacking and rafting and canoeing. Ever since I started visiting various desert canyons many years ago, I just became fascinated by it. I also have undergraduate degrees in geology and chemistry and masters degrees in geology and environmental science. One of the things as part of all of that is I became really interested in geomorphology, and really geology is what brought me out to the West so that I could learn about and see things. I went to school at University of Colorado in Boulder and Denver and started traveling all across the region and became very interested in rivers, geomorphology, everything that's associated with that. And the more I learned, the more interested in all of the different arcane aspects of water I became. Catherine Cooper: In the Western United States water is so crucially important. Could you describe that importance to the various cultures in the West and how people approach water differently? Bob Crifasi: Well, the first thing I'd have to say is that in the Western states, water is existential. We need it for everything. Really, our basic survival for any human requires water. In the West, it's another level because you can't necessarily obtain water without manipulating it in some fashion. In the Eastern states, wetter regions, there's ample rainfall, there's rivers, there's lakes that provide relatively easy access to water. Once we pass what's roughly the hundredth meridian, so Central Kansas and going West, the amount of natural rainfall drops pretty substantially, and in certain regions it's very low. Without having supplemental water or adding water to irrigate and grow crops, you just don't have a society or have any ability to have a viable culture. You really need to have water. The Native Americans are really the original savants with using water in the West. They had so many remarkable adaptations to live in this area. In the rainier areas where there were rivers, they built diversions. They started to build reservoirs, check dams. They had remarkable innovations for utilizing the entire landscape for accessing and manipulating water. They would carefully look at the landscape to see which plants should be planted where on the hillsides and in the valley bottoms to take the best advantage of the moisture. And so they were really were some of the original people, with well over 10,000 years of experience, changing and manipulating water. Not only that, but they adapted their plants, corn, and other crops to the water resources that were available to them. They were really integral in paving the way for anyone who came later as to how you use the water. The Spanish came in first in Mexico with Cortes, but then they had the Coronado expedition that came up for conquest in 1540s. And then the Spaniards settled. They brought some irrigation technologies from the Iberian Peninsula, and they started to build ditches that they called acequias. The word acequia itself comes from the Arabic al-sakiya, which means water conveyance. And so they had learned from the Moors of North Africa, also desert people, how to manage water in dry regions. Once the Spaniards were in New Mexico, they watched how the indigenous people were using their water, and their water systems merged in many ways with the pre-existing Indian cultures. They appropriated and took for themselves the Indian ditches and then transformed them. They used some of the processes of cooperation that they saw the Indians doing, and they adopted many things that they saw from the Indigenous people to build their own systems. Today, across the West we have, at least in the Southwest, in New Mexico, parts of Arizona, Southern California, even in parts of Texas, a long legacy of these acequia cultures. They really are integral, particularly for small communities and how they use water. Now, the Euro-Americans came in with the Mexican-American War in the 1840s. And when they came in, they saw how the Indians and the Hispanic people were using their water resources. That informed what the 49ers were doing when they went to California in the gold rush. It informed how the Mormons built their irrigation works up in the Salt Lake area, and how the gold miners and new farmers that were coming into Colorado's Front Range built their systems. It was all a process of building one on top of the other and learning from the previous occupants how to live in this arid environment.

Catherine Cooper: All of these technologies have been developed for the use and conservation of water. How do they fit within the current cultural landscape of the West? Bob Crifasi: They like to say the present is the key to the past. I like to invert that in some ways and say the past is the key to the present. If we look to the past and see how our predecessors did things, we find that they were actually very logical people and that a lot of what they did were based on rational decision-making and how to live in the environment. They would see how the rivers flowed on the landscape. They would look at the geomorphology where the terraces were. They would see how the riparian landscape sat in there, and then they manipulated that to survive. As each generation has come in, we've built on that. What we have today is a very layered landscape with the older water facilities having influenced what comes next. For example, when the first white settlers came into the Front Range, they were very practical. They weren't going to do any more work than they needed to, and so they built their irrigation ditches in the valley bottoms. As more people came in, the land was taken, and then the next settlers asked, well, how are we going to get water? And they started to build these ditches that would go up onto the terraces. Then later people would realize, well, the water's polluted because of mining, so let's build a pipeline from the mountains, and so on. And so they systematically built up higher onto the terraces. They moved higher into the canyons. As each generation came in, they layered their new uses on top of pre-existing uses. And so it became pretty convoluted, but really it was all based on a series of rational decisions at each stage of the development process.

Catherine Cooper: Where would you say the West is now with regards to water and its psyche? Bob Crifasi: That's kind of the million-dollar question in many ways. Water is an existential question in the West. We're starting to bump up against natural limitations in a way that we haven't previously. We've fully appropriated the rivers and lakes in the West. We've built reservoirs for 150 years, and with climate change, that's kind of dialing back the availability of water in a way that we have never seen before. What we're grappling with is, I think, not how do we develop new water resources, but how do we reallocate the water resources we already have and to utilize what we've already developed in a more efficient and pragmatic manner. We're dealing with scarcity in a way that we haven't in the past. In the early 20th century, water conservation meant building large dams. Hoover Dam was constructed as a conservation project. The people of that era saw conservation as putting water in a reservoir so that it wouldn't run downhill and out of their state. Now conservation is seeing how do we maximize soil moisture? How do we create intricate ways of reusing water? How can we take water that has been maybe flushed down the toilet, cleaning it up and using it for irrigation, or in some instances even in homes. So the ideas of how we utilize water has become more sophisticated and is in response to the scarcity that we're now experiencing.

Catherine Cooper: You wrote a book on Western water. Western Water, A to Z. Were there any particular topics that you wanted to include on a personal level but couldn't as an author, or any that you would add now if you went into a second edition? Bob Crifasi: Oh, my. Yes. When I did it, there were two categories of subjects that I wanted to deal with and incorporate. There were some that I was like, this is really cool. I should include it. But when I sat down and actually wrote the book, it was like, well, it's going to just expand the book size beyond any reasonable means, and my publisher will just say, oh, my goodness. We can't do this. There were a few of those, and I won't get into those, but they are out there. There were two or three big things that I had tried to find information about. I would love to see a PhD thesis here or there dealing with some of these things. For example, I'll back up a little bit. One of the things I really tried to address in the Western Water, A to Z was Indigenous use of water and to give them a meaningful voice that other books of water maybe had not done previously. There's a lot of really good books on water, but it tends to start with the end of the Civil War and the beginning of the Euro-American era. I really wanted to give a voice to and a shout-out to the Indigenous and Hispanic cultures that did so much to lay the groundwork. Extending on that, I would really love to see some deep work on gender. You start going through the work on Western water, particularly Euro-American, and it tends to be white males, and it wasn't just all white males. The history is rich and varied, and I'd really like to see more with gender. I also think a very important piece is environmental justice. The misallocation of water in the West tends to follow economic and racially discriminated communities. If you are a wealthy community, you're going to have very good water and wastewater infrastructure. If you are poor communities, you're going to be facing more issues around pollution, access to water, and things like that. I think social justice is another aspect. And then there's another piece that I had just found nothing meaningful, at least for me, it's probably out there, I didn't find it, regarding African-Americans and their use of the water in the West. There were certain communities that, agricultural communities, for example, I can think of Deerfield in Eastern Colorado was an agricultural community, but there really isn't a lot around that subject as well. And I think it would be really fascinating to see how those communities dealt with water issues and bring some of that into the story to round out the picture so that it's more inclusive for every community that we have. Catherine Cooper: That's a great note to end on. For anyone listening, you just have three thesis topics you can go dive into. Bob Crifasi: I would love to see that. If you want somebody to read the thesis when it's done, I'd love that, too. Catherine Cooper: Thank you so much for joining us today. Bob Crifasi: Yeah, thanks. It's my pleasure. It's really fun to talk to you.

Catherine Coopers speaks with Bob Crifasi about cultural and technological approaches to water conservation and use in the Western United States.

150. National Monuments and Contested Land


Catherine Cooper: Hello, my name is Catherine Cooper. I am here with-- McKenzie Long: Hi, I'm McKenzie Long. I'm the author of “This Contested Land”, and I'm a writer and graphic designer who lives in Mammoth Lakes, California. Catherine Cooper: Thank you so much for joining us today. McKenzie Long: Thanks so much for having me. I'm excited to be here. Catherine Cooper: So could you tell me what the impetus was for writing “This Contested Land”? McKenzie Long: I spent quite a bit of time climbing in Indian Creek, which is an area in Utah that became part of Bears Ears National Monument when President Barack Obama designated it. And I was just madly in love with this place. Well, I still am, and I had spent about seven years of climbing there every spring and fall, and it was my favorite place in the world. It felt like my home place. When the monument became designated and there was a lot of uproar about it, some people were angry, other people were really happy. I was like, what does that even mean for this place that I really care about? And I started to look into it out of casual curiosity, and I realized that there isn't really that much written about national monuments, especially modern ones. There's tons of stuff out there about national parks, but I couldn't really find a whole lot about monuments. And so I started looking into them a little bit more. And for me, the topic just got more and more interesting because these places are public land that's part of our national fabric that people aren't very aware of. And I think there's a lot of really interesting stories in all of these places. Catherine Cooper: I completely agree. How did you choose which national monuments to explore both physically, and culturally, and historically? McKenzie Long: One of the very fascinating things about national monuments is that they're so controversial. I feel like national parks are fairly universally beloved, and national monuments, especially ones that have been designated in the last 20 years, almost always cause an argument between certain groups of people. I think that's really interesting because people are so passionate about these places or different uses of the land that they get really fired up about it. I was looking for the most controversial ones to talk about because I thought that those might have some of the most interesting stories. And I don't want to give Trump credit for the inspiration in this book, but in 2017, he issued an executive order to review 27 national monuments that had been designated since 1996 and on. I started looking at that list to see what monuments were included, and a lot of the most controversial ones were included in that list. I ended up writing about a couple others, but those ones were where I got started in finding out which monuments had some more interesting things to say about them. Catherine Cooper: You share parts of conversations with a variety of people and around the various monuments. Could you talk about how you went about making those connections and relationships and the process of working them into each chapter? McKenzie Long: Most of the connections I made were actually through cold calling. I hadn't written a book before, but I was still really interested in talking to people. And so I started looking for people who were either passionate about these places or involved in these places. So sometimes that was people that were advocates for the monuments getting established or people that were really strongly opposed to a monument designation. And I spoke to several biologists that do work in national monuments that I visited, and I spoke to people like ranchers, indigenous people that have ancestral ties to these places as well as current ties that are very important to them. I just would reach out to people and talk to whoever would talk to me. And in terms of weaving them into the chapters, it was really important to me to write this book in a way that expressed a tangible experience of being in these places. I wrote it from my personal point of view so I could talk about what it's like to be there and give people maybe a little tiny sense of what it could be like to be in these deserts or forests. But I didn't really want the book to be about me because I'm not the most important part of the story. So including the voices of the people that I spoke to was important because everyone I spoke to has a really intense connection to the land. And those stories, I think, become the most important part of the book. Catherine Cooper: One thing I noticed in each chapter is you ask a lot of questions of how people relate to the land. What is preservation? What is conservation? How do we handle this? How do we negotiate it? Are there one or two that you're continuing to think about and work with since writing the book? And do you have any new perspectives or stories to share? McKenzie Long: I would say that probably the one that is echoing in my mind the most is the question of how do we as a nation create a new legacy for public land that includes and respects more people. National parks got their start as a pretty exclusionary thing. Indigenous people were pushed out of places so there could be an illusion of uninhabited wilderness in parks. But even though that's how public land got its start, that doesn’t have to be how it continues forward. I think there's already a sea change happening. Bears Ears was a very indigenous-led movement that was promoted and advocated for primarily by indigenous groups. And so if we look for what legacy public land can have in the future, including the interests and priorities of many groups of people is very important. And I think that there's actually quite a few monuments that are being proposed right now that are being advocated for by specific communities, such as Castner Range, which is outside El Paso. [Note: Castner Range was designated as a national monument by President Biden in May 2023.] It's a predominantly Hispanic community, and there's a very community-led movement to get that mountain range designated as a monument. Since a president can designate a monument by proclamation and it doesn't need to legislatively move through Congress, monuments are easy to create. Monuments, I think, can be a really powerful way to include interests of different people. You're asking about new perspectives, I finished writing this book right around the time that Biden took office, and he reinstated the boundaries of a couple monuments that President Trump reduced. I thought that was really interesting, and it was somewhat expected, but it was also exciting. And after that, I expected him to designate more monuments, actually. And he has designated one, which is Camp Hale in Colorado, and he's promised to designate another one, but he hasn't actually done it yet. And that one is Avi Kwa Ame, I think is how you pronounce it, in Nevada. So I hope that he actually does designate that one, and then I'm hoping that he will designate a few more, especially as he reaches the end of his term. There's Castner Range in New Mexico. There's Range of Light in California outside Yosemite National Park, and I think those would be pretty interesting, and especially since Biden has promoted this concept of 30 by 30, where he wants to protect 30% of American land and waters by 2030, monuments could be a really interesting tool and a way for him to push that forward. [Note: as of February 2024 Biden has designated 5 new national monuments.] The Antiquities Act, which is the law that allows monuments to be created by presidential proclamation, it came about because of archaeological developments. It was a time in American history where indigenous people were being forced out of their places; they were being killed; but at the same time, people started looking at some of the dwellings, and petroglyphs, and ruins left behind and finding that interesting. And so there was this strange parallel that people were being removed, but then there was an appreciation of their history. When the Antiquities Act was created, it was with the goal of protecting some of that history and not letting it get looted or destroyed, though the law did not give rights to the indigenous people who those ruins and history really belonged to, unfortunately. The Antiquities Act started as a way to just protect certain cultural resources in our country. Since the law has slightly vague language, it has actually been used a lot more broadly than that. There's many national monuments that are created that don't have a specific cultural or archaeological resource to protect. Now, it's used to protect things like biodiversity, and wildlife corridors, and things like that, which wasn’t necessarily the original intention of the act. So it's flexible. It allows presidents to do things that they think are important and that reflect the ideals of society of that day rather than from 1906, when the Antiquities Act was written. Catherine Cooper: I read the book as a lover of the national parks and monuments. And who would you say your main audience is and what would you like them to take away from the book? McKenzie Long: My book could reach a pretty broad audience because I think there's the public land lovers, the people that already love parks and monuments, and I think there's the people that are interested in politics in why national monuments are so controversial. I wrote this from the perspective of a recreationist, I'm a climber, a mountain biker, a backcountry skier. That's how I have made really close bonds with land, and I don't think that's the only way you can make close bonds with places, but I think there are a lot of people out there that for them, that is their way. And so some recreationists are more about their activity and not paying as much attention to the place around them. And so this could also perhaps broaden the horizons of recreationists, and that's a generalization. I understand that's not everyone, but that's who I would assume would be interested in reading this book. The main takeaway is I want more people to recognize that there's more public land in this country than just national parks and state parks, and the public land serves a purpose that goes beyond just scenic beauty or recreation. There's a lot of uses that take place on public land, such as ranching. There's even mining on public land, and a lot of cultural uses of land. I think that as people understand that there's a lot more of that in our country. I also hope that that extends to appreciation for things that are a little more subtle and that extend beyond the obvious, because places like Yosemite have a lot of grandeur and they're very special, but even walking into a sagebrush desert in the middle of eastern Washington, it doesn't necessarily have really charismatic features or a lot of drama, it is still just as intricate and incredible. I hope that more people will come to appreciate those kinds of things. And as I was already talking about, personal connection to land is extremely important and really powerful. I do think that should be recognized. In terms of policy, I think that goes back to making sure that everyone, and a lot of different communities, are included, different priorities are respected, and that there's compromises in place for different types of uses of land that could be very important to different people. Catherine Cooper: And that's part of where the controversy comes from, because there's even the debate of whether or not a president should be able to undo another president's monument declaration. McKenzie Long: Yeah, the Antiquities Act only says how they can be made. It doesn't say how they can be taken down. There's a lot of back and forth between legal scholars about what that means and if presidents are allowed to remove a monument by a previous president. Catherine Cooper: Thank you so much for sharing your experience and your words with us. This is phenomenal. McKenzie Long: Yeah, thank you, and thanks for reading my book. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Catherine Cooper speaks with McKenzie Long about National Monuments and why some are more contested than others.

149. Too Much Stuff


A Fascination with Collections Sadie Whitehurst: My name is Sadie Whitehurst and I'm an archeologist with NCPTT. Today, I'm having a conversation with Tad Britt and Dr. Peter Bleed. If y'all would like to introduce yourselves, Tad. Tad Britt: Hey, y'all. My name is Tad Britt. I work for the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training as the chief of archeology, and welcome to our podcast. Dr. Peter Bleed: I'm Peter Bleed. I'm a retired professor of anthropology from the University of Nebraska. Spent my whole career teaching at the University of Nebraska, but moved down here to Arkansas to be closer to my grandchildren. I'm still an archeologist and still really interested in the work and the activities of archeology. Sadie Whitehurst: Thank you so much for talking with us today, Peter. You've got lots of really interesting ideas of how to continue improving our field and looking back at the way we do things and improving certain aspects of our day-to-day lives as archeologists, such as collections management and curation, and that's what has started this conversation today. I know you have a lot of experience and thoughts to share with us. Is collections management important in modern archeology and what are your thoughts on that? Dr. Peter Bleed: I'm really interested in collecting. Most people assume I'm a collector, and certainly, I have accumulated a lot of stuff, but I'm interested in the behavior of collecting. As an archeologist, of course, I also was actively involved in making archeological collections. I was kind of a square-hole archeologist, teaching field schools and doing research with contracts and grants that involved excavation. As a part of that, I was always involved in teaching archeology. In teaching those crafts, we had to teach and practice collections management. As I look back on it, I think archeologists were more interested in making collections than in keeping collections. Now we've got a whole bunch of collections and we've got to treat responsibly that we've got to make use of and that we've got to decide what to do. I'm also really interested in the activity that lots of people, I'd say most people have collections of stuff that they maintain, even though people will say, I'm not a collector, an awful lot of people do have big collections of interesting stuff. With the generation change, I think we should think about what's going to happen to those collections. I'd like to encourage discussions of how and why we collect and what we're going to do with all this stuff we have. Sadie Whitehurst: I think that's super important moving forward. Those are some interesting observations and they're quite plain, but it's not something we think about as we go along, and it's an interesting perspective. Dr. Peter Bleed: It tends to be the case that archeologists gather materials, curate it, clean it up, put it in bags, do the immediate collections management, but then it's turned over to collections managers. There tends to be a divide or I wonder if there is a consistent divide between collections managers and archeological researchers. That divide is I think, is unhealthy. I think we should find ways of making use of or dealing with the collections we've made. Those decisions of dealing with the collection should involve both archeologists, people who are doing research and who are using the material reflections of behavior as a source of information about the past. But also, the practical decisions of what are we going to do with all this stuff and if we keep collecting, can we do that responsibly and who's going to make those decisions? I think archeologists had in both collections management and in data gathering how to give great thought. Certainly, the folks at NCPTT are actively involved in thinking about what are we going to do with and how should we treat our collections. Sadie Whitehurst: You mentioned who's dealing with the collections, but now you've mentioned the treatment of them, and that's an interesting aspect too.

Types of Collections Dr. Peter Bleed: We've got two kinds of collections that I'm interested in, archeological collection, stuff that consists of all the material that we have systematically recovered as a record of the past, and then we've got private collections. In terms of the research collections, we are pretty proud of how we collect things and documenting the standards we use to make this collection. Once it's in the box and once it's put on the shelf, we've got to remember that we've got to drive what we're going to do with that stuff. Putting it on the shelf is not the goal. The goal is using this material as a source of information about human history. Sadie Whitehurst: Now I'm thinking we're really diving into this discussion, but I wonder if we should maybe mention what a collection might consist of for someone who's not familiar with archeology or anthropology. Dr. Peter Bleed: We should talk about what a collection might consist of for archeologists. We've got huge amounts of material that we systematically and responsibly collected, but are we really working hard on figuring out what to do with it? Are we building theory on fire-cracked rock and lots of very bulky material? Or if the challenge of collection, what are we going to do with all these collections comes up? Can we responsibly say this doesn't need to be kept? I'm not comfortable having asked that, I've said that. Those are discussions that I think we've got to be involved in and either we've got to take the responsibility making use of these collections or we've got to have active cogent reasons for keeping them, or we've got to let other people say we can't keep it all. Sadie Whitehurst: Because behind every paper is every method and every artifact looked at is a box on a shelf somewhere, and that's heavy to think about.

What do we do with Collections? Dr. Peter Bleed: I'd say I'd go a step farther. For everything we look at, there's a whole bunch of stuff we look at and don't do anything. We've got to actively decide how we are going to treat these materials. I think there tends to be a divide in the profession. We've got to ask the question, how central to modern archeology is collections management? Are the collections managers, curators and collections managers, leading the field? Are they working with? Are they archeologists who are covering the whole front of modern archeology or are they separated from the folks who are doing archeology as opposed to the people? Is there a separation between the people who are doing "archeology" and the people who are collections managers? When I was teaching archeology, we dig, every dig, and then you've got some time in the lab and everybody had to do it. I'm not sure that after the field work is done that the integration between collections and research is positive and effective, or I want to make sure that all of that is archeology and that all of it is supported and encouraged and active. Tad Britt: What do you think of the role of archeologists communicating with private collectors who don't necessarily have a degree in archeology or cultural resource management and how should we move forward in our discussions with private collectors? Dr. Peter Bleed: Private collecting, I think is really an important part of what archeology and the modern generation of archeologists ought to be dealing with. There are people who collect lots of the things that archeologists are interested in, but then there are a whole bunch of other collectors who have good collections that they have built and that they're getting old, you have to ask what's going to happen to those. You've got stone tool collectors and collectors of a whole lot of other things. Archeologists, I think should pay attention to all of that collecting. Now, in terms of archeological collections, the handshake, the intellectual linkage between archeologists and collectors who collect stone tools and other archeological material has been complex. We have a great deal to learn from archeological collectors, stone tool collectors. They can find much more than we can find. They have access to a great deal and they are really, really, really expert. Question we've got, and I think this is the question you raised, Tad, what is our responsibility? What can we do with and for them? Now, I want at some point, maybe in a future conversation, we can talk about all those other collectors who have got great huge swaths of American cultural patrimony. We can talk about that private collective. Let's talk about the stone tool and the archeological collective. I think it's fair to say, well, how much material can archeology, institutional and professional sense, how much stuff can we accept? We can't accept it all. We simply can't have it all. Furthermore, we've got to decide what we would do with it, what we can ask and address with it that are worth asking and that are possibly better or worse what the nonprofessional collectors bring to their interest. Finding that, making that an exciting intellectual activity is pretty exciting to me. What's going to happen to all those collections? I think the reality is we're getting ready for a generation shift. The baby boom has passed. Those of us who are pre-baby boom are certainly leading the passing, but what's going to happen to all of those collections? Everything cannot be tunneled into and sent into institutional collections, or maybe it can. Everything will get collected. If that's the case, the world will just be full of these huge collections, and the job of archeology will be to make use of those collections to find ways of treating them as a source of information about the human and the world past. Sadie Whitehurst: You mentioned cultural patrimony, and I wonder if you could touch on a bit more of what that actually is and what that means for collections management. Dr. Peter Bleed: We dirt archeologists tend to treat the collections we bring home as a record of what is a documented record, a source of information about some past behavior that involved material culture. That's called archeology. We believe that the material record of behavior really does matter. We can call it, I'd like to hang the word cultural patrimony on stuff, because it's our stuff, it's our record. It is our documentation of what we've done and achieved. Now, it's not the only one. We've got recordings and documents of various kinds, but the material stuff of our lives is an important document. What has happened? It's what we can also bring forward is patrimony in the future. What's going to happen to all these collections that are made if somebody wants to know cameras or all of the things that people can collect, all the people who collect antique weaponry of one sort and another? All of that is a document for the human past. I think we should say, is it our patrimony? Is it something that documents what we as humans or Americans or Midwesterners or Southerners have done and achieved? Is it a document of our activities, make it our patrimony or not? If we say yes, then we've got to say, what is our responsibility as archeologists to the treatment of this stuff? Even if it's not in our collection, even if it's in collections of private individuals, what are we going to do?

A Challenge to the Field Sadie Whitehurst: Well, do you see any aspects of collecting and curation that are going to require more research, more advanced methods or preservation technologies apply to them that we can improve upon? Dr. Peter Bleed: I think that passing the generation, the now retiring generation of archeologists has been very interested in cultural preservation and in the maintenance of the archeological record. In that sense, I think that the collections that have been formed by a great many people, constitute a fragile record that needs to be assessed and documented and appreciated. That I think cultural preservation should spend a little time thinking about what's going to happen to all of the collections that have been made by private collectors, and what is our responsibility as cultural preservationists to documentation, assessment, and preservation of those collections. The other thing that I think is really pretty interesting and is worth thinking about is collecting engagement, engaging communities in our collections. I think the best thing arguably—hasn’t always been easy—but the best thing that's happened to archeological collections over the past generation has been the engagement with native communities in terms of why, how, and what should happen to the collections of native communities in order to address those issues. Archeologists have had to and have been able to engage in conversation with native community. Those engagements haven’t always been easy, sometimes have been absolutely difficult. They've been really vital. They've made collections management much better than it used to be. It's actively involved. I think that if we take that engagement model, we can certainly meet the needs, speak to the needs of native communities and ancestral cultures with our collections. If we take that same approach and look at collections and we realize that collecting is something that great many people do, and we, as professionals, might find ways of engaging with collectors and discover a great deal about the "wonderful treasures" that people have accumulated. The patrimonial impact that those materials present, engaging with collectors could well be, I think, a way of bringing cultural preservation into the next generation. Sadie Whitehurst: Engagement is a huge part of that. Dr. Peter Bleed: I think the engagement with ancestral and descendant communities is really wonderful. It hasn't always been easy and we've had to learn a great deal in order to do it effectively, but it's been extremely positive. Archeology, curation, museums, all got better as a result of it. Now, if we turn that around and we look at all of the other stuff that's out there that people "collect", can we find ways of working with them, learning from them, and looking at their materials at those collections to make our collections, collecting more effective and to also speak to the needs of huge swaths of society? Sadie Whitehurst: Well, Peter, how we can continue engaging with you and your work? Dr. Peter Bleed: Oh, for heaven's sakes, I'm of a passing generation, Sadie. The question you should ask is what can you do? What can you all do to help the emergent generation of archeological leaders and collections managers speak to the needs of all the material culture that is out there and is being handled in potentially significant ways to archeology, to museums and collections facilities? Sadie Whitehurst: Excellent. You're right. I think you're leaving us in good hands and I hope we can continue to do your work justice. I really thank you for having this conversation with us today. Dr. Peter Bleed: Yeah, I enjoyed the conversation.

Tad Britt and Sadie Schoeffler Whitehurst speak with Peter Bleed, a retired professor of anthropology from the University of Nebraska, about creation, use, and management of archaeological collections.

148. Cultural Impacts of the Apollo Program


Catherine Cooper: Hello, my name is Catherine Cooper. I am here with ...

Bret Bennington: Bret Bennington. I'm a Professor of Geology at Hofstra University on Long Island in New York.

Rodney Hill: And I'm Rodney Hill. I'm an Associate Professor of Radio, Television, Film, also at Hofstra University in the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication.

Catherine Cooper: You just published a book called After Apollo. Where did this project start?

Bret Bennington: It started because someone in the administration at Hofstra University thought it would be a good idea for Hofstra to do something to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing, and the reason for that is probably the location of Hofstra University in Nassau County on Long Island, Nassau County is where there were many milestones in the early history of flight, but it's also where the lunar module was built by the Grumman Corporation. And so there's this connection. Charles Lindbergh took off from a spot about a mile north of Hofstra University, basically from what is now the entrance to Macy's at the mall. So the call went out for faculty who would be interested in organizing a conference, and I've always had an interest in space flight. I was always a wannabe astronaut growing up. I'm an amateur astronomer. My day job is paleontologist, but I'm an amateur astronomer. So I immediately saw that this would be a great opportunity to maybe do something interesting related to the history of space flight. And then they decided they also wanted a faculty member who represented not so much the sciences but the humanities. And ...

Rodney Hill: Yeah. I will just also add that Hofstra University has a wonderful cultural center, and they put on conferences throughout the year on many different topics. They're actually known for their series of presidential conferences, looking back on the presidencies of recent administrations. I think the last one they did was ...

Bret Bennington: They just did Obama?

Rodney Hill: They just did one on Obama.

Rodney Hill: So they do conferences on all sorts of things, and so it was kind of natural, given the Long Island connections to Apollo, that they would do something on the 50th anniversary. And as Bret said, they wanted to cover not only the science aspects, but also the humanities and the arts. And so the administration sort of came to me and asked if I would help and sort of oversee the humanities and arts side of things. I do film studies, and one of my big interests is Stanley Kubrick, and of course, Kubrick did 2001: A Space Odyssey, so we were actually able to work that into the conference.

It came out in 1968. So the film came out before Apollo, and I think it came out even before we had very good photographs of the Earth from space. So all those visual effects in 2001 are just completely imagined, it's from the imagination of the filmmakers. So that interest in Kubrick, and I've also always been interested in science fiction film, and so this was a great fit for me as well. So out of that conference, so Bret and I ended up sort of co-directing the conference. We had scholars from all over the country.

Rodney Hill: One of the high points of my life, and I'm probably speaking for you as well, one of the guests of the conference was Dr. Mae Jemison, one of the Space Shuttle astronauts, and Bret and I did a Q&A with her on stage. And I could have died then and there and been quite satisfied with my life. It was a real honor to meet her. She was just delightful.

Bret Bennington: A very impressive person.

Rodney Hill: Gave a wonderful keynote talk for us, so that was really nice.

Bret Bennington: And there were a lot of little kids in the audience who knew exactly who she was and were really ... There was a little girl, who was probably six or seven, sitting in the second row holding a Mae Jemison doll, and this kid was vibrating in her seat. She was so excited. So that was really cool.

Rodney Hill: Yeah, that whole experience really brought tears to my eyes just being there with her and seeing the audience reaction to her. We also did a screening at the Cradle of Aviation Museum of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and we brought over Jan Harlan, who was Stanley Kubrick's producer, and he introduced the film and did a Q&A afterwards. And that was a real honor for me to get to meet Jan Harlan in person.

Bret Bennington: And we had a film student.

Rodney Hill: Oh, yeah. One of our film students, she was a senior at the time, Connie Anderson Castilla, I think professionally now she goes by Connie Tais, she was one of my students in film, but she was also taking an honors course with Bret, and that's how she found out about our conference at Hofstra. And she approached you about, she wanted to do a documentary on the Grumman engineers.

Bret Bennington: So about half-a-mile from campus is the Cradle of Aviation Museum, which has the lunar module, the actual lunar module that would've flown on either Apollo 18 or Apollo 19. And they have volunteers, who are the former engineers, retired engineers, who worked on the lunar module, who kind of hang around the exhibit and will talk to you and tell you everything you want to know about it. And so I was able to connect Connie up with the people at the museum who worked with these volunteers, and she ended up interviewing a bunch of them and doing this wonderful oral history documentary. It was very moving, I thought.

Rodney Hill: When she first told me about the project, I was thinking, "Okay, this is going to be like a 10-minute student documentary. It'll be very nice." And she said, "Oh, no. This is going to be like forty-five minutes long." And I thought, "No, no, no, you can't do that. That's way too ambitious." But when I saw it, I was really blown away. She did a magnificent job. She traveled down to the National Archives and got a lot of footage and research and things.

Bret Bennington: She got a bunch of NASA images and footage, and sort of interspersed them in with the footage of the gentleman that she was interviewing.

Rodney Hill: It was really an extraordinary piece of work, and they showed it at the Cradle of Aviation, and I think it's been in a couple of other festivals. And Connie is now working with Ken Burns' company. So yeah, so we're very proud of her.

Bret Bennington: Yeah, for sure.

Rodney Hill: And so we took the best of those presentations and asked those authors to flesh things out and give us really full-blown essays that ended up in this book.

Bret Bennington: I know it's a good example of how if you volunteer to do things that are outside of your comfort zone, it very often leads to interesting opportunities, and that's how you broaden yourself intellectually.

Rodney Hill: So these essays come from all sorts of different approaches, different fields of academia. So we have chemists represented in the book, but we also have political scientists and film studies people and cultural studies people. It's a really great collection. I'm pretty proud to be associated with it, to be honest.

Catherine Cooper: There's so much variety, and it really shows how interdisciplinary and how broad-reaching Apollo was, how important it was to all spectra of American society.

Bret Bennington: One of the things I think that comes out of this book is how it didn't necessarily have to happen. It wasn't inevitable. And there's a chapter that discusses how these German rockets ... So if you think about contingency, one of the things that happens after World War II is we invade Germany, and we capture a bunch of German rocket scientists, including Wernher von Braun, and we bring them back to the US, and we put them to work. Itjust so happens that Wernher von Braun was an evangelist for space travel. The thing that he cared about more than anything was getting humanity off this planet, regardless of what you think of him as a human being because of the fact that he used slave labor to build the rockets in Germany, and he was bombing London and everything. If you listen to him, he did what he had to do to realize his vision of getting humans off the planet.

And he ends up teaming up with Walt Disney to basically sell the idea, this idea that space travel is human destiny to the American public. And I don't think the space program would've been possible without that sort of propaganda groundwork that was done that planted the idea in the public, because it costs so much money to put astronauts on the Moon.

Rodney Hill: Actually, the chapter on Disney and Wernher von Braun is written by somebody who was not at our conference, a former grad school buddy of mine named Chris Robinson. And I knew that he was interested in Disney television and that he had sort of been researching this, so I said, I contacted him and said, "Hey, Chris. We're putting together this book. If you have something, we'd be happy to take a look at it."

Rodney Hill: And this is like mid-1950s, we're talking 1955 or so, when Disney had just started his Disneyland TV series with ABC, which really was all about promoting the idea of Disneyland as he's building the park and then getting people excited about that. But then there were these different segments, including Tomorrowland, and this is where the man in space segments with von Braun sort of came into play, this Disney imagination of the future of humanity, right? Kind of fun that way.

Bret Bennington: It's good old German propaganda and American fantasy, sort of ...

Catherine Cooper: Capitalism.

Bret Bennington: ... capitalism combining to lay the groundwork. And then the first chapter in the book is this one by Matthew Hirsch is this wonderful sort of take, a review of the whole Apollo enterprise and how he calls it, "We ran as if to meet the Moon." And he just points out what a crazy idea, and it's kind of a miracle that it worked. Again, there was nothing sort of predestined about it, and it could have gone wrong in a hundred ways and never come to pass, but it did, and it changed everything.

Rodney Hill: And one of the things he talks about is the fact that there always has been this notion that we could do that, that going to the Moon is something that we could consider. So he sort of looks at the history of science fiction stories, envisioning man going to the Moon. This goes back at least into the 1800s with Jules Verne and other people. And then in the earliest motion pictures, you have these fantasy films of going to the Moon. And so that's one of the things that Hirsch finds so amazing is that we imagine that this is something we could think about doing.

Catherine Cooper: Yeah. Méliès, and all of those early silent films.

Rodney Hill: Yeah. That's one of the beautiful things about science fiction. You have to imagine something before it can become a real thing.

Catherine Cooper: And then it also almost becomes a template for, "I wonder if we can do that?" And then we invent things to make it happen.

Rodney Hill: Right. Then how would we do it? What would this look like, and how would we do it?

Bret Bennington: There's another chapter which I like called Picturing Women in the Space Age, the Impact of the Lunar Landing on Film, Television, and Fashion that looks at sort of how the space program impacted women. Initially, women weren't really allowed to participate, but the sort of cultural fascination with space travel definitely did not exclude women. So you have women who are characters in TV and film playing important roles as space travelers long before NASA allowed women any significant participation as space travelers.

Rodney Hill: And the author of that chapter, Julie Wosk, actually curated an exhibit at the Queens Museum of all these images of women. In terms of fashion, you have fashion designers coming up with these space age looks for women's fashion, and she also looks at a lot of film and television images. I think that's an exhibit that has been traveling around to other museums as well.

Catherine Cooper: You mentioned that there's this broad base of support, that this was basically sold to the public, but it wasn't for everybody in the public, and there's a chapter on that specifically, isn't there?

Rodney Hill: Yes. Yeah. Patricia Rossi, who's an attorney on Long Island, I believe she's a civil rights attorney among other things, she talks about the backlash among civil rights leaders at the time, representatives, leaders from the African-American community pointing out the irony of spending millions and millions of dollars on what they saw as a kind of superfluous gesture to go to the Moon, while obviously there's problems of poverty and injustice in the US that need attention and need funding. Whatever somebody may think about that particular argument, Rossi points out that this controversy acted as a kind of ...

Bret Bennington: Catalyst.

Rodney Hill: ... catalyst, that's the word I'm looking for, a catalyst for renewing energy in the civil rights movement to say, "Hey, come on. If we can do this, we can also take care of these other problems."

Catherine Cooper: Right. Fix some things at home.

Rodney Hill: Right, right.

Bret Bennington: Yeah. She points out that even before Apollo 11 launched, Ted Kennedy came out basically in favor of canceling the Apollo program because it was costing too much money. So John Kennedy's own brother just said that we can't afford to do this, that we're neglecting these other priorities, that people are starving in American cities, and we need to address that. And that argument eventually became so compelling that Nixon did cancel the Apollo program. He politically couldn't justify the expense anymore.

Rodney Hill: It's too bad we didn't actually do anything substantial about the poverty problem, though. Right? "Okay. We canceled this one thing. That doesn't mean that we solved the other problems."

Bret Bennington: Well, I think Rossi argues that this controversy did lead to some of the important civil rights legislation that came along in the late '60s and early '70s.

Catherine Cooper: And then it's also tied to other important aspects of the United States' policies with regards to immigration, because we started with Wernher von Braun, who we got from Germany, and then a whole bunch of other international figures are important to this as well.

Bret Bennington: There's a chapter by another Hofstra faculty member named Rosanna Perotti, who talks about the critical role that immigrants have always played in the space program, the different sort of generations of immigrants, that the original immigrants were the German rocket scientists and some Italian immigrants who came to the US before and during the war to escape fascism. And then immigrants from other parts of the world became important to the space program after Apollo, and she gives some really some nice examples of different individual people who were important.

Rodney Hill: In various different capacities, including as engineers and some later astronauts, and so all throughout the space program.

Bret Bennington: Well, my favorite is Farouk El-Baz. He was a remote-sensing expert from Egypt, who ended up being a big part of training the astronauts to be extraterrestrial geologists, in particular, training the command module pilots to make observations of the lunar topography and lunar geology from orbit. But it was also part of their other scientific training.

Catherine Cooper: Kind of turning back to an earlier thing that we discussed, the rise and fall of public opinion around the space program, there was the Apollo program, and that got canceled due to funding…

Bret Bennington: Skylab ...

Catherine Cooper: ... and Skylab.

Bret Bennington: ... comes in. Skylab was made possible by the fact that we had all this Apollo hardware line around. One of von Braun's big ideas was to build a space station. So we were able to do that by taking, I think it was a Saturn V midsection and converting it into a space station, which became Skylab. So that was the major manned spaceflight endeavor until the Shuttle came along.

Catherine Cooper: Okay. And then we had the Shuttle and then another lull.

Bret Bennington: And that brings us into the modern, well, the International Space Station. And now we're into the era of commercial spaceflight.

Rodney Hill: It occurs to me that the public attitude towards these things today is pretty lackadaisical compared to the zeitgeist to the late '60s when everybody was interested in space. Certainly in American culture, it was such a part of everything. Everybody was drinking Tang, kids wanted to be astronauts, all these TV series have astronauts, things like I Dream of Jeannie and all sorts of strange things.

Bret Bennington: I think that's James, the last chapter in the book is written by James Spiller, and he talks about that, that shift in sort of how the public perceived manned spaceflight and astronauts was deliberate in a way, because the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronauts were promoted as explorers. This was the next frontier, and then they were the trailblazers that were risking life and limb to make it possible for humans to explore outer space.

But Skylab and the Shuttle, they were promoted differently. The idea behind the Shuttle was that space travel would become routine, and so the Shuttle astronauts weren't explorers, they were the settlers, they were the pioneers. They were the blue-collar astronauts who were just going up into low-earth orbit to get the job done. Shuttle launches weren't supposed to be seen as these amazing, adventurous things. They were supposed to be seen as just business as usual. It didn't quite pan out that way, because we lost two shuttles, and it wasn't very routine, it wasn't as safe as we wanted to think it was.

Rodney Hill: Spiller also talks about this transition from government-funded space travel to now the privatization of it. And so not only have you lost this idea of these explorers, but now it has become a thing, it's a phenomenon for rich tourists to go for up, for thrill seekers.

Bret Bennington: Right, and he specifically raises the question of are we going to be able to get the public behind human spaceflight if human spaceflight is seen as just a bunch of rich tourists going up into Earth orbit? I don't necessarily think that that's really happening. Yes, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, those enterprises are sort of predicated on being able to generate a lot of revenue by sending wealthy tourists up into low-earth orbit. But the people that go to Mars are not going to be wealthy tourists. They're going to be trailblazers in the mold of the Apollo astronauts, I think.

I mentioned this in the introduction. My feeling is that as long as, I mean maybe part of the way we're going to fund space travel in the future is by getting rich people to pay lots of money to go on sightseeing tours, and then that money gets funneled into developing technology and the hardware that we need to extend exploration. But government's always going to be involved because of the sums of money needed, particularly to develop really new technologies. SpaceX is being supported and funded by the federal government.

Catherine Cooper: And we also have the Artemis program.

Bret Bennington: Which is an interesting hybrid where NASA and its contractors are developing the rocket, but then NASA has given the responsibility for developing, subcontracted the lunar lander to SpaceX and Blue Origin.

Rodney Hill: And given the fact that there has to be this ongoing government support of these initiatives, I think it's essential to somehow get the public back on board and get public enthusiasm renewed for this. We're speaking to you here at this wonderful conference at Cape Canaveral that you've organized, and we've been hearing from various different perspectives. But one through-line that I've noticed at this conference is, much like our book, I mean the interdisciplinary aspects of this conference, you have people approaching these questions from an artistic standpoint. And I think that the mythologizing of it, the making space this big, this larger-than-life endeavor, if we can remind ourselves of the enormity of what has already been achieved, but what could be achieved in the future, and how that is important to the entirety of humanity. So I think that the arts and humanities could play a tremendous role in renewing that kind of enthusiasm.

And some of the participants here at the conference have asked questions like, "What should we be teaching our young people about people who want to be scientists and engineers, and how can they have an awareness of the historical importance of what they're doing so that they want to preserve the records of what they're doing?" And I think that's where the humanities come in. You've got to somehow instill a love of history in the people who are running these projects. It's not just about the technical aspects, it's not just about the money. It's also about this amazing, the gesture of getting off the planet. It's an amazing, amazing thing, and somehow, how did we ever lose that?

Bret Bennington: Is China going to be the next country that we're in a space race with, and will that motivate the public as a nation to care about space travel again? Of course, the other great motivator is money, and I think it remains to be seen whether there's money to be made beyond low-earth orbit. We know SpaceX has been very successful. Putting satellites in orbit is a very lucrative business. There's a lot of commercial applications to satellites. But is there money to be made on the Moon? Is there money to be made in the asteroid belt, on Mars? If there is, then I think we're going to colonize the solar system pretty quickly. If there isn't, then it remains to be seen. Because if there's a financial imperative, then as long as there's money to be made, companies will be doing that. If there isn't, then the only reasons to expand beyond earth become to get humanity off the planet as an insurance policy. So if we blow up the planet, we're still on the Moon, we're on Mars.

And then of course, the other imperative is scientific, but one can argue you can do most of the science with robots, which we've been very successful with.

Rodney Hill: Sure. Which is also not a very inspiring prospect. It's hard to get people excited about. But if things can be accomplished without astronauts on board these flights, by all means.

Bret Bennington: Having people involved definitely makes people care. I mean, the human element is super compelling.

Catherine Cooper: Wonderful. Thank you both so much.

Bret Bennington: You're welcome.

Rodney Hill: Thank you, Catherine.

Bret Bennington: Thank you.

Catherine Cooper speaks with Bret Bennington and Rodney Hill, professors at Hofstra University about the far-ranging cultural importance and impacts of the Apollo Program.

147. Communities of Ludlow


Catherine Cooper: Hello, my name is Catherine Cooper. I am here with:

Karin Larkin: Karin Larkin.

Fawn-Amber Montoya: I'm Fawn-Amber Montoya.

Catherine Cooper: Thank you both so much for joining me today. You both recently published a book called “Communities of Ludlow: Collaborative Stewardship and the Ludlow Centennial Commemoration Commission.” Could you give a brief summary of the events?

Karin Larkin: The Ludlow Massacre was the culmination of one of the most violent events in US labor history, but very few people know about it. It happened over a century ago in 1913 and 1914 when southern Colorado coal miners went on strike to fight for better living conditions, safer working conditions, and fair wages. Thousands of miners and their families went on strike in September of 1913. They were kicked out of their company owned housing, so they moved into tent colonies that were set up in advance for them up and down the strike zone. So, they lived in these tent colonies for 14, 15 months. They suffered through one of the coldest and snowiest winters on record. Tensions ran pretty high between the strikers and the company, the militia, the Colorado National Guard who were policing the strike. Ludlow was the largest of these tent colonies. And on April the 20th, 1914, bullets flew through the Ludlow tent colony.

To escape the violence, four women and 11 children went and hid in a cellar that they had dug out underneath one of their tents. When the gunfire ceased, the militia and the National Guard came through, and they lit the tent colony on fire. And all but two women who escaped, the other two women and 11 children were all suffocated and died in that cellar that day. This sort of horrific event was a wake-up call for the nation, not just about the conditions and the coal mines, but the conditions and what was happening during the strikes, which was generally ignored. And this led to a lot of reforms, congressional inquiry, and changes in the labor laws throughout the country, and it's given us some of the privileges that we enjoy today.

Catherine Cooper: Could you talk about how each of you became aware of the Ludlow Massacre and became involved in the study and sharing of this history?

Fawn-Amber Montoya: My family is actually from southern Colorado. They migrated north from northern New Mexico in the late 1800s and settled in a small town outside of Trinidad, Colorado. It was known as Camp Engle or Engleville. When I was growing up, we lived outside of Trinidad in a small town called Hoehne, Colorado, and it was my first field trip for third grade. We went to the tent colony site. In, I think it was 2005, I was doing research for my dissertation, and I had driven by the site a number of times, been at the site a number of times, but my great uncle, we were getting ready for a family reunion. My great uncle was nowhere to be found because he had gone to Ludlow. And I remember that really sticking in my head about how important it was for my uncle as a former coal miner and to be from Trinidad, to be present at Ludlow on the morning of the family reunion. That Ludlow was as important to him as it was to his family. And so that was just something that had stuck with me for a very long time.

Then when I was doing research on my dissertation, I was planning to look at Southern Colorado and the steel mill during World War II. And so, I was driving from Texas Tech University to the Steelworks Museum of the American West to do my research, and I would drive by Ludlow every time.

And I reached a point where I had to figure out that Ludlow wasn't done yet. I think sometimes there's been some really amazing books that have been written on Ludlow, “Killing for Coal,” specifically by Thomas Andrews. And so you can get the feel of the work's been done. What I started writing on was the community of Ludlow and the memory of the Ludlow Massacre. And that was a place where I found for my own scholarship, the work hadn't been done or needed to continue to be worked on. And I think Karin and I have addressed this in this book, that there's still more to be researched about the Ludlow Massacre. We in no way see this as the final say or the final piece. So, we would always encourage scholars to continue to embrace this work, but to make sure that they're very thoughtful about the communities of Ludlow and the rich histories and relationships that have been developed and to try to continue to honor those memories.

Karin Larkin: I have a very different first experience with Ludlow. I honestly had never heard of the Ludlow Massacre or the site before I became involved with the archeological project to excavate it. I was invited to participate in the archeological excavation, and I thought to myself, what can you do there? What's still left? It was a tent colony. What are we going to find archeologically? And I was very surprised at the rich history that we were able to uncover. At the point where I was invited, I thought to myself, I better start learning this history and do some research. They gave me a reading list, which I went through. And then I started doing the actual archeology, and I became deeply involved and really touched by what we were recovering during the archeological excavations. We were finding things that you would expect, typical miner’s items, ax heads and buckets and stuff like this.

But we were also finding children's toys and parts of baby bottles, heirloom dishes and canning jars that still had food in them. And it just really personalized this history for me in a way that it was a touching reminder. So that gave me this direct and tangible connection to the Ludlow history, but also the massacre that really touched me.

Catherine Cooper: There seems to be a very deliberate inclusion of multi-vocality in the book. Could you talk about this deliberateness and the variety of ways for sharing and preserving history that you engaged with for this project?

Fawn-Amber Montoya: I would probably say I don't think that we started off with the intentionality of this multi-vocality. The book in many ways was “What were the next steps?” And after the end, the sundown of the official commission and the writing of the governor's report, I think that we knew we didn't want it to just sit on a table or sit on a bookshelf. We wanted the story and that experience that we had of connecting with community and these voices to become the history. One of the difficulties of being scholars and for myself of being a historian, it's about who gets to tell a story and what becomes the official histories. And we knew that unless we recorded this in a way where it would become part of the history that what we had done could be lost. And not just what we had done, but all of the contributions and these stories that were uncovered or brought to the forefront would be lost.

I think in many ways the book reflects the variety of people who we were able to engage with in the commemorations, both either as audiences or as presenters, as community members who were present in these spaces who sometimes just provided the buildings for us to meet in. One story that it is not included in the book is Carolyn Newman, who is a Mother Jones re-enactor, who runs a museum in Walsenburg Colorado. And she did a series of newspaper articles where she had looked back at the newspapers from 1913, 1914 and put them back into the newspaper 100 years later.

And so, if I could go back and say whose story should be included, I would've probably figured out a way to make sure I wrote Carolyn into that. But I think it was also that this wasn't about us trying to control the narrative. We wanted to very much be reflective of how each of these individuals were or are. And so, I think, like I said, I don't think it was always us thinking, oh, we have to do it in this way. It was as we started to put together the book that this is what the commission really felt like on a regular basis.

Karin Larkin: One of the biggest challenges for academics is first of all, recognizing the sort of bias and the gaps in the documentary and the historical record, and then how can we ethically as well as accurately complete or fill in those gaps. And so, figuring out ways to make sure that we can include diverse stories, but also make sure that the stories that we're including add value to the historic record, as well as balancing this desire as an academic to make sure that the information is authentic, and it's accurate, there are multiple lines of evidence to help support it. Sometimes you don't have multiple lines of evidence to support some of the facts of history. One of the challenges is figuring out ways to be open-minded and open to different perspectives. And then how do we include those in ways that other academics will recognize their validity, right?

And so that's one of the things that we were very intentional in including Linda Linville's story within a published academic book because her family story had been not just excluded, but was discounted by historians in the past. And we felt that there is value in adding the lineal descendants’ stories in an official telling of the story because they had been intentionally excluded for so long. I think one of the challenges is balancing these ethical dilemmas with academic rigor. And that's something that I struggle with in my own scholarship, but I don't think necessarily it's something that a lot of historians, academics spend enough time thinking about and grappling with these issues.

Fawn-Amber Montoya: I don't think you're wrong. And I think part of it is who scholars end up writing for and as historians, it's always the pressure of who's your press, where is your publication going to be at? And I think for this book, our audience was different. We were writing for the commission members. I think we were writing for the statewide committee. We were writing for the lineal descendants. And for me, we didn't write this book for historians. The book is written for the people that were in community with us. And I'm more concerned about what they think about the book and whether or not they think we got it right. I'm more concerned about whether we did right by the women and children that were killed at Ludlow and less about what my historian colleagues might think about it.

And when Karin and I had the opportunity this past summer, because annually there is a Ludlow Massacre Memorial, and Karin and I were able to be there, and we were able to give Mary Petrucci, who is the granddaughter of the first Mary Petrucci, a copy of the book. And to be able to show her the picture of her father in the book, and that her father, whose brother and sisters died at Ludlow and whose mother had to live the rest of her life knowing that her children had died. That is who our audience is. We wrote the book for people like Mary.

We've spent a lot of time with this and in a lot of different ways, whether it was through our own personal research, background readings, other people speaking about it, being present on site. I'm always amazed at the moment when people get it, when for them they have that moment of, oh my gosh, this is the story. This is the craziest, most horrific, painful story that they've ever heard. And I think for me, I come back to that again and again, is that these women that died and these children that died, and the survivors and the descendants that this scarred them. It killed them, it scarred them. It scarred the land. This trauma that was inflicted continued to live on, and it left a legacy. And that in the commission's work, we didn't undo what had been done.

That trauma is still there. It's still there present in the lives of the people. That trauma is still very present at the site. You have moments when you can still feel it. And that violence that was left on the land left a mark. And I think that's what I come back to again and again. I still come back to, I don't live in Colorado now, but I still come back to Ludlow annually. And I think that's no matter what we did, we could erase the horror that had occurred. I think we've done our best to bring justice to the people in the ways that we could. And I think the story has to be continued to be told over and over again. And no matter how many times I hear about Linda or how many times I hear about Mary, or how many times I hear Mary Petrucci and what had happened to her, how many times I teach this or talk about it, or in different places that I hear the story, it doesn't soften. And it's still very painful for me.

And I always think about as a historian, as a parent, what is the story that I think needs to live on until the next generation and what is the most important story that I would share? And it's this one probably. It's definitely on the top of my list. And it's really about why it's important for us to think about the people that are around us and their backgrounds and the living conditions that they're in. And I think this is where I love talking with Bob Butero because I think Bob has an amazing way of framing the importance of labor history and framing the importance of the work that United Mine Workers do. And this work is still extremely relevant to our nation and to our world today. And that hasn't gone away. And I think that piece of Bob at the end of his chapter of really talking about why does this still matter today? It didn’t end with Ludlow. It's going to continue on, and that there's still things to learn from the Ludlow Massacre.

Karin Larkin: I think one of the things that I would like to add or finish with is that the story is not over. We're still learning new things all the time. For instance, with the renovation of the cellar, we uncovered those powerful new symbols of this cross and the shield that were on the outside wall of the concrete cellar, there was no visible indication of that on the inside wall. So, when those were uncovered, I had the hair on the back of my neck and my arms was standing up, and I got goosebumps everywhere because it really just reminded me that we don't know half of what went on that day. And we can never really understand the terror and the trauma that happened at that time. But what we can do is try to make sure that this history isn't forgotten. By forgetting it, it becomes irrelevant because we need to keep remembering this history so that we can see what an impact it had for us today and make sure that we don't repeat some of these same mistakes in the future.

I sent pictures in the chat. I put a link to the article that shows you the pictures of the most recent excavations. We also found a tent stake that was in situ that looks like it was one of the stakes that was holding down the tent over the cellar where the women and children were killed. So, I know it's an inanimate object, but it was there and it witnessed that event. And so, when I found that and I was able to see it and touch it, it just really drove home the reality of what happened there. And I sent these pictures to Mary Petrucci and I sent it to Linda Linville. And I remember Linda Linville wrote back to me and said, and I'm paraphrasing, but she said, this just gave me goosebumps. She said, in looking at this, it just reminds me that this past is refusing to stay buried. And I thought, yes, you're right. And I'm just humbled and proud that I've been able to have some small part in helping to tell these stories.

Catherine Cooper: Thank you both so much for sharing this history with us through the book and the podcast.

Karin Larkin: Thank you.

Catherine Cooper speaks with Fawn-Amber Montoya and Karin Larkin about the history of the Ludlow Massacre and their involvement with the history and the community.

146. Voices from Bears Ears


Catherine Cooper: Hello, my name is Catherine Cooper. I am here with.

Rebecca Robinson: Hello I am Rebecca Robinson. I am a writer and journalist based in Southwest Washington state.

Steve Strom: And I'm Steve Strom, a retired astronomer who has been working for the last seven or eight years on conservation related books.

Catherine Cooper: Thank you so much for joining us today. You've recently published a book called Voices from Bears Ears. Could you talk about what first drew your attention to the conversation around the proposed National Monument?

Rebecca Robinson: This project began it seems like a lifetime ago. In early 2015, at the time, conservation organizations, in particular the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, were leading a campaign to ask the Obama administration to establish a greater Canyon Lands national monument, which is a large swath of land red rock country in southeast Utah, the areas, ecologically and culturally significant to many people and Native American tribes, indigenous peoples in the region and like Bears ears, had natural resources that drilling and mining companies were ready to exploit. So the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, or SUWA and its partners were asking, as I mentioned, then-President Obama, to establish this National Monument using something called the Antiquities Act, which was signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt back in 1906 to quote, “authorize the president to create historic landmarks. Historic and prehistoric structures and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the government of the United States.” It's a mouthful, but it ends up being very significant in the battle over Bears Ears. So in 1908, Teddy Roosevelt ended up using it to protect the Grand Canyon. At that point, as a National Monument because Congress was failing to act. And again, this becomes very significant in the Bears Ears issue as well, so our initial interviews focused on the Greater Canyonlands proposal, but by the summer of 2015, our initial sources, some of whom were part of the same Greater Canyonlands, were really shifting their focus to another conservation movement in Southeast Utah, centered in the Four Corners region where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona meet, and it was led by a just-formed coalition of five Native American tribal nations. The Hopi, the Navajo, The Ute Indian tribe, Ute Mountain Ute and Zuni tribe. They were petitioning the Obama administration to establish a Bears Ears National Monument that would protect ancestral lands from drilling, mining and the impacts of motorized recreation very similar to Greater Canyonlands, just in a slightly different region. And the Bears Ears is so-called named after a pair of two very large buttes that look to many people like ears of bears poking out of the earth. They really are key landmark in a wild landscape that can be seen for many miles in every direction, and they're sacred to the indigenous peoples of the region and what was unique about the Bears Ears campaign was that while conservation organizations played a key role in promoting and lobbying for protection and establishment of a monument, the true leaders were the tribes of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, it was an indigenous led effort, the likes of which the US hadn't really seen before. It also wasn't a straightforward conservation proposal. The coalition emphasized the cultural and spiritual significance of the landscape, which their ancestors had called home since time immemorial and, most significantly, the coalition proposed a co-management agreement with the federal government in which a representative from each tribe, tribes being sovereign nations who have a government-to-government relationship with the federal government would co-manage. the lands of the monument in a way that was consistent with their cultural values and also conservation values more generally. Actually, we also heard that there was fierce opposition to this proposal from some locals, though not all, critically, and elected leaders who saw the establishment of a National Monument as a, quote-uN-quote land grab by the federal government that by setting aside some of this land for protection could rob them of their livelihood. And access to some of their treasured places. [It was] a compelling story, we wanted to learn more. So we headed to the Four Corners region and started interviewing people. As tends to happen when following a story, one interview led to another and another and another until we knew that we had to spend some serious time on the ground in the region to truly understand the issues at play.

Steve Strom: The notion of a land grab, often used to oppose the Bears ears is a little bit deceptive in that the land that putatively was being grabbed was in fact public land, like for example a National Forest. So it's important to note that these are public lands that, like national forests ,belong to us all.

Rebecca Robinson: We found three themes that emerged that connected people on all sides of the issue. One was that they all had a cultural and spiritual connection to the landscape. Many of them in the local area, felt that their voices hadn't been heard by people who were deciding the fate of landscapes that they called home. And that they lived in a rural area with a lot of poverty and a lot of industries that had come and gone over the years, such as uranium mining, things that had gone boom and bust, and they faced an uncertain economic future, and that also informed their very passionate views on this. And it's also informed by ancient history, as well as more recent. And there's an intersection of religious beliefs and different visions for economic future and the meaning of the word sacred, as well.

Catherine Cooper: So it sounds like such a huge scope just around this one National Monument. How did you begin to formulate the project and then put together these interviews?

Rebecca Robinson: What drew us to the story was the seemingly epic nature of it and really encompassing so many different intersecting issues that at the time and still inform a lot of political and cultural debates in the West in particular, but also the country at large. So I mentioned before that we started with a couple of initial interviews and one interview led to another and to another and another. And everyone had someone to recommend. And we happened to have the luxury of time in certain parts of this project and we were able to invest the time in going to southeast Utah and other places in the Four Corners region and spend significant time on the ground in the communities we were reporting on and so that made it easier to identify people to interview.

Steve Strom: I think a crucial decision was made by Rebecca relatively early on in the process and that is to allow the story to be told by the individuals involved in the conflict, rather than doing as I had originally imagined, a book which would follow a more academic form description of the geography to a description of the indigenous history, Anglo history and so on, and I feel that to the extent that the book has real power, it derives from the decision to let people talk.

Catherine Cooper: That is absolutely one of the things that drew me to the book. I know this isn't a question I wrote down, but was there a commonality in how you conducted the interviews? Did you start with one question that was the same for everyone, and then go from there?

Steve Strom: My recollection is that we adjusted to each of the sources and tried to meet them. Where they were, I think that to the extent possible, we tried to engage them first on a personal level before going too deeply into the weeds of the Bears Ears discussion. And I think in the end, we followed pretty much the same themes in asking the questions. But I think that each of the interviews usually from my perspective were tailored to the individual.

Rebecca Robinson: I think that for some interviews we did get into the weeds because we knew that some politicians or some leaders of advocacy organizations were very much involved in the policy, which was a crucial part of understanding the story especially. One thing I didn't mention is that at the time that the Bears Ears proposal was taking shape, there were conversations led by a Republican congressman in Utah, representative Rob Bishop, that involved many different stakeholders. You had ranchers. You had business owners. You had rock climbers. You had representatives of Native American tribes all trying to come together to find a compromise on these thorny public lands issues. And there were reasons why it went off the rails that had to do with politics and cultural differences, but I think that when we spoke to some of the folks that had been involved with the policy aspect of things, we would tailor our questions more to policy and getting into the weeds of legislation and land boundaries and whatnot. But then we took a different approach with some respected elders in the Mormon community. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is hugely influential in the part of Southeast Utah where we were conducting our interviews. And so we very much focused on the spiritual connection to the land and how that very much informs views on how land should be managed and stewarded, and so I do think to Steve's point that we in some ways took the same approach, but approached the interviews from a different standpoint, based on who we were talking to.

Catherine Cooper: Steve mentioned this very unique structure to the book. How did you decide which interviews would become chapters and which places you would pull quotes and those interleaving pages that you created?

Rebecca Robinson: We had the opportunity to spend a great amount of time with some of the folks who ended up being the focus of their own chapters, folks, we were able to meet with again and again and again and really develop a sense of their role in this greater political and cultural story. Others were not necessarily key players, but people who were behind the scenes helping to make things happen to bring different people together in this larger movement on all sides to determine what the future of this wild landscape was going to be. And I think that some of our choices were sort of surprising to us in the end that they weren't necessarily people who had been quoted in. Newspapers or media pieces, but they were people who, behind the scenes actually ended up playing significant roles and or people who had been involved in the issues for a very long time.

Steve Strom: It was a combination of close interactions over a long period of time, the desire to include voices from a wide range of stakeholder interests than to select individuals whose stories were particularly powerful, whether from a spiritual standpoint or from an institutional standpoint.

Catherine Cooper: Could you each share a favorite story about working on the book or a meaningful interaction that happened afterward?

Rebecca Robinson: I do think one that has stuck with me over the years is the afternoon we spent with Mark Maryboy, who is the focus of one of the chapters in our book. Just as context for Mark, he is the first Native American elected official in the state of Utah. He was elected in 1986. He served for many years on the county commission in San Juan County, which is where Bears Ears National Monument ended up being established, and he led the initial effort to document some of the cultural resources and sacred sites that became really foundational to the eventual Bears Ears monument proposal, really documenting sites where objects of archaeological significance, places that were central to creation stories, places that were significant. He took us on an afternoon when a classic desert southwest thunderstorm came in and rolled out fiercely and quickly, and we happened to be in the place where he took us just as the storm was clearing and the sun came out and bathed the field in golden light and really kind of set the scene. And Mark took us to this place that was very significant for him and he told us the story about how in 1968, Robert Kennedy came to the Navajo reservation and visited with some members of the Navajo Nation, elders in particular. And Mark was very young. And he was just kind of running around and playing with friends. Then his father stopped him and said, you know, listen to what these elders have to say. And he said he listened and they were talking about the land and all of these sacred places on the landscape that they wanted to communicate to Bobby Kennedy were very significant and why they merited protection. This really became a driving force in Mark's life and it really led to some of the work that he did that ended up not just informing the content of the Bears Ears proposal, but really helping to bring the five tribes together to advocate for protection of this shared culturally significant landscape. It was a remarkable afternoon and very central to the story that we ended up telling in the book. And I will just never forget the time we spent with him.

Steve Strom: I was there as well and I was listening raptly, but also as a photographer I was overwhelmed by the light at the time, but also the wind blowing through the trees and the droplets of water coming. Down and the magical sense of the desert. It was an overwhelming experience for every sense feeling rain on your face, anyway. Every sense was excited at that moment, and I think it probably stands out among the many, many fantastic experiences that we had. It turns out that I'm Rebecca's grandfather. And we came to this place in very, very different ways. And perhaps Rebecca would like to at least provide her perspective on how we managed to join this particular enterprise.

Rebecca Robinson: We have been traveling together as a family to this country for decades, and so this was a landscape with which we both were very familiar and deeply invested in its future. And so I think that we never had the opportunity to collaborate professionally and when an opportunity presented itself, we jumped at the chance to work together.

Steve Strom: I didn't know whether Rebecca would want to confess to this because working with me carries certain burdens. I'm not an easy person to work with, even though I perhaps come across as somewhat gentle and unassuming, I do have pretty strong views. And the thing that gives me great pride is that Rebecca matches them and then some.

Rebecca Robinson: On simultaneously a lighter and more adventuresome note, we also had the opportunity to travel with a group of Mormons who were embarking on an annual pilgrimage along what is known as the Hole in the Rock Trail, which is a trail that was taken by some of their ancestors who were directed by leadership in the Mormon Church to travel from southwest Utah. Across absurdly rugged and punishing terrain to establish the first Mormon mission in San Juan County, Utah, and so every year they recreate that route in parts by gathering in a bunch of ATV's and traversing this crazy trail of Red rock and sandstone and things that one cannot imagine non motorized recreation tackling. But we had the opportunity to join them on this trek and it was very fun and a little bit hair raising like nothing we've ever done before. What really struck me during our book tour. We've really fortunate to get an in person tour in just before COVID, for which I'm eternally grateful. I think it was really meaningful. To speak with people at book readings and signings, people who either knew bears year's country so well that they could identify particular landscapes we had talked about or tell us about fun and slightly harrowing story they had on some rafting trip. For that reason, we're deeply invested in the future of the landscape and then people who never heard of the area before, but. Who came to the talk out of curiosity and then really wanted to know what the literal and figurative next chapter would be and how they could get involved in efforts to protect the region and connecting with people on that level was? Really meaningful and we still to this day will get emails from people saying. Saying I read your book, are you writing a sequel? I'm using this in my class and so it's been pretty rewarding to see that there's continued interest and part of that is thanks to politics that has kept bears ears very much part of the national conversation for years. Since we published our book.

Steve Strom: One of the more meaningful interactions I had was with Humanities professor at Brigham Young University, who came to one of our meetings and provided entry. Way into many folks in the LDS community, folks who in the future from that point led me to folks who became sources for the next book I did, which is called the Greater San Rafael Swell, which describes another effort at land protection. The work on the Bears ears. Book and the follow up meetings really provided entree into the next phase of my investigations of how people actually can find ways of compromising about land use issues which have long, long been highly controversial.

Catherine Cooper: So the book came out in 2018. What has changed since then?

Rebecca Robinson: Oh my. In some ways it's sort of the more things change, the more they stay the same. But it's important to note in 2017, then President Trump actually took the monument that Obama had created a year prior and reduced its boundaries by 85% from 1.35 million acres that was created by President Obama. The impetus for this came from pressure by Utah Republican politicians to really appease the desires of some of their constituents to reverse the, quote-un-quote “land grab” that in their view, had been orchestrated by the federal government. And that was huge. Predictably, many people sued, I should say, the coalition of tribes and conservation organizations, recreation, advocacy groups, many different people as a coalition filed suit. That is ongoing. But in October 2021 President Biden restored the boundaries of Bears Ears to the delight of many constituents, including, of course, the tribes and their allies, who had been in this fight for quite some time. Additionally, last summer, I believe, the Bears Ears tribes signed an official co-management agreement with the federal government, which is incredibly significant. Having sovereign tribal nations and agencies of the federal government, such as the Forest Service and other federal land management agency Steve mentioned managed together, it's a really unique partnership and it incorporates many of the elements of the Bears Ears Proposal, which could be viewed as combining what we might call Western science with traditional indigenous ecological knowledge that will inform land stewardship. It's a really unique approach and it's quite amazing to see that eight years later, the vision that the tribes had as part of their initial proposal in many ways has come to pass. So that's very significant. Speaking of lawsuits, the state of Utah has sued the federal government, alleging abuse of the Antiquities Act, which again, as we mentioned, Obama used to establish the National Monument, which has been around for over a century. Specifically, the state is citing the language in the Antiquities Act that specifies that the areas protected are, essentially, to paraphrase, no larger than they need to be to protect very specific resources. So, they're alleging that by establishing these huge monuments. [the federal government is] in essence abusing the law and not using it in the way it was intended to be used. The suit is basically aiming to get the Supreme Court to weigh in on this. Should the Supreme Court rule in their favor, that could raise real questions about how future presidents can use the Antiquities Act to set aside areas for protection. So that's significant and that's something to keep an eye on for sure.

And then I would say finally, this is not something that's necessarily associated with Bears Ears alone. It has much broader implications. But in 2021, Deb Haaland, a former US representative from New Mexico, was appointed the first-ever Indigenous Secretary of the Interior. And she's placed great emphasis on honoring tribal sovereignty and increasing indigenous representation in the federal government, particularly in land management agencies and also recognizing traditional ecological knowledge in government land management practices. This has both practical and symbolic implications.

There is, from the view of many different people, a need for healing between tribes and the federal government. Whether it's for broken treaties or trauma inflicted by the system of Native American boarding schools run by the federal government, there are many different reasons why the relationship between tribes and the federal government has been fraught over time, and so I think Secretary Haalland, along with other people in the Biden administration, have placed a great priority on furthering that healing process. I think the significance of that cannot be overstated and it will be really interesting to see how her leadership continues to advance some of those priorities.

Catherine Cooper: So Steve, you mentioned that a second book came out of your original work on Bears Ears. Could you talk about other ways in which your work at Bears Ears has impacted what you have decided to do next or current projects you have on your plates?

Steve Strom: I think that the most important lesson I learned from Rebecca is that allowing voices to speak and to express their own stories is truly a powerful way of informing folks about challenging issues. And as I mentioned before, I have this rather academic way of thinking about issues and I'm trying to parse them and arrange things in logical order. Well, that's not necessarily how people interact with one another. For example, in the book I mentioned earlier, the Greater San Rafael Swell, I was able to talk to folks ranging from miners to county commissioners to representatives of ATV groups and so on, and to capture their story and to describe how with a lot of time, a lot of trust building, political leadership it's really possible to come to some compromise that allows peoples’ spiritual and economic connection with the land to be incorporated into larger landscape conservation. So that book came out again by the University of Arizona Press in 2020. And I was going to do a follow up book centered in Utah around the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. But COVID intervened.

I decided instead to look at a conservation issue around an area in Arizona where I had lived for 22 years, specifically the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, and I was interested once again in trying to understand how it's possible to do large landscape conservation in a way that incorporates the views and needs of a very broad range of stakeholders. I've just submitted that manuscript for review to the University of Arizona Press. It's called Adapting to a Changing World, and describes four conservation efforts in Arizona and New Mexico. And again, the common themes to reaching consensus on challenging issues is a lot of time building a lot of trust and being willing to work together. The shortest time it took to reach consensus on any of these agreements, I looked at five years and the typical was 10 and the extreme value was 25 years. It's that kind of time that's needed.

The thing that most concerns me and perhaps vexes me at this point is that on the one hand, it's possible to reach these agreements [if] you allow enough time, which wasn't available in the case of Bears Ears. On the other hand, we're facing really urgent needs to protect large landscape in service of providing habitat for a wide range of species, allowing them to room to move and migrate. It's also going to be necessary to protect watersheds, which are typically huge, and trying to figure out how to do that for a mosaic of tribal, private and publicly held lands is an incredible challenge, and we have to meet it quickly. And yet. It takes a long time to incentivize conversation and to build the trust necessary in order to reach some sort of satisfactory agreement. So I don't know how it's going to be possible to meet the conservation challenges that we face on the time scales that are important given the fact that the pace of human interactions and trust building is just a very, very slow one.

Rebecca Robinson: I am also working on a book in the early stages about another indigenous-led conservation movement. This one is centered in the Pacific Northwest [where I live] and it also involves an intertribal coalition, although this one is much larger. It’s a coalition of nearly 60 Native American Tribes in the Northwest supported, as was true in Bears Ears, by their allies in the conservation recreation community, among others. [The coalition] is advocating for the removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Lower Snake River in Eastern Washington state. They're doing that in order to save several species of salmon from extinction. This is one [issue] with plenty of data to back it up, that decades ‘worth of scientific data show that these dams have contributed to a catastrophic decline in the salmon population, and advocates say that removing the dams will help to restore a free-flowing river, in which salmon can thrive and not face many of the threats that come with trying to navigate dams and the reservoirs behind them on this rather epic journey they make to the Pacific Ocean and then back to their natal streams to spawn the next generation.

Similar to the Bears Ears proposal, the [tribes emphasize] the need to protect physical landscapes and natural resources, but also that by not doing so, their cultural and spiritual identity is under threat.. as self- identified salmon people, salmon are central to their culture and physical and spiritual sustenance. For that reason, they and many others view this issue as about more than conservation and. ecological restoration. It is, at its core, a social and environmental justice issue, and, as was true with Bears Ears, there are many who oppose this movement and this plan, among them farmers who rely on the dams, reservoirs to irrigate the crops, public utilities who sell the power generated by those dams to their customers, barge transportation companies, which would no longer be able to transport grain and fertilizer and other goods as far as they can with these particular dams in place and then others who question the wisdom of removing infrastructure that generates clean energy at a time when some Northwest states have set really ambitious goals for cutting carbon emissions in the era of climate change. Dam removal advocates note that this energy can be replaced by other renewable sources, but some of that infrastructure has yet to be built. This. Is one of these debates that's been raging for decades between different stakeholder groups in the courts and at the grassroots with little movement. But today, for several different reasons, the campaign to breach the dams has really been gaining momentum, and there are even signs that leaders in the Biden administration are open to the idea, not outright supportive but open to considering it among the suite of other options to help restore salmon populations. The issues speak to a lot of the same things that concern the Biden administration and administrations past, namely renewable energy, social and environmental justice, climate change, and, very similar to Bears Ears, they're strengthening relationships with tribal nations.

Catherine Cooper: I'll admit that I want to read all of your books. So what would you like readers to take away from your book, and who have you found is your audience?

Rebecca Robinson: I think that our audience has proven to be surprisingly diverse. [Voices from Bears Ears] was released by an academic press, so naturally we assumed that some of our audience would hail from the academic community. But it seems to have had enough broad appeal that we've discovered that everyone from grassroots environmental advocates to people who, as I said, have never engaged with these issues or know the landscape well at all, have really engaged with the book. And really, I think the themes in the book are broad enough and relevant enough to a large swath of people in the United States, that there's really something for almost everyone to connect to in the book, whether it's the future of rural America, what it takes to achieve political compromise, the future of conservation and just a host of other issues that I think make it relevant and compelling to a large number of people. I would like people to take away, especially in such a polarized era, that achieving compromise, whether it's on public lands issues or other thorny cultural and political debates requires all parties to come to the table in good faith [and] with open minds, and with an acknowledgement that no one's going to get everything. As one of our sources, the legendary rancher Heidi Redd said, you know, the dinner plate must be split. Everyone's gotta be a little bit unhappy and willing to sacrifice something in order to come together around a shared understanding of what is most important to protect. I think also behind every contentious policy debate are real people, and it would behoove policymakers, especially at the national level, to listen to the voices of all their constituents, not just the loudest ones, the ones with access to a megaphone, but people who historically have been overlooked and/or excluded from these conversations. Connected to that is that planning for the future requires acknowledging the past. Whether that's acknowledging people who, as I was just saying, may have been excluded and/or overlooked by decision makers [in] these critical conversations, or in the case of Bear Ears, there's a lot of painful history there between different groups. And I think part of moving forward on these issues, in a respectful and amicable way, is [acknowledging] some of that painful history and figuring out how to move forward in a way to heal old wounds, but also build new relationships based on a foundation of mutual understanding and respect.

Steve Strom: [For] most conservation efforts to succeed, one, they ought to start locally and when you have national or statewide conservation groups on the one hand and state and county government on the other hand, getting involved at the very beginning, it's more likely that you wind up with polarized discussions. Whereas if conversation starts slowly on a local level and people can come up with a shared vision, you're much more likely to build up from the grassroots to a solution and it's at that point that I think that political leadership becomes important. But until you get to that point, if conversation starts at too high a level too soon and proceeds too quickly, the chances of success are not very high. So I agree with everything that Rebecca said. But again, meeting on the land among people who belong to that land and vice versa, is really the key to conservation success. And conservation and success that includes not only land protection but protection of the cultural values of people and their economic future.

Rebecca Robinson: As we saw with Bears ears, the future of conservation will almost certainly involve finding a way to combine Western science, very data-driven science with indigenous traditional ecological knowledge. I think we're really seeing that begin to be integrated in an official [federal] government capacity and I think that may well be the way of the future in terms of decision makers trying to find ways of addressing and mitigating the adverse effects of climate change. They’re looking to indigenous leaders who successfully stewarded landscapes for many thousands of years for ideas and approaches to helping with approaches to wildfires and water protection and things of that nature. And so I think we're starting to see that happen in an official capacity at the government policy level. And I would expect that to continue. Obviously so much depends on leadership and other circumstances. There's no way we could predict at present, but I do think that's going to be a key component of conservation initiatives in the future.

Catherine Cooper: Thank you both so much.

Rebecca Robinson: Thank you. It's been a pleasure.

Steve Strom: I hope you get a sense that enjoy one another's company and there's often a lot of verbal sparring because we each have our own way of looking at the world. But nevertheless, I've had an enormous amount of fun, and as I said, I've learned a lot, not just from the folks with whom we talk, but certainly from. OK, didn't think that way when we started to work together.

Rebecca Robinson: It's been a tremendous gift to get to work with Steve, especially at this point in our lives. It's been really special and I have learned a tremendous amount as well, including different ways of viewing a landscape that at first blush is just - the scale is so vast. And yet there are so many subtleties to see at the ground level. So getting to see that landscape through Steve's eyes, I think, gave me a more nuanced appreciation of it.

Steve Strom: Well, the very best thing did was to produce a great granddaughter.

Catherine Cooper speaks with Rebecca Robinson and Steve Strom about listening to and sharing the various opinions surrounding the formation of Bears Ears National Monument.

145. Creating Inclusive Museums


Catherine Cooper: My name is Catherine Cooper. I am here with ... Dr. Porchia Moore: Hi. My name is Dr. Porchia Moore. I'm the rotating program head of Critical Museum Studies at the University of Florida. Dr. Rose Paquet: Hi. I'm Rose Paquet. I am an independent scholar and artist living in California. Aletheia Wittman: I'm Aletheia Wittman. I am an independent consultant and coach working with museums and the cultural heritage sector. I am in Seattle. Catherine Cooper: Wonderful. Thank you all so much for joining us today. To kick off the conversation, I'd like to ask each of you how you became involved with the discussion of inclusion in museums. What are your stories? Aletheia Wittman: The way that I came to this subject and personal connection with this subject, is really through starting my graduate studies at the University of Washington. I was getting a degree in museum studies. Rose and I were in the same class. We had different tracks to the research and to projects that we were doing. But through seeking out resources, voices, some practices that were emerging in the field related to inclusion that we really were looking to, to understand inclusion better, so that it could inform our research and our areas of inquiry. We were really feeling at a loss for where to go for those resources. So for us, it was really this connection that we had, that we were both interested in subjects that are leading us to asking new questions about inclusion, "Who's talking about inclusion? What are the different frameworks for talking about inclusion?" For me, I was really interested in the lens of social justice as the fore of how I was investigating emerging curatorial issues in museums. I was interviewing people at different art museums that were talking about how they were committed to social justice. I really wanted to understand, what was the conversation like, before I arrived as an emerging scholar and person who wanted to enter the field. I was really wanting to know, "Where can I build my work from? And how can I find community in accessing information about inclusion?" Really building and making my practice one that I felt ethically good about, both as someone who wanted to work in museums and a scholar. Dr. Rose Paquet: Like Aletheia said, we met when we were in this graduate program, both investigating questions of inclusions from different perspectives and from different projects. I'd moved to Seattle from living in Alaska and working on repatriation projects for a museum called the Alutiiq Museum in Kodiak, Alaska. I had experienced a sense of vibrancy around museum really being a place and a resource for the community in terms of the stories that were being told and how they did their work. In Seattle, I was working with an organization that was offering art classes and museum visits to adults who were experiencing homelessness or recovering from homelessness. That became the focus of my work in the museology program; really trying to look at it from the perspective of people who tend to not be included in museums. In fact, I would encounter homeless people sitting outside the museum in Seattle and felt this dissonance of, "We want the museum to be for all people and for our community, and here are people who maybe we consider not part of our community, although they're sitting right here.” What are the resources we have? We have shelter. We have art. We have these things that provide wellness. All sorts of things for people." I don't think in a prescriptive way. Whatever it is, it is valuable regardless of your background. I was focusing my work on that. From the perspective of, "People who had been homeless and who were homeless, how would they want to engage with the museum? What would be meaningful to them?" That’s how we started the Incluseum —as a space that could connect people, connect ideas, and show that this is a network and there are a lot of people who care about these matters. Together we create more strength for this work to happen in the world, rather than working in isolation or in a way that you think, "I'm the only one who cares," which is really saddening and can be discouraging, so building that momentum together. Dr. Porchia Moore: It's so interesting, every time we share that story it's like I get excited because, quite literally, discovering the work that Aletheia and Rose began changed my life. In 2011, I was enrolled in a library information science program at the University of South Carolina. I had been awarded a Laura Bush 21st Century Leadership Librarian Grant. It stands for Cultural Heritage Informatics Leadership Librarian, or CHIL Librarian. It was a small cohort of us, about eight. Our responsibility was to look across the GLAM sector, so galleries, libraries, archives, and museums, and identify and attempt to solve some really critical problems across the GLAM sector for the 21st century. My mother was a fourth grade teacher. She was largely in charge of organizing her school field trips, so I would go with her. Most weekends, instead of us going to a football game or a basketball game, we would hop in the car and go check out a historic site. My mother was really into history and culture. Her love of history and culture definitely shaped my love and passion and understanding of it. So being in this doctoral program where our entire lens was looking at problem solving across the GLAM sector. And we could also specialize, so I specialized in museums. I also earned a graduate certificate in museum management. One of the critical issues that was really important for me is, as someone who was born and raised in the Deep South, someone who is female bodied and Black, when I would go on these trips, I would be invigorated by beauty and the history and memory, and all of that, but I would often feel like there was a lot missing, a lot of narratives missing. I really wanted to try to also understand why when I would go on these trips, I would either be the only person or one of a small handful of people of color. So that was my original guiding question in my doctoral program and my doctoral research. Then I was really fortunate enough to be able to have a mentor and connect with other doctoral students in the education department who introduced me to critical race theory and this notion around scholarship as a form of activism. So thinking about activist scholarship and thinking about the power of problem solving within that context. Within the context of museums, thinking about repatriation, restoration, social justice, as Aletheia mentioned. I became really, really frustrated because I was not seeing language or ideology or even analytical frameworks that helped me really understand and unpack this issue of barriers to participation in museums. Then somehow I discovered The Incluseum. I was like literally shouting, "Oh, my gosh, these people speak my language. I found my people." So I reached out. I think I heard back from both Aletheia and Rose, but I know that Rose and I spoke for well over an hour in our first conversation. I was so elated. I was looking for new language and new rhetoric, so words like liberation. One of the things that I really did not understand is why within museums we were constantly still having a conversation about diversity, because diversity is a really hegemonic term that does not in any way speak to dismantling current systems of practice or thinking about future building . So this notion around inclusion, I thought to have this collaborative inquiry space where we could all collectively unpack what that word inclusion meant for us in our little part of the globe was really, really important. Dr. Rose Paquet: We'd been talking about publishing a book for a few years prior to working on this concrete project. We thought, "Oh, it'd be fun to do something like this together." Bounced around different ideas. It seemed that with the coming 10-year anniversary of The Incluseum, and of our work together, it was a good time to look back this last decade and everything that transpired in this work together, and what we've learned, so that we can also look forward and position ourself for the future. I was finishing my doctoral studies, this was a couple years ago, and it seemed like, "Wow, maybe some of this research I'm doing for my dissertation could be well suited for the book." So these different pieces started to come together about what this book could include with different reflective pieces, and then a bit of a research piece, and then a looking forward piece. I was like, "Wow, here we go. This is it. We’ve got it." Dr. Porchia Moore: I will also jump in and just kind of say, I think, like she said, we have been talking about writing a book for a really long time. I also feel like a kind of catalyst for writing the book was, especially at the height of the quarantine and COVID-19, was kind of taking a critical assessment of the field in general. In particular in 2020, when we saw so many museums closing and people being laid off and furloughed and we saw open letters, that museum landscape seemed really, really rocky, if you will. We thought it was the perfect time to be able to take an assessment, to be able to look back, especially in light of this notion around museum activism. Rose, Aletheia, and I were dubbed museum activists very early on. We were trying to figure out what that really meant, but we were identified as change agents. I think we all collectively felt like change agents, but I think, like Rose said, it was just a perfect timing to look back at the impact of The Incluseum as a project, look at all of these wonderful collaborators that we've been able to work with for about a decade. And how all of that synergy coming together at varying conferences, from AAM to Museum Computer Network to Museums and the Web, to AASLH, NCPH, all of these different conferences, being able to always galvanize and network with people, and continue to have these really rich, powerful conversations around inclusion. So it was really exciting for us to think about looking at where we started. Aletheia Wittman: A lot of those conversations about doing the book in general really led to a lot of conversations that became the outline for what the book was going to include. As Rose was talking about, there was this sense of we're looking back at this project at 10 years, and we're in this reflective place in thinking about, "What is it that The Incluseum has been? What are we thinking about in terms of its role?" And also what it's been in relationship with many other collaborators and people who have been asking questions, sometimes together with us at varying times. These other projects that have coexisted with us. So we wanted to start off the beginning of the book reflecting on our own personal stories. So you'll find that. We wanted to start by thinking about and introducing the question itself that brought us all together, "What is inclusion?" So we invite the reader into that background. That has kind of been the question that the project has turned on. We move from there to a genealogy of looking back. Both at the project, but in context of the developing discourse of inclusion in museums from our specific vantage point. I think it's been very important for us to always be naming, to the reader and to people we're in dialogue with, that we're telling a story about inclusion in museums, specifically from our vantage point in this project. So situating ourselves, and also recognizing that there's a lineage that our work is indebted to that goes back decades and decades. We are picking up and adding to this emerging story of what we understand inclusion in museums to be, and that story's going to continue to change. So we needed to do the history. We needed to lay that out and to open it up. And to recognize so many of our colleagues and friends and coworkers in asking critical questions about inclusion, but we also wanted to build that book towards the future focus. We move from past to present to future as the trajectory of the book and how it's structured. At the end of every chapter, we pose these critical questions for the reader to invite in the reader, tapping into their own experiences, which we can't speak on behalf of, but we know is part of the story that we're trying to tell. So we wanted all these invitations to consider inclusion and to think about how it's evolved in our understanding. And that we can continue to provoke questioning about it in the future, and that we all need to be doing that from our different vantage points, our different roles. The backgrounds that we bring. The localized histories or organizing, potentially, we've been involved in. So there's a bit of a back and forth we try to establish with the reader throughout the book. That probably comes from our background blogging. You're really putting yourself out there and you're really hoping you get a dialogue. That's the whole hope. But in a book, you're a bit stuck in your own narrative. I think now that the book's out, that's been something that's been really fun, is now we really get to engage in some of those dialogues with readers because we have always thrived off of that in our work. So really, the user experience and the reader experience is the whole point of writing the book. Dr. Porchia Moore: I'm not going to speak on the future of The Incluseum, but I think often what I envision for the book is a multitude of things. One, I envision and hope that many if not all museum studies programs read the book to learn and understand this amazing intellectual and professional journey of taking a single word and excavating, mining, expanding upon this single concept as a means to evoke powerful change in the field. It is my hope then that once people sort of understand all of this work that has taken place in the last decade, that ... I feel like really strongly that we're in a new place of change and that we're in a new cycle of looking at whether it's focusing on a new word or a new framework or a new methodology. I'm really excited about some of the emerging museum professionals that I'm meeting. My own students who are just killing it in terms of thinking about critical museum work, asking all kinds of new questions, pioneering really amazing research. So I think part of that vision, part of that hope, is that we will see The Incluseum. Aletheia Wittman: One of the hallmarks I think of The Incluseum project from the start has been this core of collaborative inquiry. I think one of the things that's happened as a result is that it's somewhat been a platform that responds to the call of collaborators, emerging subjects or events that matter, or bring more people together in a networked way. So that has meant we kind of move I think at the speed of ... maybe trust is a good way to say it. As many people have said before, moving at the speed of trust, in that we have a lot of ideas. But sometimes to prove the idea or to get a real sense of where to place our efforts, we listen a lot to where conversations are going or open ourselves up to hear from people where they'd like us to go. I think that at this particular time in museums, there has been such a radical remaking and resetting of all the things that museums thought were so stable and being shaken up, that there's still time to figure out what's ahead and where we should go, because there's a lot that we've all been through. There’s a lot of things that are emerging from this moment, like the unionizing movement and the conversation about unionizing. There's a lot about pay transparency and museums as workplaces that are beholden to kind of the ethical discourses about how people are supported, their mental health, their overall wellbeing. So how are museums becoming those places of work that have the bars set high and help set museums out to be a model instead of lagging behind. One thing that I think we can share a little bit more about is also just our collaborative process as authors, which I think many might relate to as the pandemic has been happening. We've all kind of shifted communication styles. The nature of work has shifted. As we've been talking about the book, things have been thrown up in the air. We, as authors, I think writing a book together, where we all contributed to every chapter--I'm curious to hear from Porchia and Rose a little bit about that experience of creating a new kind of collaborative model for even writing the book. That was responsive to the pandemic. We kind of go through all these things in the book of what our collective realities were like. We start right there because that was our background when we were putting the pieces of this book together. We tried to be explicit about a little bit of how it happened, in the book itself, to pull back the veil of even, what does writing a book look like these days? Especially one of this kind that is really connected to a decade of work. Our coming to that and having conversations about it. Being transparent and sharing that with readers. I'm curious if Porchia and Rose wanted to say more about that collaborative class of writing. Dr. Porchia Moore: This is going to sound very Hallmarky, or whatever, but it's true. It did not feel, for me, like anything other than the beautiful way that the three of us have always worked for the last decade. The warmth and the empathy and the grace that we give each other all the time, the care. We're special to one another and I just think it shows up in how we communicate, how we write, the process for ... As Rose said, I think even when sometimes we're texting one another or we'll have a Zoom check-in, I think that over the years we've just always respected one another, and have always been collectively inspired by the other. So for me, the process, it just was more sort of formalized, if you will, because we had the outside entities of the editors and the publishers, but really and truly, it just felt like a continuation of how we have been working, whether it's the blog or whether it's workshops or presentations at a conference. I mean, Rose and I, we had a presentation way long ago. I think 20 ... I don't even know. It was at an AAM conference in Atlanta. It was myself, Rose- Dr. Rose Paquet: And it was Margaret Middleton. Mm-hmm. Dr. Porchia Moore: Mm-hmm, Margaret Middleton. Was it even an hour, Rose? We were just like, "Oh, we're not going to do this anymore." We chucked our whole entire presentation. But I think, also, we've done that probably way more than once. We're very responsive, because I think that we're also very reflexive. I think that process of being responsive and reflexive, and just very empathetic and passionate allows us to have a particular way that we work. We're not scripted. I mean, we all sort of come from academia, but I don't think we function in any way as "normal academics." I think we just have a very unique, common ethos that works for us. I don't think everyone could step into the process, but we've been sort of like this since the beginning, so I deeply appreciate it. Dr. Rose Paquet: Me too, so much. And that this way of working together, for me, also mimics the ideas we want to amplify through our work with The Incluseum. And through the book, too, of being responsive, taking time to listen, and that we can't have this sense of urgency if we're trying to build trust. We're putting that in practice through our relationship and our work together. To me, that is super special, and gives integrity to the whole endeavor. Catherine Cooper: Thank you all so much for joining me today. Dr. Porchia Moore: Thank you so much, Catherine. Aletheia Wittman: Thank you, Catherine. Dr. Rose Paquet: Yes, thank you.

Catherine Cooper speaks with Dr. Porchia Moore, Dr. Rose Paquet, and Aletheia Wittman about advocating for and building inclusive museums.

144. Uncovering the Work of Sara Plummer Lemmon, a Forgotten Botanist


Catherine Cooper: Hello, my name is Catherine Cooper. I am here with-

Wynne Brown: My name is Wynne Brown. I am a writer, editor, and graphic designer, and I am based in Tucson, Arizona.

Catherine Cooper: Thank you so much for joining us.

Wynne Brown: It's wonderful to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me.

Catherine Cooper: Could you tell us a bit about how you discovered Sara Plummer Lemmon and what drew you to her?

Wynne Brown: Yeah, I'd be happy to. Way back in, I think 2012 when I was working on the second edition of my book, Remarkable Arizona Women, I ran across a woman of the 1880s who was a botanist and an artist, and she's the woman for whom Southern Arizona's Mount Lemmon is named. She climbed the mountain in 1881 as part of her honeymoon at age 44. I thought that was pretty intriguing.

And then a couple of years later, I learned that the University of California and Jepson Herbaria Archives in Berkeley, California had six linear feet of material on Sara Lemmon and her husband John Gill Lemmon. I thought that was pretty intriguing. I didn't know whether or not it was field notes or illustrations or diaries or letters. It turned out to be 1200 pages of Sara's handwritten letters. I made three trips to Berkeley and photographed them all and moved them onto my hard drive and then started reading them. I was just captured by Sara's observation, her voice, what appealed to her. And then when I also started looking at her artwork, and I have a background as a scientific illustrator, I was just totally captured by her and decided that I really, really wanted to do a book because I did not want her story to be neglected any longer.

Catherine Cooper: What was your process for distilling and working with such a large body of correspondence in Sara's collection?

Wynne Brown: I think every different biographer brings a different filter. To me, the fact that she was both a scientist and an artist was really one of the filters that really appealed to me. Also, the fact that she just completely reinvented herself because she was born in Maine, educated in Massachusetts, then educated more and worked in New York City and then moved to California at the age of 33 because of horrific health and that she constantly had bronchitis and pneumonia and decided that California would be a healthier place to live even though she knew no one there.

She just basically reinvented herself from a New England gym teacher to a Western scientist and artist. That whole transition was one of the filters that I used to go through all this material and try to see what are the pieces that I want to keep in order to build an accurate, fair story. With 1200 pages of letters and then everything else is there, you can't use everything, but you have to figure out what filter fits for the story, the particular story that you're telling about somebody.

Catherine Cooper: It sounds like both a challenge and a delight.

Wynne Brown: That sums it up perfectly. That's exactly what it was. She just grabbed me and I would walk around the mountains around Tucson or walk around town with her voice in my ear because she has a very strong voice. In the book, it was important to me to keep her voice and not inflict my voice on hers. And so that's a balance that's kind of tricky because I wanted to include enough of her words, yet I had to provide context for the readers so that they had a way of anchoring her into the world at that time.

Catherine Cooper: How would you characterize Sara's impacts on all of these fields that she was involved in, art, science, suffrage?

Wynne Brown: It's such a shame because it's so typical of the time. For example, in the collecting labels of all the plants that they collected, they collected plants all over the West, and the collecting labels are all J.G. Lemmon and wife. Sara's name was not even included on their scientific discoveries. That's so typical of the times where women were just neglected and erased, their effect. I would say that basically her effect in conservation and suffrage and art and science were all just underrated because nobody knew about her.

Catherine Cooper: What would you say is the most surprising thing you learned during your research?

Wynne Brown: I think I would say her resilience. As I mentioned earlier, she had terrible health issues that her lungs were challenged and she was constantly sick. Her husband, John Lemmon, who went by J.G. Lemmon, had been a prisoner of war in both Andersonville and Florence after the Civil War. And so he was very damaged from his war experiences.

These two theoretically frail people managed to climb mountains and camp in wildernesses and go to incredibly remote places, and they just got an astounding amount done in spite of their frailties. I think that was something that really surprised me, and one of the things probably that I admire about her the most is her absolutely relentless curiosity.

Catherine Cooper: Are you continuing to work with Sara's collections and materials, and if so, could you share a bit about those projects?

Wynne Brown: My husband jokes that he married two women, Sara Lemmon and me, because Sara still has not let go of me. When I saw her artwork for the first time back in 2017, there were two boxes that had been donated to the Berkeley archives. In these two relatively small boxes, there were 276 watercolors on paper.

Some of them are in just terrible shape. Some of them have been munched on by insects who liked the paper but not the pigment, so that they look sort of like cutouts. And others of them survived the intervening 140 years really beautifully, and they're in the book. But I resolved way back in 2017 that I wanted to do whatever I could to try to prevent those paintings from deteriorating even further. Through the generosity of a couple of donors plus putting all the proceeds of the book into it, I was able to raise enough money to travel back to Berkeley and to hire an art conservator whose name is Susan Filter to assess the paintings.

This isn't art restoration. This is really art preservation. Technically it's called rehousing and stabilization. It involves basically getting each of these watercolors into their own archival quality folder with a glassine sheet and then put in archival quality boxes so that they won't fall apart anymore. When I first saw them, the archivist hadn't even looked at the contents of the boxes because the paintings were so fragile they were afraid that by taking them out and counting them, that they might just crumble.

Last year, we went back in August. By that time, I had raised enough money that we were able to get the preservation work done on the first 276 paintings. Miraculously, amazingly, the archivist during COVID had discovered two more boxes of paintings, which was about another 200 or so paintings.

I hadn't budgeted enough and hadn't gotten enough funding to be able to finish those, but I'm really excited to say that thanks to a couple of very generous donors, we do have enough money now to go back to Berkeley this summer and finish up rehousing all of the work. I'm just thrilled by that, and especially since some of the work that we're now finding in those new boxes include some paintings from the Santa Catalina Mountains, and that's the mountain range in Southern Arizona just north of Tucson that includes Mount Lemon, which is the mountain named for Sara.

Catherine Cooper: That's absolutely phenomenal. This is a sideways question for you. Are any of the illustrations of the type specimens that Sara and J.G. discovered?

Wynne Brown: It's a little bit hard to say because they were casual about the geographic location. Nobody had GPS in those days, and sometimes they would indicate the location of the plant by where they were camping, and sometimes they were camping a mile or two from where the plant was actually located. So it's a little hard to say whether or not it was for the type specimen, but there are definitely examples of, for example, there's one of a morning glory, which was later named Plummer's Morning Glory in honor of Sara's maiden name.

Catherine Cooper: That's absolutely lovely. What would you like people to away from your book or from the work that Sara has left behind?

Wynne Brown: I think really my primary goal in writing the book is that Sara not be forgotten, that her story not be forgotten. I think that that's actually happening. I'm delighted to say that the book has done really well. It's now in its second printing. It won both a Spur Award and a WILLA Award. The Spur is for Best Western biography. The WILLA Award is for best creative nonfiction.

I wanted to write it in a way that was readable, and I think that succeeded from what people have told me. And I wanted people to really appreciate who Sara was, both as a scientist and as an artist. I think that also is happening. I think maybe one of the lessons that Sara can offer all of us is to really follow your interest and that reinventing yourself can certainly be a success.

Catherine Cooper: That is a fantastic note to have people think about. Thank you so much for talking with us today.

Wynne Brown: Absolutely. It's been such a pleasure, Catherine. Thank you.

Catherine Cooper speaks with Wynne Brown, who has been researching the life and work of Sara Plummer Lemmon, and championing the conservation of her scientific illustrations.

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