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.


125. Interpreting History with the Slave Dwelling Project


J. Church: Good morning, Joe!

J. McGill: Good morning, how are you?

J. Church: Very well, how are you doing?

J. McGill: I’m well.

J. Church: Be brief if you want but how you got started in this project.

J. McGill: The stars aligned, a lot of things came together at that time, ten years ago when I started the project. At the time, I worked for the National Trust for Historic Preservation and I would visit places associated with the Trust and on my own. Sometimes these are antebellum sites, you know, prior to the Civil War that could tell many stories. But usually the stories that were told at these sites were of the architecturally significant buildings on those sites and missing from that element of the story were the buildings where enslaved people occupied, where enslaved people did the cooking, where they functioned in the carriage houses, none of that was there. No element of people whom I derived my DNA from, was there.

I was also at that time a Civil War reenactor; I was at least fifteen years into being a Civil War reenactor. So, I know the joys of visiting historic places and sometimes sleeping at those places. And then of course, having that DNA that I have and knowing that something needed to be done with the lack of information out there and making that statement that somebody needs to do something about this. Of course, that somebody was me.

I took it upon myself, I got lucky. I was part of a team to monitor the work of the carpenters that were actually restoring the slave cabins at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, where I am now employed on a full-time basis actually. So, in doing this and seeing the opportunity for these cabins to now tell that element of the story at that place, I wanted to take it a step further and sought permission to spend the night in one of the cabins when they were finished. Well, they thought it was a great idea and then I said well if they think it’s a good idea, maybe others will too.

So, I sought a list from the state Historic Preservation office here in Charlestown, South Carolina, told them my intent. Of course, they got it because they think a lot like I do, it’s about preservation. So, I got the list from them and started making phone calls. And surprisingly, you know after I made my requests and after that awkward calls, of course you know, such a request is not usual, most of them got it. And because most of them got it, I started making a list of where I would go in accordance to those yes’s. Now I got a few noes along the way, but I had enough yeses to step up on faith and make it happen.

My intent was to stay in the state of South Carolina, you know, sleeping in these slave dwellings because that’s where my limited resources would take me, but even with that filling in the list was not a problem. So, I started out on the journey at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. The media was there, they did what the media does and then a few sleepovers later, NPR did a piece on it and there was certainly no turning back then. I had already realized that this was a project much bigger than myself and others saw the value. In fact, a lot saw the potential that I did not see initially because I started getting these calls from other states.

Now luckily for me, at the time, I was employed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and I was traveling to the states of Alabama and Louisiana. Knowing that I was going to these places and putting the word out of this new thing that I was doing, some of my clients or contacts through the National Trust would start seeking these places for me, because they were getting a bonus. See I was traveling there anyway for my job, and I was just tacking one extra day onto that trip, you know just spend the night in these places in these other states. So, again the stars aligned all this came together.

Now, ten years later we’re still at it. I say we because we’re now a non-profit organization functioning as such. We have a lot more checks and balances to ensure that you know what we’re doing is proper and in order. So, again ten years later, I’m at this thing and here we are, you and I Jason about to go into a mutual endeavor.

A lot of folks think like I used ten years ago. A lot of people try to keep slavery on southern plantations. Well, you’ve got to expand that way of thinking. Because if you keep it there, you’re going to miss the urban slavery that happened and you’re going to miss the slavery that happened in those northern states. So, so far, it’s been twenty-five states and the District of Columbia. If you limit it to agriculture, you’re going to keep it at you know, at those larger plantations but you’ve got to also think, you know, even in those northern states there were some plantations. You know, less so than the south, of course, its economy was that agrarian effort to extract from the land all that they could. And that worked better in the south than it did in the north.

Now that northern slavery was more of body servants and people of this nature. You know that structure that usually survives again, near the big house as you just stated, that structure is usually made of better material than the structures for the field hand because it’s by your nice, beautiful big house and it’s about aesthetics, it’s optics. If you have that building near your nice beautiful big house, you want it to look good at least. Not saying that the enslaved people who occupied that space got any better treatment, but at least the materials that that house was made out of was usually more substantial, it certainly looked better, and it was a status symbol.

You know, my first three sleepovers, I was all by myself, all alone and that’s how it started. So, now I’m back to that but not by choice. It’s because of the Coronavirus that we’re back here. But I’ve been at it long enough to embrace the technology that exists and that is one of the reasons you and I are talking right now. I’m seeing your face and you’re seeing mine, you’re likewise. Well, we’ve taken that same technology to apply to the slave dwelling project. I’m sleeping in the places alone, but we also give folks the opportunity to interact with me through Facebook live and before the actual sleepover, we also have a zoom call that folks can take part in. And the zoom call is more real time interactive when we do the Facebook live, you know it’s me talking a lot then I get an opportunity to scroll through the people who are signed in and try to answer any questions that they may have posed to me. Less interactive than zoom, but interactive enough to still let folks get a feel for the place. They see the place through my eyes, they hear about the place through my ears.

You know it’s fun. I’m kind of getting used to this, but you know, it’s good and bad. It’s good because people can do the social distancing and stay where they are and still learn about that place, but it takes away that face to face and eye to eye, that campfire atmosphere where they can have that interaction with everybody around the campfire. So, we want to try to get back to that as soon as the science will allow us to. We plan these things as if I’m going to be there physically and there are going to be others there physically with me, we planned it as such. But we know that at some point, if the science says, “Well you know, that’s not the way to go,” then we are going to have to pull back and make it these social distance learning type activities and we are prepared to do that.

You know in 1787, when we were in our nation’s capital, which was back then, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, considering the ratification of that Constitution, the fact that you know, the southerners demanded that they needed twenty more years to still import people into this nation for the purpose of enslaving them because their economy depended on it. You know it’s the agriculture that we talked about earlier, that was that opportunity right then to snuff out this slavery that exists now in these United States. They could have ended that chattel slavery right then and there. But they did not. They kicked it down the road, kicked it down the road, and they kept doing that and because they kept doing that, and even after freedom came, all those things that replaced slavery like convict labor and KKK and lynchings and white citizen councils and you know, they were always doing these things to disenfranchise the African American population.

You know, take Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the massacre there. Take your Rosewoods and if you look at compile a list, that complied list of people who were lynched, you will see that there were a lot of businessmen who were thriving and because they were thriving and competing with the white population, there were these efforts to silence them and making a public spectacle of what was done to them.

So, I want folks to know that, yeah, we should be angry, but we’re still dealing with what we should have dealt with historically that we allowed to persist, the slavery and the effects thereof and we are still living with that legacy. But yet they’ll make a statement like, yeah, get over it. You know it happened, not in their lifetime so get over it. They got to understand what that is. That “it” is more than slavery. That “it” is all that period you just described. Disenfranchisement are when these African Americans were pursuing their happiness there was always something, a law or a group, or something to take it all away again, take you right back to zero.

So those things continue to persist, and we say that if you know, if were going to learn history or you’re doomed to repeat it or something to that effect. I know I butchered that, but the thing is we know the history, but we still repeat it. I was given a tour yesterday at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens and my question and answer period now tend to focus more on connecting those dots, what we’re going on today, you know George Floyd’s death, what we’re dealing with now, monuments coming down at an alarming rate and they’re not just confederate monuments anymore. I mean they try to, throw everything, everything into that bucket.

Well, it is because that we’ve been telling a distorted history for so long. Some of these public sites, you know they kind of fit into to it. They kind of went along with it, whereas they should have been just doing the opposite. I think had they been telling the real history, I think we would be in a much better place because if you ask a group of people if they’ve visited a plantation, many of them may say no. But then if you ask that question another way, you know if you ask them if they visited Montpelier or Mount Vernon or the Highlands or Mount Vernon, they may say yes. Well, those are plantations. And that’s that indication that we were trying to hide this, hide something on these properties. And because we were hiding it, prolonging it for so long, we still have people who come to these sites seeking out that sugar coated version of the history, you know the Gone with The Wind hoop skirt version of that history, but now what they’re finding out is that some of these plantations and some of these historic sites are doing what they’re supposed to do, what they should have been doing all along. And it disappoints some people because again, they still come for that fantasied version of the story. But the number of sites that are doing right and doing it the right way, that number is increasing and those who are still doing that glorified Gone with The Wind version of history, that number is getting smaller. So, we’re making progress.

J. Church: What would you like to tell people that you maybe haven’t gotten across yet?

J. McGill: One thing, I think that if anybody should come away from a plantation thinking that slavery was a good thing, I think they need to seek a refund. If they paid anything for that, to have that story told to them. Working at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens and giving people choices as to which tour that they should take and knowing that there’s a value to each tour. In other words, you pay an additional fee to go on the tour that you want to go on. Well, the tour that we give from slavery to freedom, our cabin tour is taking the least. And that speaks to the bigger problem that we have as Americans, wanting to stay in that comfort zone and not wanting to deal with the atrocities that we committed along the way to obtain this greatness that we are as a nation. But we must understand that in obtaining this greatness, we relegated the natives as less than, we relegated the enslaved Africans as less than and because we label them as such historically, we’re still dealing with the residuals of that today. So, I think people should be open minded enough that you know, the white privileges that are granted that are beneficial to whites. You know it came at the cost of making others less than. I think we should stop resisting. The demographic shift of what’s to come in the near future, you know the white population is not going to be the majority anymore. Of course, now the majority is a good mixture of others because when you fill out forms these days, you see black, white, other. And we’re getting a lot more others and there’s a lot of pushback against that and you can see it you know with the building of walls, or the banning of Muslims or voter suppression. We need to be mindful that resistance to this demographic shift, it tends to divide and conquer. And I don’t think that’s the way that we should go in our pursuit of happiness and forming of a more perfect union.

J. Church: It’s a nice way to wrap it up. Well thanks for talking to us Joe, I really appreciate it.

Jason Church speaks with Joe McGill about the Slave Dwelling Project and the importance of how we interpret and share history.

124. Cherie Quarters


Jason Church: Thank you for joining us today. My name is Jason Church. I'm the Chief of Technical Services at the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training. And today, I am here talking to author Ruth Laney, who has just released her book on Cherie Quarters. And I loved the book, Ruth. I really enjoyed reading it. I'm a fan of Ernest Gaines, so I wanted to read it because of that, but you really have three books put together. It's an amazing amount of research, very impressive, but let's start, and how did you get started with Ernest Gaines?

Ruth Laney: I write about it in the book. I had never heard his name, and I was working at LSU Press as a copy editor on the second floor of Hill Memorial Library, which is now not used as the press anymore. The press is in another location now. But at that time, the press was located there and Charles East was I think director at that time, or possibly assistant director. He brought a man upstairs where the copy editing department was, and I believe there were four of us in four different offices. And he kind of wrapped on the door jam and I went to the door, the door was open, I could see. There was Ernest Gaines standing there. He had a couple of books and he had a brown beret in his hands. And Charles introduced, "This is Ernest Gaines. He's in town to help scout locations for making a movie of his novel, The Autobiography of Miss. Jane Pittman. And he will be giving a reading this afternoon at Lockett Hall," which was very close.

"If anybody up here wants to take an hour off and go over and hear him read, you're more than welcome to do so." So, I went and Beverly Jarrett, whose office was across the hall from mine, walked over there. It was a classroom, and Warren Eyster was the creative writing teacher. So, it was a group of his creative writing students and some professors who maybe wandered in and us, and we were all sitting in desks. And then he stood up in the front of the room and he read short story called Just Like A Tree, which is the last story in his short story collection Bloodline. And I remember Warren Eyster saying to his creative writing students, "We've been studying point of view, so I want you to pay special attention to point of view in this story because it's told from multiple points of view."

So, it starts out with they're driving in a wagon, in the mud, in the cold mule drawn wagon, and it's the little boy in front with the dad holding the reins, the mother-in-law who's got her sitting chair in the wagon because she insists on bringing her own chair, and they drive up to Aunt Fe's house. Aunt Fe is an elderly woman who is going to have to leave. It's not called Cherie Quarters in the story, but in my mind that's where it's taking place, and civil rights activities are beginning to happen. And so, it's felt that her life is in danger. They are going to send her up north, they might even mention Chicago, and she will be leaving. And so, they're all gathering together to have kind of one last gathering to more or less say goodbye to Aunt Fe. And so, we go from some funny things about one mule won't pull, he just kind of floats free and easy while the other mule does all the pulling.

And the mother-in-law is complaining and moaning about everything, so there's humor. And then you get to the real crux of the story, which is Aunt Fe, Aunt Fe we're going to miss you. And I think the story's been out long enough for me to reveal that in the end, Aunt Fe finds her own way of not being moved. And then the title, Just Like a Tree is taken from the spiritual, "Just like a tree standing inside the water, I shall not be moved." And so, just like a tree, and there's that wonderful, wonderful section that I use as kind of an introduction to my book, Aunt Clo saying, "When you take down a beautiful old oak tree that's been here all these years, you never get the tap root. You jump down in there and you chop at it, but you never get the tap root. And what you're left with is the hole where the roots were, and then the big hole up in the air where all those lovely branches have been all those years."

And to me that said, preservation, these houses are just as much part of the landscape as these old oak trees that have been here all these years. And that to me is like a cry to arms for preservation, not just the old oak trees, but the houses too. And I think today people are more inclined to look at those houses as valuable. We were a bit ahead of our time in wanting to save them, but that was an inspiration to me. But I didn't actually Cherie Quarters itself until 82. I got an assignment from Louisiana Life Magazine to write an article about Ernest Gaines, and they assigned Philip Gould to take the photographs. So, Philip and I think we drove over together from Baton Rouge, but I'm not sure. He may have driven alone from Lafayette and I drove in from Baton Rouge, and I guess Ernie would've come from Lafayette because he was teaching there.

So, the three of us met and we walked up, it was February, it was a cold gray day, and people were still living there, smoke coming out of the chimneys. People would come out on the porch, and kind of wave. They called him EJ because that's how he was known as he grew up there. And then we got all the way down to the end of the lane, and there was an old man working in his garden, and Ernest Gaines and Aunt Reese. Reese looked over and he's like, "Who is that?" And Ernest Gaines said, "It's EJ." And then he smiles, we walk up and we meet him and we talk to him, and he's got this big old vegetable garden. He's in his eighties, and then he had this little dog with him, that little sweet legged dog missing one leg. So in my notes, I found later Philip Gould had gotten down on his stomach in the gravel, and he was asking Ernest and Reese to walk toward him over and over again.

He asked Reese to walk down his front steps over and over again, and I reminded Philip later, look and see if you can find these photos. I was picturing it being taken from the front, but when I realized it was taken from the side, I'm like this is exactly what all these houses look like. So, seeing it in that way was really special. And even though I was writing about Ernest Gaines and I was reading all of his work, I had never been Cherie Quarters until that time, 10 years later. Then in 1992, Rick Smith at LPB and I decided it's time to do a documentary about Ernest Gaines. Of course, we asked him and he agreed. So, we spent two and a half years working on this documentary and we were able to film some of it in Cherie Quarters. There were still houses there when we made the documentary.

And we even had the church service, which at the time there were really only two ladies who would attend church, Suge and Carrie, who were the last two people. And then there was a man named Willie Aaron who still lived there. They would go to church like every two weeks, preacher from Baton Rouge would drive up, hold a service. Sometimes it was just these two women all dressed in white with white hats for the documentary. They invited some of their relatives to come, and they did. So, the church was more or less filled up as it once had been every Sunday. And so, we were able to get one last church service filmed for the documentary. So, that's when I realized how special a place it was. And by now, I had read all of his work probably many times, and it's all about Cherie Quarters.

Every setting it's clearly based on Cherie Quarters. So, it's his inspiration. It's this place that even though he left when he was 15 years old, mentally that was still home and that's what inspired him to write I think, was to try to capture that place where he grew up. As I write about it in the chapter, The Friends of Cherie Quarters, it sounded like the impossible dream, but Suge's house was still standing. In fact, she was still living in it. So, it was in good enough shape to be lived in, and then it was right next to the church. And then right next to the church was a small shed that Ernest Gaines said his grandfather had built. So, those three buildings right together still existed. Then all the way down to the other end was Reese's house. And my idea was, first of all, Reese's house even then was in terrible shape.

It needed repaired drastically. And we even did a little bit ourselves like, let's buy a two by six and prop up the overhang on one side and that kind of thing. My idea was could we create a building in between these, on the outside looks like these buildings. Cypress grade, doesn't have to be painted and look new, but then inside it's more like an open space. We could show the documentary there. In my dream, Ernest Gaines cuts the ribbon, our first we gather in the graveyard to remember those who are no longer with us. Then he cuts the ribbon. We'll have teacakes and what he called [inaudible] , the kinds of things that people used to give him to pay him for writing a letter or reading a letter to them if they couldn't read, and then maybe a little gift shop where his books could be sold.

And of course, I couldn't make it happen on my own. It would take more people and it would take a certain vision to see a value there. But we brought people there. Greg Osborne, who's with New Orleans Public Library, Chuck Seiler and his wife Rhonda. We would take different people there and say, "What do you think?" And these were African American people, and they'd go, "Oh, this could be great." I mean, they'd get really excited about the possibilities. Sid and I together created the lecture, Cherie Quarters The Place and The People. He would talk about the actual physical components. I would talk about the people, which of course, starting with Ernest Gaines, the most famous person to come from there. We gave that lecture at least half a dozen times. We gave it Upstate Archives where I asked "Would everybody who has a connection to Cherie Quarters, please stand up?"

And half the audience stood up. So, the message was understood by the people who heard the lecture. I think people understood what we were trying to do. And like a title of the chapter, Time is The Enemy. All it takes is time. You don't have to do anything but just demolition by neglect. You literally don't have to raise a finger, and sooner or later, that building will be gone. So, we did as much as we could. We really did. We tried, but ultimately we failed. So in a way, the book creates what we were unable to create as a physical presence. And also I created a Cherie Quarter's Facebook group, and we've got 300 members now, many of whom have a Cherie Quarters connection. So in a way, the internet has made it easier in some ways, especially for people who have moved away. They can at least keep up.

Jason Church: Well, thanks so much for talking to us today, Ruth. I highly recommend anyone interested in southern history, vernacular architecture, African American history, plantation system, any of that, this book will check those boxes, and I highly recommend anyone go out and read it.

Jason Church talks with Ruth Laney about her book, Cherie Quarters: The Place and the People who Inspired Ernest J. Gaines.

123. Dutton's Dirty Diggers


Jason Church: Hello, my name is Jason Church. I'm the chief of technical services here at the National Center of Preservation Technology and Training. And today, I am here interviewing Catherine Fowler, who's the author of Dutton's Dirty Diggers, a book that just came out about Bertha Dutton and the Senior Girl Scout archeology camps that were held in the American Southwest from 1947 to 1957. Let's talk about your book.

Catherine Fowler: Several of us had met, and we all felt that we owed a debt to Bertha Dutton. We're basically opening up the world of archeology and generally anthropology to us, and also the possibilities that we too could go into that field and we could have successful careers as Bertha had done just that through the University of New Mexico where she got her BA and MA degrees, and then also went on to Columbia to get her PhD and was employed at the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe for almost all of her career. So, we thought that was quite neat. And at that time, the opportunities for women to go into something other than being a secretary or a hairdresser, or if you had an inclination towards science, you could be a nurse, but never a physician. So, she just really opened our eyes. And so we decided something more needed to be told about the program.

In addition, of course, she introduced us to a very vibrant region of the country that most of us knew absolutely nothing about, and many became so enchanted that they even moved there or had second homes there most of their lives. So, it was certainly a multicultural experience too. Bert was very well known among a Pueblo peoples and Navajo and Apache peoples, and they welcomed us. And we tried to act like ladies most of the time when we were in their presence. And of course, we visited lots of national parks, especially in the southwest because many of them contained very important archeological sites or now under protection, and were then, or some were transitioning to it. So all the way around, it was a marvelous experience. Some close to 300 girls went through it, including the two week on the road camps where we traveled to various regions of the southwest and camped out while doing so.

And there were sometimes several of those per summer. And then also the archeological excavation camp, which was held south of Santa Fe in the Galileo Basin at a site called Pueblo Largo. And there were six of those camps. They ran two weeks each, but only one in the latter part of the years that she ran the program. So all around, it was wonderful. One girl came back 11 times. Several others came back two, three, four, five times. I came back twice, but then the program was ended. I was in the last two years of the program. As a result, quite a number of us did stick with it and became anthropologists, and also others got PhDs in related fields at a time when women could hardly expect to get much beyond a bachelor's degree. So, we think that the program had a lot of very good results.

There were four of us who became very close. I had started the work with a paper, a visit to basically to the archives at the Museum of New Mexico Laboratory of Anthropology, and that paper was presented to the Society for American Archeology. And one of its meetings about the topic of the symposium was how the public can get involved in archeology, and I thought that that fitted quite well. And while I was there, I met another person who was beginning to work on the archives, the Bertha Dutton archives, which are at the museum and the archives there. And so we kind of linked up and thought, well, we'd at least do a monograph on the material maybe. And then that next summer, through a mutual friend in archeology, Alexander Lindsay, who was at the Museum of Northern Arizona, I met two more of the diggers. So, we teamed up and decided to push forward and do what we could to tell the story.

Jo Tice Bloom and I did most of the archival work. The other two pulled together some of their diaries. Suzanne Martin had Bert's little black books that had all our names in them for each adventure, and also I suspect a positive or negative evaluation of our behavior. And so she pulled together a roster basically of all the names that Bert had in her little books, and that's what added up to the nearly 300 names. Some others we heard about. We tried to contact a few, certainly those that became anthropologists, I knew of. And so they were partly involved, like Vorsila Bohrer, who became a botanist, but also an archeobotanist, and others. So, it was a collaborative effort on all our parts. And we certainly owed a debt of gratitude to the archivist at the Museum of Indian Arts and Cultures, Diane Bird, herself, a Rio Grande Pueblo native. And she bent over backwards to provide us access to the materials and help us out and wherever we needed.

One summer, we had a kind of get together with six or seven of us and looked at photographs in the collection, many of which were not identified as to who the people were, and we were able to help Diane with some of that. Otherwise, all of us worked together. Took quite a while. I think we started somewhere in 2007, and the book didn't come out until 2020. So, of course that includes a couple of years at the University of Utah Press, which did an excellent job in getting it formatted and getting it out. So, that's sort of the story of all of us. And two of those individuals have passed away already. Actually, three, Vorsila Bohrer passed away as well. So, there aren't many of us left, and I suspect not a lot left out there either, especially from the early years, 1947 or so.

I have a whole house full of not only the ones that I collected first were purchased, I should say. Of course, Bert cautioned us. There were no collecting of materials for many of the parks, including sherds or anything else. She was very insistent on that. But many of us fell in love with the Native American art of the region. So, I think with my $20 that my parents had given me as spending money, I bought a small Navajo rug, a basket, and a San Ildefonso pot. And the second trip, I bought a nugget turquoise necklace. But I know several of the other girls, Maryanne Stein, and also Susan Martin, had good collections that they accumulated through the years. So, introducing us to the art of the region, which is of course exceedingly vibrant and still attracts all of us. We did indeed collect. In fact, she knew the owners of trading posts that we visited, as well as the individuals in Pueblo communities.

And toward the end of the trips of which I was on, she would send out information ahead of time as to whether we might be interested in materials. And then she would advise us as to, "Yes, this is a good purchase. No, wait a while. You'll find better quality materials." And she always looked at the quality to make sure that we were getting something that was very nice rather than just particularly tourist art. Although of course, one could say that many of the materials developed as tourist art, and then went way beyond that, certainly to the present day. In the second of the last chapter, the sort of summary chapter, I think we pulled together data on about 60 girls, especially those who attended Bertha's, either her memorial service or her 80th birthday. And we were able to track them down through cards that are in the archives and find them and see what became of them.

And quite a number who didn't go into an anthropology, went into other fields. At least three that I know of got PhDs in history, including Jo Tice Bloom. And then Susan Martin became a biochemist and had a very successful career at that. Maryanne Stein got her PhD in anthropology, but also a law degree in addition, and worked in Albuquerque as an environmental law person after she went out of anthropology and into law. Others did become nurses, but often master's degree level rather than just a BA level. And many went in or stayed with girl scouting because they had daughters, or they knew of the value of the program in general, as a building program for confidence among young women, and the idea that they could do what they wanted, be what they wanted, and nobody should tell them, "No, you can't because you're a woman." We traveled in the caravan of vehicles. We had one male with us at all times, and he was the car wrangler. The National Girl Scouts, of course, course had liability and some medical insurance. Our parents would pay, I think it was a dollar and a half for a policy that would ensure our survival, basically. But I think that the Museum of New Mexico didn't realize perhaps what the liability situation was fully in terms of them because they didn't carry any specific or special policies. And I think today, given where we were going, how far we were going, how many of us there were the state of the roads in those days in New Mexico, all the adventures we had climbing into and back out of different Pueblos like Mesa Verde. We all climbed the ladders up into balcony house. And even the park service has become a little bit jumpy about that and other such issues.

And so, I don't know. I think you maybe could do it on a small scale. I know the Boy Scouts, they did do some travel adventures, but not, I don't think, on the scale that we did. Bert always pre scouted everything, so she knew exactly where the hospitals were, where the doctors were, all kinds of facilities. And we did have a certified first aid person with us the whole time. She introduced us pretty well to the desert. We stayed up above the Mogollon Rim. She not only told us about rattlesnakes, but also about cholla cactus and how to get that off of us if we ever had the misfortune of running into one, scorpions in our sleeping bags, and anything else that might be hazardous. She was pretty thorough in her training. Also, we had a botanist with us most of the time, who could identify the flora and fauna. That was also exceedingly useful. Bert also was trained in geology, so we got quite a bit of that in our travels in addition.

We had several adventures in different camps. And Morefield Camp flooded one time, and our sleeping bags went floating down the ways. We had to retrieve them and dry them all out, but we were prepared. We also had a lot of fun in addition. But Bert was quite clear that it was meant to be an educational experience, not just a fun in the sun situation. But teenage girls being teenage girls, we had a lot of fun too and did a few things that Bert didn't know about. She was a lot of fun, but also very strict. We knew who was the boss. We did and saw a lot of things that those of us who went into anthropology and other fields related to the Southwest look back on with great pride. Some of the greats in southwestern archeology were enlisted to speak to the girls, and they did. We didn't know who they were necessarily at the time, but in retrospect, we certainly found out if we went anywhere near their fields.

Jason Church: Thanks for talking to us today, Kay.

Catherine Fowler: You're most welcome.

Jason Church talks with Kay Fowler about Bertha Dutton's Girl Scout Archaeology Camps of the 1940s and 1950s.

122. Stewart Butler's Legacy of LGBT+ Activism


Catherine Cooper: Hi, my name's Catherine Cooper. I am here with...

Frank Perez: Frank Perez, the author of Political Animal: The Life and Times of Stewart Butler.

Catherine Cooper: So could you tell us how you became Stewart's biographer?

Frank Perez: The very short answer is he asked me to do it and I said yes.

The more complicated answer is that I first met Stewart when I was researching my first book, and he was very gracious with his time and very knowledgeable and helpful. In addition to that, he and I just hit it off on a personal note and became friends. And I got to know Stewart really, really well when he and I and a few other people co-founded a non-profit organization called the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana. And we would have our board meetings at his home, which is known as the Faerie Playhouse. It was the site of many, many organizational meetings for the queer community in New Orleans in the late 20th and early 21st century.

And Stewart, when he read my first book, he called and made an appointment with me. We hadn't really become that close yet at that point. And this really is what kind of cemented our friendship. He called me over to the Faerie Playhouse, and I got the sense that I was going to the principal's office because he took out a yellow pad and just went through all the things that he thought could have been done better or more completely, or little errors he felt that were in the book. And I thought, dear God, this man hated this book, but he didn't. He wanted to let me know what I had missed. And it was a little strange at first. I've since then learned that he does that often with people. He used to do that with his pastor. He would criticize the sermons. It's just what Stewart did. And he didn't do it in a mean-spirited way, he was just curmudgeonly that way. And at the end of that critique, he countered it, balanced it, I guess you'd say, with a lot of affirmation and love. And then I realized, okay, I can handle this.

And he didn't ask me to write his biography immediately. We got to know each other. And in the meantime, I had worked on a few other books. I published, I don't know, five or six. And somewhere in the course of all those books, he realized maybe he does know what he's doing. And he had mentioned to me that some years ago he had secured someone else to write his and Alfred's story. And that did not pan out, but that he still was interested in having that done. And I say, "Well, you've led a fascinating life. I would be more than happy to do that. I do have some other works in progress. But once I complete those, I'll be happy to tackle this." And he said okay.

And that is how I came to be Stewart’s biographer.

It differed greatly from anything I've ever written. And I've written a lot, but I've never written a biography. So it was an intellectual challenge, which was kind of exciting for me. I told him early on when we first started working on the book, I said, "Stewart, if I do this, I'm not going to sugarcoat you. I'm going to include the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything else." And he said, "That's the way it should be." And he said he trusted my judgment to portray him the way I saw fit. And so it was easy in that regard.

Alfred was his soulmate, and he loved Alfred very, very much. And you couldn't talk to Stewart about anything without Alfred being a part of that conversation, even years after Alfred had passed. And so, fortunately, Stewart had friendly relations and was on good terms with Alfred's remaining family, who he put me in touch with. And they were very helpful as well. And then Stewart kept every paper ever associated with his life, and that goes for Alfred as well, so that made it a little bit easier. But I did have to do some independent research on Alfred and the Doolittle family. But Alfred's sister and his niece were very, very helpful.

Stewart saved everything. I mean, really a biographers dream. He kept every letter he had ever received, seems like, anyway. He would often keep copies of letters he sent to people or ask them to return the letters back to him. And he had a big trunk and a couple of other boxes filled with just personal correspondence.

He had terrible handwriting, I can tell you that. But those letters, thousands of them. And I spent about 18 months just reading all those letters and taking notes. And probably over half the notes that I took, I did not need. The hard part was creating just an index for myself to know where to go to kind of organize everything. But the letters were very valuable because those were his thoughts at the time that they were written. And they were very, very insightful into his life and his thinking and his attitudes and his emotions. He struggled with depression, which he writes about and whatnot. So the personal letters alone were overwhelming, but the personal letters paled in comparison to his personal papers. And by personal papers, I mean papers from every organization he was ever a part of. And he was a part of a lot of organizations, just about every major queer organization in New Orleans from the 1970s on.

And by papers, I mean agendas from board meetings, minutes from board meetings, personal notes, membership rosters, internal organizational memoranda, you name it. He just kept everything. He also kept a calendar. This is before the internet, which Stewart never embraced even though he was alive when it was out. He kept a handheld folding calendar for every year. And I was able to go through, I guess maybe 25 or 30 years worth of those. So that helped clarify questions I had in terms of dates and places and times. And he wasn't just meeting with so-and-so, he would make notes. He was a very big note taker, which was, like I said, a biographer's dream. So the hardest part was just going through all that material and getting a sense of what was there, and then going back and culling through the notes I had taken and re-looking at this and re-looking at that.

And to me, it just boiled down to, does it advance the story I'm trying to tell, or does it bog it down? And I think I'm a pretty good self-editor, but I'm not perfect. So when I finally sent the manuscript in to the publisher, they had other thoughts about some things I included, so I had to cut and chop. So it was just really a matter of, is this really necessary? Does this add to an understanding of Stewart and his work? So that was the question I used, the internal metric, if you will.

Unfortunately, there were a lot of great stories that really didn't make the book. There was a correspondence exchange between Stewart and a friend, this would've been back in the seventies, about how to make homemade poppers. And for your viewers or listeners who may not know what poppers are, in the 1970s and eighties, poppers were basically amyl nitrate that you would break a little vial and sniff it, and it kind of gave you a head rush and a little high. And it was very popular during sexual activity. It enhanced the experience, I can say it in a G-rated way. And they still have them today, but they're different today. They're called record cleaners now; you just uncap it, smell it. But they were different back then, and it was like you had to know a little bit of chemistry to make them. And so there was this hilarious exchange of letters between Stewart and a friend of his. And the friend is sending a recipe and instructions on how to make poppers. And there are all these interesting little arrows and footnotes. Don't do this or it will explode, or there's a chance that this will happen. I mean, it was just hilarious. And there were a lot of letters that spoke to his sexual exploits, which I didn't really feel were relevant to the book, although I tried to include a few. And the publisher kind of ixnayed that. But yeah, I would say most of the more salacious material involving his sex and drug use. He was no saint.

I think first and foremost, Stewart's life is an example of how just an ordinary citizen can have such a profound impact on so many people and on the world in which they live. Stewart never held office really. I mean, he dabbled in politics, but he never wanted the limelight or the spotlight or the leadership position. He was much more satisfied to remain in the trench and do the unglamorous work and avoid getting all the credit. And whenever people tried to give him credit, he would pass it on to Alfred, because it was Alfred's money that enabled him to do what he did. So that speaks to his humility, which I think is an example for people. But just his determination and his commitment to social justice left the world a much better place than the one he found.

And I think it's a great example, and hopefully an inspiration, to just regular people to make the most of what they have and what they can do, so there's that. I also hope that the book inspires other researchers to dig deeper, because one of the things that frustrates me as a historian of queer New Orleans is the fact that no one knows anything about it. It's only in the last several years that people started writing and researching about New Orleans' LGBTQ+ history, and there's a lot more that needs to be done. So I hope people realize that, A, there is a lot of history here. And B, keep digging. So those would be the two main things, I suppose.

The organization that I work with is called the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana, which Stewart and I co-founded with several other people. And right now, we have just put out a call for proposals for a book to be written about the people of color community, queer communities in New Orleans and Louisiana, because that is a major gap in the historical record. And the Archives Project has partnered with the Historic New Orleans Collection, who has agreed to publish the book. They're also going to give a stipend to whoever ends up writing this book. And right now, the challenge is finding someone to write that book. So we just got the call log for proposals together and we'll be publicizing that communities of color, queer experience, and history needs to be researched.

I will also say that I think there needs to be a book written on the lesbian history of New Orleans, because every book that's been written so far are written by cisgender, gay men. And I think a lesbian voice is important and necessary, but also a work or a book that focuses on lesbian history. Now, there is a book on second wave feminism written by Janet Allured, who kind of touches on the fact that many of the feminists in the seventies in New Orleans at least were lesbians, but the focus is not lesbian history, so I think that's one.

Unfortunately, much of our trans history is still in the closet, and I think that needs to be excavated. I mean, I could go on, but those would be the two or three big ones, I would say.

I've written the book on the history of Café Lafitte in Exile, but there are a lot of other bars that could use books too. Bar history played such a crucial role in queer history everywhere because it was the only place you could go to find like-minded people for a long time. And in New Orleans, we were a drinking town. We had so many. And just a book tracing the evolution of these bars and these spaces and when they were sold and what they became and the new names and what their owners were like and so forth. I mean, I think that would be a fascinating book. That could be a whole volume of books.

I would just like to remind people that it's very, very important to get our history out of the closet. And so I'm glad that people are reading the book. I hope they enjoy it. Even if they don't, it's okay because if we don't remember our history, we're doomed to repeat it. The events of the last several months, I think, really raise a red flag about the fact that all these hard fought rights that we won can easily be lost. And we need to be very vigilant about that. And I think a knowledge of our history will go a long way into inspiring people.

October is national LGBT History Month. And at the end of September, I met with city council member JP Morrell here in New Orleans. And I said, "LGBT history month is coming up in October. And the last time I testified before the city council, it was obvious that some of your colleagues were completely ignorant of some major events that affected the queer community in New Orleans. And I think you all need to come take my queer history tour in the French Quarter." He agreed to do that, but then he said, "Why don't you come and testify again before the council about New Orleans' queer history?" And I was happy to do that. I only had about 20 minutes, so I had to focus on something very specific. And what I chose to focus on was how horrible and homophobic the city was in the 1950s through the 80s, and cited specific examples and so forth. And all their jaws hit the desktops. I mean, they had no idea how horrible the city was. And a lot of people are like that because today New Orleans is so tolerant and it has this reputation of anything goes, but it wasn't always like that, for us anyway. So I would just encourage people to familiarize themselves with history and to support the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana, which they can do at

Catherine Cooper: Thank you so much, Frank.

Frank Perez: You're very welcome.

Catherine Cooper speaks with Frank Perez about Stewart Butler and his LGBT+ and Civil Rights activism.

121. Practicing Engaged Archaeology


C.Cooper: My name is Catherine Cooper I am here with-

S. Herr: Sarah Herr, President of Desert Archaeology.

K. Hays-Gilpin: Kelley Hays-Gilpin, Professor of Anthropology at Northern Arizona University and Curator of Anthropology at the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, Arizona.

C. Cooper: Thank you both so much for joining me. You recently had a book released called Engaged Archaeology in the Southwestern United States and Northwestern Mexico. Could you tell us a bit about what the impetus was for putting the book together?

K. Hays-Gilpin: Well, this is part of a series that the University Press of Colorado has been doing for a long time. We have a conference about every other year called the Southwest Symposium and the organizers pick some themes and invite people to take part and then the expectation is that a volume will result.

C. Cooper: Could you talk a bit more about what engaged archaeology is as a practice and why it's so important?

S. Herr: There are multiple definitions of it for sure. Like archaeology is so fragmentary, when we're in the field, you know, we have such partial remains of the past and then we're asked to interpret whole life ways based on, you know, what we can hold in our hands and so that's not a very rich understanding of the past. If we're willing to kind of share authority and talk to other anthropologists, talk to people who work in the physical sciences and most importantly talk to other communities and have these, like, human conversations around what the materials of the past are, we think that's a way for enriching archaeology and our understanding, bringing the past into modern conversations. And with physical scientists who, you know, can help us describe the land and the resources that the people of the past were engaged with, because you know the land-people relationship is so important in the past. And with other ways of doing anthropology language, culture, kinship systems, all of that became part of our conversation too.

K. Hays-Gilpin: So I would say: Who are we engaging with? Not just other archaeologists, not just other anthropologists although they have a lot to offer. For example, historical linguistics is something that Indigenous people are interested in but archaeologists have not engaged with that very much. But we also want to engage and benefit by engaging with descendant communities, with physical scientists, chemists, geologists. And important for this group historically has been cross-border engagement, so working with our Mexican colleagues across the border, their heritage resources.

C. Cooper: How did you select or solicit papers to include in the publication?

K. Hays-Gilpin: We both have a pretty broad network. I work in museums and universities, and Sarah works with a private cultural resource management--heritage management--firm, and we both have colleagues in Mexico. Sarah also works with a lot of public archaeology, public education, private foundation advocacy kinds of work with Desert Archaeology, Inc. ( So we already had a broad network to draw on and we would get together with our third colleague, Patrick, and say who do we know who's doing the most exciting work and what's everybody talking about, what do we need to bring to the table?

S. Herr: We really wanted the people doing the hands-on work, and I think that's what shows in this book is that it's the people in the labs, for example, that did the work.

C. Cooper: I noticed that many of the chapters talk about the importance of NAGPRA, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Could you expand on why NAGPRA is so important and has such an impact on engaged archaeology?

K. Hays-Gilpin: We've had several decades of working with repatriation and I think at first archaeologists were skeptical. At least the older… the older generation, including many that are no longer with us, would say “Oh but science is more important than anything” or “We need to have everything we excavate curated in perpetuity and it needs to be available for future scientific research.” And the response from Native American communities was pretty strong: “We don't understand why science is more important” and “We don't know what benefit our communities have had from bioarcheology, osteology, archaeology” and “How would you feel if we were digging up your grandparents in a Christian cemetery in Tucson, for example?” And the conversation got started.

So what the passage of this law did was open doors for communication among scientists, Native American descendants, Native American heritage managers, tribal museums, as well as museums that tend to be more science oriented or broader in their scope. And the law is very clear that it's human remains, funerary objects—even ones that are no longer associated with human remains. It is objects of cultural patrimony, which can't be owned by individuals or by outside institutions, and it's sacred and ceremonial objects that are necessary for the continuation of cultural practices. I think most archaeologists understood that this was necessary and important and that we wanted to do it. And now it's happening and what we wanted to do here was show some of the good that has come out of this process of working together to get repatriation done.

S. Herr: I think I would add a little bit about why NAGPRA is important in this book and I guess there's a couple of comments about that. One is that I think it's not the kind of work that really gets published and so in terms of showing models of how this works, it's such an essential part of the conversations that I think anthropologists and archaeologists are having with descendant communities right now but it's not in the kinds of spaces that, you know, other people can witness and see. But for people who are willing to put this into a book form, this provides like now a nice set of case studies that, you know, show the full range of work from bioarcheologists and how they balance what they record with tribal interests, to tribal voices that talk about the trust relationships that happen in these spaces and when things have gone well and when things haven't. That is particularly clear in the chapter on the San Carlos Apache work with the Smithsonian. And so having this published is important. The other piece that I think is important in terms of the impact of the NAGPRA that also shows up is that I think it's really changed bioarcheology careers a lot. I feel like now such interesting questions come in terms of asking people about identities and the more focus on the human body and the individual.

K. Hays-Gilpin: We have several examples in there of the bioarcheologists asking the representatives of tribal nations “if we do this documentation before repatriation, what are the questions that that you'd be interested in?” and sometimes people say “no, they've been handled enough. Let's just put them back in the earth so they can continue their intended life cycle, life journey.” But in a number of cases tribes said “well, we're interested in migration and we're interested in these dental markers that are markers of genetic populations and gene flow and we want to know who moved from here to there because we have oral histories that describe that.”

C. Cooper: Much of the work that's presented in this book was done around 2016 or up until 2016 when the conference happened. Have you seen a shift in the field or in practice since then and if so how?

K. Hays-Gilpin: Well, I definitely have in terms of what our master’s students are interested in; they're coming right in talking about “I want to work with communities,” and maybe it's their own community or maybe it's tribal communities in the region or “I want to know more about the daily lives of people who lived here that were here in our area in the late 1800s,” for example. What was the effect of colonialism and in some cases even Spanish missionization? You have the formation of new ethnic identities and new kinds of communities and some of that history did not get written down, so archaeology is part of that. So, we have more archaeologists I think wanting to do ethnohistory. We certainly have an interest in public archaeology with education; I get a lot of people who want to do museum education in the area of archaeology. And then the job market is really good right now in heritage management and so they're looking for “what's my career going to be?” It's not just “I want to be a professor,” and it's so refreshing to see people recognizing there are so many more careers than that, most of which you can do with a master's degree or even a bachelor's. Sarah, if you want to add about how the practice of CRM is changing?

S. Herr: I mean one thing that we're seeing changing, I think, is the way that we work together with tribes and so I think a piece that we're seeing right now is that everybody's more open to conversations and hearing how to be inclusive in a project.

K. Hays-Gilpin: So, it seems like you can build more activities into some of these large projects than we used to be able to do. Now you can build in cultural competency trainings where tribal members instruct your field techs who may be coming from anywhere and they're coming into this new cultural environment and they don't know what's respectful and what isn't. And they're curious and so let's answer questions, let's have a discussion, and let's lay a foundation for working together. And then on the other end, or really at any point, some communities might ask Sarah’s company “you know, could you do a workshop for our high school students?”

C. Cooper: What do you hope people will take away from reading the book or listening to our conversation?

S. Herr: I think one thing we want the people listening to take away from the conversation is to realize that the paths into archaeology now are a lot more diverse. You know Kelley’s speaking as a professor and sees the future of our profession. But I think we want people to see that regardless of their background, there's a place in archaeology for them. There’s a lot of ways to be involved in the heritage management and the cultural resource management and to help tell the stories of the people and landscapes of the Southwest. We want people to see that there's jobs there. And so there might be a traditional path that you go through grad school, you need to get your MA often, BA sometimes, but it's not it's not just a course to a professorship. We value the very good professors who can teach this, but there's far more jobs than that.

C. Cooper: Thank you both so much.

S. Herr: Thank you for inviting us.

K. Hays-Gilpin: You’re very welcome, our pleasure.

Catherine Cooper speaks with Sarah Herr and Kelley Hays-Gilpin about different ways archaeologists are practicing engaged archaeology in the American Southwest.

120. Archaeological Exploration of Material Production


C. Cooper: My name is Catherine Cooper I am here with—

C. Fennell: Hi, this is Chris Fennell and I'm a Professor of Anthropology and Law at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

C. Cooper: So you recently had a book come out called The Archeology of Craft and Industry.

C. Fennell: I'm an academic archaeologist so when I start a project I usually plan for a multi-year project and it’s research and education interwoven. We'll have field schools, we train grad students and undergrads on how to do archeology, and then we go back year after year and do the research. And I really concentrated on African-American archeology and seeing the way in which African-American culture and practices interacted with Europeans in the colonial period and later period. And having done a lot of that, I asked a couple of key scholars, John Vlach and Robert Farris Thompson, whom I collaborated with on earlier projects, and I asked them at one point, and this is going back over a decade ago, “If you could unleash an archaeologist on an interesting site where archeology hasn't been done where would it be?” And they both said, independently, “there's something very interesting going on in the Edgefield potteries in South Carolina.”

And they were known. They've been studied extensively by historians and museum specialists and collectors that there's a very aesthetic, beautiful stoneware that started to be produced in this region in like the first decade of the 1800s. As an academic archaeologist you consult with all sorts of local landowners, descendants, historians, ceramic specialists, museum specialists who knew about this pottery. It's a big collector's item. The type of pottery that came out of this tradition is called the southern alkaline glazed pottery.

So we approached it initially with a different host of questions. But the very first field season, we knew the location generally of where the kiln would be where they would burn the pots. We had a first field school led by my doctoral advisee, George Calfas, who's now Dr. George Calfas. And so he led a team of undergrads, and as the field school went on through six very hot weeks during the summer, they uncovered a kiln that was over 100 feet long, 10 to 12 feet wide, that ran in a slope, even the floor was sloping, running up the hill. And it being an academic process, we have both the burden and the benefit of being able to really dive into a topic like this.

Industrialists were very secretive, so they had created this thing but had never written it down anywhere. So historians who have looked at this process before had no idea about it. It was only revealed through the archeology. And the only counterpart is that they had copied the design of an industrial scale kiln that was only used in southeast China. And the Chinese had factory towns there at industrial scales producing porcelain and stoneware for centuries. And they developed this form of really high resource-consuming kiln called a dragon kiln. The dragon references to the fact that it was subsidized by the monarchy and the dragon is the symbol of the monarchy and a kind of government investment in these factory towns. But they are enormous tube kilns, basically a barrel vault going uphill, and they only worked if you could expend an enormous amount of resources. And as the process continued and we were working with other collaborating archaeologists in the region and looked around, we found that this extended family of Scots Irishmen who are using before the Civil War mostly enslaved laborers.

And so I began just to read the context, see what's going on in industrial archeology at large. And so I ended up you know really learning industrial archeology to understand what was going on in this multi-year project, and then I produced a first book for the Society of Historical Archeology; they have a reader series. So we did a first book where I just kind of organized a set of articles that have been published in their journal by theme. So now it wasn't just pottery, it was ironworks and textiles and pottery. And then a colleague of mine had a book series on the archeology of the American Experience and he approached me and said “I've always been looking for someone who could tackle this topic, what kind of studies have been done?” and that was the origin of this book that's called The Archeology of Craft and Industry.

There's a very robust literature of historians looking at this process and saying “what is industrialization? What is the main sort of impetus behind it?” And one author David Landes has this very poignant title; he calls it Unbound Prometheus. You know has this mythological character to the name and he wanted to take the approach of saying “You know there's this technological impetus that takes off.” So if you want to understand what happens in moving from small-scale craft into these factories, you can really view it by each innovation as it happens in technology. Because it's going to be so attractive to profit-making entrepreneurs, it's going to spread and diffuse very quickly. So he developed a story that other historians of industry have been in comment with, and they will label this, in a way that Landes wouldn't, being technological determinism. It's like this technological juggernaut that, once you have the desire to produce more, to sell more, and then you have a new technological development—a better way to make a weaving machine, better fuel to use for burning iron—that it will just spread rapidly because everyone's motivated to implement it. And the other simplifying description, if you take that more technological phrase, would borrow like comments and critiques by analysts like Karl Marx. [They] would say industrialization, as you move from engaged skill workers who are doing all sorts of tasks and creating a finished thing, like a finished piece of pottery, and they're fully engaged and have ownership in it and pride in that work and they go from soup to nuts so shaping the clay to burning it to help run the Kiln and so they are fully engaged and fulfilled in that process as an artisan; and that when you move to an industry, according to critical views by people like Karl Marx, you move to the machines are doing everything. So instead of people using tools to create things and being engaged, now the machines are using the people. The only thing the people do is they're viewed as being unskilled now and they're just tending the machine, so the machine stops working properly they'll figure out how to kick it in a certain way to keep it going. So he says you move from people being the users of tools to people being the tools used by the machines. So in general, craft is someone who's doing a variety of skilled endeavors to create a thing and that industry would mean that you’ve lost that.

And instead, what we see is, one, tending to those machines was highly skilled labor and you see this in places like the textile industry before child labor laws came in the early 1900s. A lot of the textile mills in the United States employed young women who had smaller and more dexterous hands. And that was very useful because these big spinning machines were very crowded and dense, so if something went wrong and a thread was going the wrong way or a spindle wasn't working, you wanted someone with very small, dexterous hands who could get in there and fix it very quickly so the machine would keep working. The workers are engaged in their own innovation and their own sort of craft artisanal efforts to figure out how to make the assembly floor run, to modify machines.

Archeology has been terrific and also at times it's material culture studies. If you have the ruins of a factory and the machines are still there rusting in place, you can analyze them in a standing ruin the way you would analyze an archaeological remain. And much of this is not recorded in the archives. Historians do a fabulous job of seeing what's in the archives. But the archives we find industrialists were, one, they weren't interested in keeping detailed records, they wanted to make products. But, two, they were very secretive so they didn't want to write down exactly what they were doing. And so when you actually look at the material, whether it's in a standing ruin or buried in the ground, you'll find the modifications that were made. The iron foundries, so blast furnaces and then foundries are enormous assembly plants, particularly a blast furnace. A blast furnace is: the exterior is made of stone; these are often like 25 or 30 foot square at the base, and they'll be like 30 to 40 feet high depending on what fuel they were using, if it was charcoal or coal. They usually built them at the base of a hill because just the way a blast furnace was run was you would pour all the contents in from the top and then all of that would be burned over a series of weeks. When they got it up and going, because the fuel was so expensive, they would try and keep it going. So you keep pouring in iron ore and other agents that'll mix with it. And you would do that from the top so that people would bring all the materials in at the base, they would move around up the hillside, come across a bridge to the top, dump it in the top. So you can imagine what that ruin looks like. You know, this would be an enormous structure left behind, and people can go visit these.

But there was an amazing expression of how active the archaeological record is. There was a case of, in Tennessee, the Bluff Furnace it was called, along a river in Tennessee. It was built at the base of a hill, it was operated in this way before the Civil War and then pretty much fell out of production right after the Civil War. But, by the time the archaeologists started looking at it in the 1980s, that enormous structure had actually been buried because later roads came in over the hillside and graders had pushed an enormous amount of fill.

But textile mills have been studied quite extensively, blast furnaces, potteries extensively. What was so intriguing about the South Carolina example is much of the pottery is on smaller scale in the United States. So most of the archeology is more on the craft end of the continuum than on the industry side. But the other thing is quite a lot of endeavors of the construction of the transcontinental railroad, so there's quite a lot of projects that look at the construction of canals and the workers camps for doing canals, for building different types of railroads. So those are really a lot of the principal areas that are outlined in separate chapters in the book.

Industrial archeology is very active. There's an estimate that 90% of the archeology conducted in the United States is by commercial, professional archaeologists. So this is in both federal and state law, if you're going to do some new construction you typically hire an archeology firm to go look at the space you're going to be building in to see if there's any cultural, historical remains there that need to be dealt with in some way. Once you start looking for what's out there you find it’s a really vibrant field with tremendous debates.

Those case studies that I highlight in the book, I chose to get ones where I knew the readers could get to the underlying literature pretty readily. So at times it's professional archaeologists who went out of their way to post their reports on a website or make them more broadly available. But it is really the tip of the iceberg that there's a tremendous amount that you would learn from the reports that are in these agency archives. But the nice part about it is that if you're reading the chapter on iron production and you say “this is fascinating, I'd like to learn more about that bluff furnace in Tennessee,” it'll cite you to things that are readily available through libraries.

I think very much the theme I've been speaking to, which is really congratulations to Industrial archaeologists showing how fascinating this history really is! Quite often people think of it as, you know, it's an industrial site so they just think of the owners and the designers and then on the production site itself there's no real thought that there's agency by the workers. They're kind of forgotten because people have this notion of industry—it's unskilled, they're disaffected, they're alienated from what they're doing. What industrial archeology has shown is so much that in-place pride and innovation and skill that they're using.

It's another aspect of the book I should point out as a general matter is a lot of the archeology thinking about industry in the United States goes to the domestic places of the workers. So like Boott Mills in Lowell, they were very much looking at the boarding houses and the refuse of the boarding houses where the workers lived. And they didn't have access to really do archeology at the mills themselves in great detail.

And the focus of this book is to try and get into the space of production itself and how have archaeologists teased out the worker agency within those spaces. So I hope they take that away and also this theme of really seeing this tremendous integration of there’s continuing innovation by common workers in these sites even as you have these technological advances in increased mechanization.

So we now know we had these four dragon kilns operating for several decades run by a skilled African-American laborers funded by Scots Irish entrepreneurs. There's a very famous outlying potter, an African-American individual who was enslaved and then continued working after the Civil War who took the name of Dave Drake and he would write poetry on these enormous stoneware pots. You can now go visit the pots that we excavated, and particularly George Calfas and his students in 2011 excavated; they are on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. There's an exhibition that's starting there and it's going to move around the country and it's called “Hear Me Now: the Black Potters of Old Edgefield South Carolina” and there are existing pots with the poetry of Dave Drake on display. There's a quite a lot available on the Metropolitan Museum of Art website right now about this exhibition and the history. So if you're visiting New York City please go see the “Hear Me Now” exhibition. You'll see our work and other collector items of this pottery on display. It's a very rewarding, engaging project with multiple players involved. And you can read and learn much more about it now not just from a university website, but from a museum in New York, and then it's going to move to Michigan and other locations during the year.

C. Cooper: Thank you so much.

C. Fennell: My pleasure, thank you.

Catherine Cooper speaks with Dr. Chris Fennell about industrial archaeology

119. Reimagining Historic House Museums


Catherine Cooper: My name is Catherine Cooper, I am here with—

Max van Balgooy: Max van Balgooy, I am an Assistant Professor at George Washington University in the Museum Studies program and I’m the president of Engaging Places, a design and strategy firm that connects people with historic places.

Ken Turino: Hello! And I’m Ken Turino, my day job is with Historic New England. I also teach museum studies at Tufts University and currently president of the board of the House of Seven Gables Settlement Association.

Catherine Cooper: You both recently published a book: Reimagining Historic House Museums. Could you talk a bit about the impetus for writing it?

Max van Balgooy: Ken and I were invited to be on a panel at Gunston Hall, which was hosted by the Historic House Consortium of Washington D.C. Afterwards Ken and I got to talking about our sessions and noted how nicely they meshed together and approached AASLH about doing a series of one-day workshops based upon what we did, which we did for a while. I'm not quite sure though, Ken, where did the book come from?

Ken Turino: These workshops that Max mentions, done for the American Association for State and Local History, brought us around the country. And they actually still will bring us around the country. With Covid there's been a hiatus but starting next year we should be back on the road. We're very pleased about that, so stay tuned.

During those workshops that we do—day-long workshops—we met with people from a variety of different kinds of historic sites, houses, history museums, and one of the things that we always ask them is: What are the biggest challenges facing your historic house or your historic site? And Max and I would make a big list of those, and in the workshop, we try to cover as much of that as possible. And as we did more workshops, we tried to incorporate more because we saw that there was a real need to talk about these things that revolved around sustainability, that revolved around being relevant, engaging with your community and so on. And from that, Max, that's the sort of the birth of this publication.

And we also were doing some sessions, for example, on best practices on community engagement at AASLH conferences. Max did one with another group of people; we did one together. This got us thinking: What do we need to include in the book, what do people know, or need to know. That's how I think it started.

Max, anything you want to add?

Max van Balgooy: We both were part of the Kykuit conference that the National Trust and AAM and AASLH were involved in—gosh, was that 15 years ago? —where we identified some of the challenges, the sustainability issues of historic sites and house museums. At that point, I could identify the problems and challenges, but we didn't have many solutions. I think one of the reasons we put together the book was to provide some solutions for people so they could move forward.

And so this book that we put together has 36 chapters dealing with fundamentals of management operations to thinking about different approaches to familiar topics, as well as how to rethink common methods that we use for interpreting historic sites: the school tour, the regular public tour, or exhibitions. So it's an attempt at a very high level to sort of rethink how house museums operate, how they should operate to be more successful.

Ken Turino: And one of the things we kept in mind is we wanted to get people thinking very very big, but we also wanted to be very practical and give people some of the solutions.

In fact, that is the subtitle of our book, Max.

Max van Balgooy: Yeah, “New Approaches and Proven Solutions.”

Ken Turino: You know there are many of the authors in the book who I think did outstanding jobs. I think one of the best chapters on working with boards is by Donna Harris. I think she did an amazing, very very practical job of the steps, what you need to know really succinctly. I mean there are things available on websites, but I just loved how she pulled that all together. And you know we had a great chapter on community engagement by Dawn DiPrince, and it was really at a very local level, but the lessons that she learned you could apply to institutions across the country, and I just loved that about it. And there were some people who were going in different directions: what Katherine Kane was doing with the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center at that time to really reinvent the tour, and at Lincoln’s Cottage where they actually allow you to sit on furniture and engage more in conversational tours rather than being just talked at. When the book came out many people still had not heard about these case studies. I think that was really good to get that out in the field along with again the workshops.

Max van Balgooy: Well, you know, one thing we discovered when we put together the index, which if any of you have ever done a book before, is one of the awfulest parts of the job. You have to read every page and look for keywords and put the page numbers in… And anyway, as Ken and I were sitting at his dining room table assembling the index on three by five cards, we noticed there were patterns across all these chapters, which are written all by different people, with different case studies, different museums. There were certain things that kept rising to the top as making a big difference and one of them was having a mission or a vision that was meaningful and relevant, and how much that is a fundamental element for making an historic site successful and to really rethink what you do.

And we have several examples in the book about that and different ways, but one of the most interesting one is from the Trustees of Reservations which looks at the spirit of place, an idea that comes from the National Trust in the U.K. but I think increasingly can be something that helps historic sites and house museums think more holistically about what they interpret and how they go about it to make it not just about the names and dates and facts, but that these places have emotional resonance to people that can be very meaningful.

Catherine Cooper: So when drawing on the workshop material and putting the book together, how did you expand on or change the material, solicit chapters, or invite submissions?

Ken Turino: A lot of the same things came up over and over again that were needed. Part of our charge was finding who's the best person to tackle these topics. And I think Max and I drew on the large network from the American Association for State and Local History, from people we heard presenting at conferences, people who we knew were doing outstanding work. Our workshop continued to evolve, too, as we heard from people at these workshops, what their needs were. We also learned of other good case studies or examples or models, so it constantly was and constantly is evolving, as new studies come out we try to incorporate that.

When Max and I published the book, the studies from AASLH and the National Park Service’s humanities indicators had not or were just coming out to talk about how the fact at historic site visitation was actually increasing. After years and years of decreasing, they were on the move up, and I like to think Kykuit, these workshops, and what other people were doing in the field were really helping people reach out to new audiences, to tell new stories, all things that we, again, were incorporating in the workshops as they progressed.

But we did try in the book, and I think that all led to the fact that we were increasing visitation and then Covid hit of course, and that changed everything for a while. And I like to think we're on the rebound from that.

Max van Balgooy: Ken and I both have very large networks in our realm of the world and it's great to bring those people together. It's like having a big dinner party in our book we bring all the smart people together and talk about these challenges facing historic sites. That's one of the reasons Ken and I love doing these books and we're working on another book again, this one on Christmas, and we're taking a very similar approach: just bringing in lots of diverse ideas, diverse people, sites that are large and small, to see if we can find commonalities and distinctiveness in the kind of work that we do in our field.

Historic sites and house museums are the largest form of museum in the United States, but they're also the most under-resourced: smallest number of staff, smallest amount of revenue annually, but they're almost in every community and they can make a tremendous impact on our thinking about history and the value of American culture in lives today.

Catherine Cooper: Is there anything that you would change or recommend after having gone through the pandemic in a new edition of the book or the workshop?

Ken Turino: We've actually thought about that. I am a firm believer that online programming is here to stay. We didn't really cover much of that in the book. I think we would definitely include more of that if we do a revised version of the book in the future. I think there'll be plenty of opportunity. I think that online programming as I said is here to stay, but I think the verdict is out yet on how effective it will be over time.

Susie Wilkening and others have done studies on this. I think there's a real place. I mean I’m here in New England, we have pretty horrible Januarys and Februarys, and if I can avoid driving out in a blizzard to go to a program, I’ll do it online. Where you are regionally will make a difference on that in the future. That's one thing I think right off.

And Max, you have some thoughts about technology?

Max van Balgooy: Now there’s a demand for doing a lot with technology thanks to Covid. If there's anything good about Covid and the pandemic that's maybe one of the good things.

When we put this book together we actually had a placeholder for a chapter on technology and virtual programming and we couldn't find an author for it. Other than people doing a website or maybe a blog; it was pretty rudimentary no one really did any programming on the internet when we were putting this together in 2018. But boy has that changed.

The smallest organizations, thanks to Zoom and good internet connections are doing great programming online now they sort of figured it out. And so, yes, as Ken mentioned if we were to do this book again we'd have a chapter, or the chapters we already have the topics will probably incorporate already an element having to do with virtual programming. That's just my guess.

However, in our book I would say that just because there's not a lot about virtual programming or activities in the book, most of the chapters are written at a very high level. It’s about rethinking what you do. So we have a chapter all about very common methods: the adult guided tour, school programs and exhibitions. The ideas in them, like if you're going to do a school program you need to be aware of the state standards for education or learning, that doesn't change whether it's in person or virtual. If you're going to do an exhibition, don't just be hands-on, be minds-on. And so that's not going to change whether it's an online exhibition or it's an in-person exhibition. So those ideas can be scaled to the different environments.

And while Ken talks about the virtual experience is here to stay, and I would agree with him, there's still a great value in the real place and the real objects. It's very difficult to understand some historic places without actually being there--that again is that spirit of place.

Ken Turino: One of the things I think that I would want to emphasize, you know that came out of the pandemic for me, was just how creative and resilient our community of museums was. And we talked about that in the book, but I think it might be worth even a chapter because people really did adjust and were very creative in how they did things.

We at Historic New England did a lot more outside as people did and invited people into our landscape. This is what you were talking about earlier, Max, looking at our sites holistically, and I think for some people that was a real change and an important change. Again, I don't think that's going away at all.

Max van Balgooy: Most historic sites as I mentioned are small and people always seem to sort of think that, oh someday they'll grow up to be a big place like Colonial Williamsburg or Mount Vernon. It's just the wrong approach to take. Small museums are just small institutions and they have certain advantages to them, and one of the biggest ones is that they can turn on a dime much faster than a large organization. And so when we moved to virtual, if someone had some experience with Zoom and could find an author or historian that's willing to talk to the group, they were able to provide that program quickly and reach more people than they would have conventionally.

Catherine Cooper: So what would you like readers to take away from your book?

Ken Turino: We would like readers to take our book!

To me, it's really about how to make your site more engaging for your community, because your community brings your volunteers, most of your money; it supports you, it comes to your programs, and I could go on and on and on. But also if you want people to engage it has to be something that relates to them. It has to be somehow relevant to them.

Max van Balgooy: When we put together the index, there’s a couple ideas that flow to the top, and I think those are the ones that are really important for people. One of them is to have a mission that's meaningful and relevant, and that mission can't be the traditional “collect, preserve, and interpret” and then just plop your name in there. That's a description of what you do, it's not what you want to achieve. Nor can it be a slogan like “a hidden treasure in your community.” That is not helpful; that's not a description of a vision of where you want to go. So you need to figure out what that is, and every place is different; every community has a different history so you need to figure out what that is. Please don't write us and ask us “Please tell us what our mission is.” You need to figure that out; it's hard work.

The second thing is, is that you have to be willing to experiment and take risks. And the history field tends to be one that's pretty conservative in its thinking. I’m not talking about conservative and liberal in terms of political sense, but we tend to be we look backwards. But we need to look more forwards in our field: so why are we doing all this stuff? Why are we collecting all this material? What do we want to preserve in our communities and what do we want to change? That's the kind of vision we need to think about and that may require experimentation and risk. And we need to be able to feel comfortable failing on our work to try something new in order to reach new audiences and to become more meaningful and relevant to our communities.

Ken Turino: I really want the readers to get models they can use. I want to give them ideas that they can adapt. I want them to see that they're not alone in some of these challenges that we're facing, and again, give them some good practical information that they can take and cater to their own communities and their own needs.

We're hoping with our next book to do the same with Christmas—interpreting Christmas at historic sites and museums. We're trying to be inclusive and look at winter holidays in this book. We're going to give people some best practices on how they might decorate their historic sites, what are some of the things to consider. So we're just following through on this first book and we are taking this into other areas.

Catherine Cooper: Thank you so much for joining us today.

Max van Balgooy: Great, thanks for inviting us.

Ken Turino: Thanks for having us.

Catherine Cooper speaks with Max van Balgooy and Ken Turino about approaches and solutions to solve challenges facing historic house museums.

118. The Mystique of Florida's Key Marco Cat (Episode 118)


C. Cooper: Name is Catherine Cooper I am here with—

A. Bell: Hi I'm Austin Bell, and I'm the curator of collections for the Marco Island Historical Society.

C. Cooper: Thank you so much for joining us today. You just had a book come out called The Nine Lives of Florida’s Famous Key Marco Cat. Can you tell us who, or what, the Key Marco Cat is and why it's so important in Floridian and American archaeology?

A. Bell: Sure, and I love the way you worded that question—the who or what—because the Key Marco Cat really is thought to be anthropomorphic, meaning it has both animal and human characteristics. But it's called a cat because it's generally feline in appearance, especially in its facial features. And essentially, it's a six-inch tall wooden carving that was likely modeled after—in part at least—a Florida panther and it's seated in sort of a crouching position resting on its hind legs, which are folded under, while its forelimbs stretch all the way down to the front of its torso and come to rest on its upper thighs. It's very small. It weighs less than half a pound, so about as much as a half-empty soda can. It's delicate, but despite those things it still holds enormous power and mystique.

It was likely carved by the Calusa people of Southwest Florida or their indigenous neighbors or predecessors. We don't know exactly who with certainty, but we do know it was likely carved at least 500 years ago because of the lack of European goods found at the site in context with the cat and other objects, but again are unsure of its exact age. It actually could be as many as 1500 years old. And it's extraordinarily rare because very few items of this sort of ephemeral nature have survived from that time period, let alone works of art like the cat made by a native artist at a time prior to the European invasion of the continent.

It was preserved in this oxygen-free environment at a muck site on what is now Marco Island where the museum that I work at is located. It sort of reminds me of those ancient peat bogs in Europe that preserved human remains in the level and the type of preservation. They found wood, plant fiber, gourds, even paint pigments still on objects in near perfect condition until they were excavated in 1896 by a Smithsonian anthropologist named Frank Hamilton Cushing. And they’re so important really because it’s the most complete and comprehensive assemblage ever discovered in a pre-Columbian Florida archaeological deposit.

And meanwhile, in the hundred-plus years since its discovery, it's kind of become one of Florida's most famous artifacts and it's had a sort of a fascinating history even since its excavation: being on exhibit in different museums and changing hands several times and all of that [is] sort of outlined in this book. On Marco Island, here it's also become sort of this source of local identity and pride because its image and likeness is really everywhere: it's on street signs, it's in jewelry, and it’s in local businesses. So, it means a lot, especially to the people of Marco Island. Writing the Cat’s Biography

C. Cooper: You called your book an object biography. Could you explain what that is and why did you decide to write it about the Cat instead of any other object?

A. Bell: You know, all museum artifacts and all material culture really has a life cycle and from the moment it's produced by human hands to the moment of its inevitable destruction. So, an object biography is basically the story of an object's life from its very beginning, or its birth if you will, all the way sometimes through to its end or death, which of course we haven't reached with the Key Marco Cat, thankfully. And so, I don't know if object biography is an official term or not and really I don't know a whole lot of other object biographies, quite honestly. The one that immediately comes to my mind is the film The Red Violin, which traces that object's history through time.

But it's something I thought was appropriate in telling the story of the cat because when I was thinking about it, I couldn't help but imagine all of the different sets of human hands that had held it over the centuries and how different contextually many of those hands were. And it just really struck me that the cat must have lived many different lives especially depending on the people and the circumstances surrounding it, which again vary greatly. So partially, you know, honestly for the sake of humor and intrigue, I organized the book into nine different chapters each representing a different life in what is this feline object's history. But, you know, of course, the true number of lives that it’s lived is not so easily defined. I started with the cat's origins and nature, really as part of a tree, you know it's a piece of wood, and went from there.

C. Cooper: Can you talk about the various meanings that have been ascribed to the cat over its various lives? One of the words you used in the book was transformative.

A. Bell: Well, I call it transformative for a couple of reasons and the first is, you know, going back to that idea that we talked about that it's anthropomorphic. It may actually represent a figure in transition from a human form to a feline deity form or vice versa. We don't really know. The interpretations of its true meaning really sort of range from the mundane like a piece of furniture to the mystical like a living deity but we can look to ethnohistoric and ethnographic records for some ideas. And of course, the Calusa and their ancestors didn’t keep written records, so really the only first-hand accounts we have are from Europeans, who were clearly prejudiced in a lot of their descriptions. But they're still the best-known eyewitness accounts of the Calusa – from the Spanish in particular - when it comes to observations you can't make from the archaeological record. And so, the most frequently cited account comes from the translations of a Spanish missionary named Juan Rogel in 1567 and he interacted with the Calusa at their capital Calos, which is now known as Mound Key, and he describes “A temple of idols there, which were some very ugly masks, which some Indians donned delegated by it and they went out into the village with them and the wretches performed their worship and adored them with the women singing certain canticles.” Obviously, this language is very biased and prejudiced but it gives us important clues. It talks about these idols that they worshipped and the cat really may very well have been one of these idols, making it an object of possible religious or spiritual importance.

Also, you know, aside from these ethnohistoric accounts, archaeologists can look to the ethnographic record for observations from living cultures for clues to the importance of the panther in modern Native American society. And I have a lot of those possibilities laid out in my book. But going back to the idea of it as transformative I also called it that because it's really been transformative in an entirely different way as sort of a modern cultural icon if you think about it. Because this little carving that was carved hundreds of years ago by an artist and was probably admired communally at least for its spiritual connotations above all else is now this symbol of native American history and culture in Florida. And it's traveled almost 12,000 miles since it was excavated, all around the country on different exhibits. It’s moved millions of dollars. It’s used as an educational and promotional tool for various museums and it’s produced jobs. You know, our whole museum actually was built in 2010 around the idea of one-day housing this cat on loan. And so now we have it here on loan through 2026, which is just a really big deal locally. So, in a sense we kind of worship the cat in a new and different way that is, of course far, far different than was originally intended. And to me is just something that's really interesting to think about.

C. Cooper: So you mentioned that the cat has been on display more than 60% of the time. It is currently at your museum. What are the plans for the cat once it returns to the Smithsonian? Has there been any discussion?

A. Bell: I really don't know. There hasn't been much discussion beyond our use for it, which is incorporated into a larger exhibit right now, but that's something that will be up to the Smithsonian. I assume at first at least it will get some sort of well-deserved cat nap because it's been on exhibit for so long. And of course, one of the roles of museums is to extend the lifetimes of objects in their collections as long as possible so that future generations can benefit from them. So, you know, each museum is different I can't speak for the Smithsonian but I'll give you an example. The Penn Museum, for which I'm a consulting scholar, as an example they loaned some artifacts to us as well from the Key Marco site – equally as fragile and delicate – and their policy is for every one year that they're on display they need to rest for an additional 10 years. So, they're that fragile because they're sensitive to fluctuations in light levels, relative humidity, temperature, things like pests, and even vibrations from construction projects going on nearby are a threat to these fragile objects. And so, they're just trying to help preserve them as long as possible while educating people and making them accessible to people along the way. So, it's a balance but for the cat specifically I don't think it's going to be back in storage for long just knowing how in demand it is. You know, I imagine it'll probably be incorporated into other exciting new exhibits over the years, just as it has been for the past century. And you know, as the fields of anthropology and museum studies kind of evolve, which I talk about in Chapter 8 of the book, so too will the standards and practices for exhibiting this sort of material culture. And I just would be excited to see what those new exhibits look like and how they reflect those changes in these evolving disciplines.

C. Cooper: What would you like readers to take away from your book and will you continue to follow the cat’s progress?

A. Bell: I feel very connected to the cat and invested in its interest. I first learned about the Key Marco Cat when I was in school at the University of Florida studying anthropology and I worked at the Florida Museum of Natural History, where they have part of the collection of the Key Marco artifacts. Of course, the Key Marco Cat is at the Smithsonian Institution and then a large portion of the collection is there as well and also the University of Pennsylvania Museum has a big portion of this collection has been split up over the years. But actually, one of the things I worked on as a student assistant at the museum was to inventory and move all of the Key Marco materials. They were undergoing some renovations at the time in their collections and so I got all into the Key Marco stuff. Meanwhile, they’re building the museum here on Marco Island unbeknownst to me and then years later after the museum first opened they decided that they needed a curator to talk about the Key Marco artifacts. And I was just getting out of school. My advisor, you know, recommended me for the job, and so it all just sort of came together and I got to keep working on Key Marco and build exhibits around them and pursue loans of the original artifacts. And so, the cat’s been a part of my life now for about, I don’t know, 15 years or so, and so I hope it continues to be, even from a distance.

I think the thing about this that I would like most people to take away from it is just the fact that Southwest Florida, and really all of North America, was home for thousands of years to indigenous peoples that were complex and sophisticated and producing beautiful artwork that rivaled that of more well-known cultures, say in Central America, or Asia, or the Middle East, all around the world, right here in North America. And the difference in this case is that the cat, of course was made out of wood, a material that decays at a relatively fast rate comparatively so you don’t see it usually in archaeological sites. It makes you just wonder about all of the work that they did create across what we now know as Florida that didn’t survive in this miraculous archaeological context, because really it was. Key Marco, the site was sort of an anomaly to people. Archaeologists have been hoping for sites like that in the past hundred years with very limited success and it's really representative of just a tiny sample of the whole, vast expanse of material culture used every day by the Calusa and their ancestors. So, it's really one of the most important sites in the history of Florida archaeology, if not North America. You know, [it] just demonstrates that artistic complexity that I was talking about and so that's what I would like people to take away from this book.

The Marco Island Historical Museum is located on Marco Island, Florida and it's open from nine to four, Tuesday through Saturday, and admission is free, even ’to see the Key Marco Cat and the other artifacts. We’re actually undergoing a major museum lobby renovation this week so even if you’ve been here and seen it already come again because there’s now new stuff to see. We’ll have the cat on loan through April of 2026 and we’ve also got artifacts from the University of Pennsylvania through 2024 and are rotating in the almost-as-famous deer figurehead is coming next April. Right now, we have the pelican figurehead which is incredible because it’s got paint still visible on it. The deer does as well so that’ll come next April to join up with the group [and] be reunited in a way here on Marco Island, where they came from the earth originally more than 100 years ago. So, we're very excited about that.

C. Cooper: Thank you so much.

A. Bell: My pleasure, thank you for having me.

Catherine Cooper speaks with Austin Bell about the Key Marco Cat, an artifact from Marco Island Florida with a long and storied history.

117. Sharing the Birthplace of Kermit the Frog (Episode 117)


Catherine Cooper: My name's Catherine Cooper. I'm here with...

Stephanie Park: Stephanie Park.

Catherine Cooper: And we are at Jim Henson Boyhood Exhibit.

Stephanie Park: Birthplace of the Frog.

Catherine Cooper: In Leland, Mississippi. Can you tell me a bit about this museum? And why it's in Leland, Mississippi.

Stephanie Park: Jim Henson was not born in Leland, he was born in Greenville; I don't think Leland had a hospital at the time. But his father was a research scientist at Stoneville, which is an affiliation with Mississippi State University. He had a PhD in agronomy and he worked out there from the time Jim was born until he was 12. They had moved here from the University of Iowa. After he finished his research project here, they moved to the University of Maryland and that's where Jim Henson actually went to college, but he spent the first 12 years of his life in Leland.

He went through the fourth grade here and then moved up to Maryland. And it is here because they wanted to do something to honor the native son, so to speak. And this started out as the Chamber of Commerce building. I don't know exactly the order, how this came about, but I think they got the frog first, the big frog back there. And then people started bringing in their, for lack of a better word, stuff that had to do with Kermit and Sesame Street Muppets and the regular Muppets. And we got the family involved, or the family became involved. And that's how we got these two display cases, those were donated by the family as were a lot of these pictures. And it just sort of grew into this. The Chamber eventually had to move, because we got to the point that we needed all the space. And here we are.

Catherine Cooper: Jim Henson created The Muppets and the Kermit in this display, is special. Correct?

Stephanie Park: He's special because he was built specifically for us. It's a replica of the opening scene from the original Muppet movie. And it was built by the people who built the set for the original Muppet movie. So he's a one of the kind. And the animals behind you were also from the family. They are prototypes for a movie that came out in 1989 called, Song of the Cloud Forest. It was a cartoon aimed at three to six year olds on ecology. And I've tried to watch it. I can't really get interested in it, I guess, because it was aimed at three to six year olds and I'm in my seventies, different viewpoint altogether.

But the workmanship that went into those with the smocking and the detail work, I think is absolutely terrific. If anybody's ever done smocking, you have two basic kinds of smocking. The pulled smocking and then the English smocking, where they put it through a pleating machine. This is the pulled smocking. This is the hard kind to do. And he did it with one of his daughters. So they were handmade by Jim Henson and one of his daughters. To my knowledge, that's the only thing we've got here that he actually touched.

Catherine Cooper: How did Jim Henson get involved in making Muppets?

Stephanie Park: He made Kermit out one of his mother's old coats and he liked puppets. His grandmother had given him a love of creating things and he created Kermit. And he did it so that he could make different expressions, you know marionettes are all strings but the expression stays the same. In fact, on most puppets, expression stays the same. But on Muppets with your hand in it, you could actually make smiles or frowns and they had facial expressions. And if anybody looks at it and compares a Muppet to another type of puppet, if it's pointed out to them, they'll realize the difference once they start looking hard.

Catherine Cooper: Did he get permission from his mother to use her coat?

Stephanie Park: I would guess not at that age. I don't know. I don't think I've read that one way or the other, but I know when my son was pretty young, he didn't ask for permission to do anything. He might have been a very good child though and asked for permission, who knows.

Catherine Cooper: We always have this idea in our heads that it's Kermit green.

Stephanie Park: Right.

Catherine Cooper: So I'm assuming that coat was Kermit green.

Stephanie Park: All right. If you look back there, the picture of the two Kermit's, the one on the right was the original. He lives in the Smithsonian now. And I think he's a little bit lighter than the other one. And I don't know what the reason for the color change was. Maybe the one on the left was as close as they could get to that. But if you're from anywhere in the south, we have those green tree frogs and I personally think that's what he's based on. I might be dead wrong on that, but he looks like a green tree frog. Same color, green tree frog.

Catherine Cooper: Jim Henson lived in or nearby Leland until he was 12.

Stephanie Park: Right. His dad worked at the experiment station out at Stoneville and at that point in time the campus out there was small enough that they had bungalows. And if you look at these pictures, you can see the little houses that were out there with the experiment station actually in the back. So he lived on the Creek basically in Stoneville. Just about everything out there is affiliated somehow with Mississippi State University.

Catherine Cooper: How did he turn his love of puppets into a career?

Stephanie Park: He didn't think he could. He thought that would not be a way to support a family. And he made a trip to Europe and saw the puppeteering going on over there. And when he came back, apparently decided let's give it a shot. And he and his future wife did Kermit and this little hardheaded puppet named Sam. And when he was still in college, I think this is correct, he had a five minute show before the Steve Allen show, which was the predecessor to Johnny Carson, just in the Washington DC viewing area. And it was so popular by the end of his college career, he had made enough money to buy a Rolls Royce to drive to graduation. A used one, but still a Rolls Royce. He found that he probably could make a living doing that and pursued it. And of course everybody's thankful for that.

Catherine Cooper: Out of curiosity, how did he get involved with Sesame Street? Was that his brainchild or did he get invited in?

Stephanie Park: He got invited in. There was a girl named Jane, she had seen Kermit and she asked him to develop some puppets for Sesame Street that would interest the kids. And Sesame Street, they created it thinking that this would be a preschool alternative to inner-city children that didn't have access to preschool. And so they concentrated on the alphabet and counting and shapes and colors like you get in preschool. And then it just evolved from there. His first Sesame Street puppet was actually Ernie. And Ernie was followed by Burt and then it just grew from there. And I think he developed... And in fact, I know until his death, he developed all of them that were on Sesame Street. Now Julia's come about since then and a couple others.

Catherine Cooper: Did he train other puppet makers and puppeteers?

Stephanie Park: He worked with a man named Frank Oz who is still in puppetry and according to his biography, yes he did.

Catherine Cooper: Why do you think The Muppets have had so much staying power? Cause they still are part of our cultural consciousness.

Stephanie Park: Absolutely. I think, my opinion on that, is that they catch the kids' attention. And parents know that it's good television, that they don't have to worry about the kids watching and it's educational. It's come out in movie form and television. Originally The Muppet Show at night was produced in London because nobody in the United States wanted to do a puppet show for adults. They didn't think it would go over, but it did very well. Actually Europe got The Muppet Show a little before we did.

Catherine Cooper: And Jim Henson continued to work with the European market.

Stephanie Park: Right. He had an office in London and he had one in New York and I'm going to say he had one in Los Angeles and Florida.

Catherine Cooper: That's a lot of work.

Stephanie Park: All over. You know, everybody loves The Muppets.

Catherine Cooper: How long have you been working at this museum?

Stephanie Park: I want to say since 2014.

Catherine Cooper: What made you start?

Stephanie Park: They needed somebody and I had just retired and I had figured out that I didn't like keeping house. They contacted me after I'd been retired about three months and I thought “That would be fun.” A whole lot better than wrestling with third and fourth graders or eighth graders or whatever I happened to be teaching at the time. I started coming over here part-time and I've been here ever since and meet absolutely fascinating people.

Catherine Cooper: Do you mind telling us a couple stories of fun or favorite interactions you've had since working here?

Stephanie Park: We haven't had as many since COVID hit because of the ban on tours basically, but I've met some really interesting people from overseas. Last week, we had a couple from Switzerland. And we've had school groups, usually the teachers end up enjoying it more than the kids, but the kids like it too. And we've got the little playroom for the kids and the older kids can sit down and read. Catherine Cooper: So people come here from all over the world?

Stephanie Park: Literally. I thought it was very unusual the first month I worked here. And then after that first month, when a third of the people made... Because it was during the summertime when I started, at least one third of the people were from overseas somewhere. I was just, "wow." I had no idea that it was that far reaching until then. I knew that he was known worldwide, but I had no idea that they watched The Muppet Show and they watched Sesame Street and everything like our kids do. So that was enlightening. And then like I said, nowadays, most of the parents like this probably more than the kids do because they grew up with The Muppets and Sesame Street.

And anybody, I guess from 40 to about maybe 55, before they had just a huge choice like Nickelodeon and all that. That's what they watched, mama and daddy made sure that or mama did. That's what they watched in the afternoon. We'd like to have more tourists now that people can travel again. And it's not that far off the beaten path. I mean we're right on the main highway coming to Mississippi and this is one of the three main bridges from Memphis down. And so we get a lot of people coming through here just to get to Arkansas or Louisiana or whatnot. And we are just right here.

Catherine Cooper: What hours are you open?

Stephanie Park: From Labor Day until Memorial day during the winter, we are open from 10 to 4. During the summer hours, during school vacation, we are open from 10 to 5. We take donations in the form of Sesame Street memorabilia, any kind of Muppet memorabilia at all. And we will keep it for the donor on display so people can see it.

Catherine Cooper: Have people just walked in the door with donations and said, "Here."

Stephanie Park: Absolutely. In fact, we had somebody last week. And I came in one day and if you look back on that display case with the black hair, Ms. Piggy, I came in and there she was. I've never seen one like that before. But we have people coming in several times a year and we welcome them and we will take care of the stuff and display it for them.

And if they absolutely want it back, we give it back to them. We encourage anybody because some of the things are just absolutely fascinating. And since they started producing it, which I would guess would be since maybe 1965 ish. There's no telling how much has been produced on Sesame Street and on The Muppets.

Catherine Cooper: Thank you so much for talking with me today.

Catherine Cooper speaks with Stephanie, a volunteer at the Jim Henson Boyhood Exhibit, Birthplace of the Frog.

116. Uncovering the gardens at Amache (Episode 116)


Dr. Catherine Cooper: My name's Dr. Catherine Cooper. I am here with...

Dr. Bonnie Clark: Dr. Bonnie Clark of the University of Denver. I lead the DU Amache Project, and I am a Professor and Curator of Archeology at the University of Denver.

Dr. Catherine Cooper: Wonderful. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Dr. Bonnie Clark: Happy to do it.

Dr. Catherine Cooper: Could you tell us a bit about how you started working at Amache, and why are you focusing on the gardens?

Dr. Bonnie Clark: I will say that the gardens are one of the reasons that I started to work at Amache because I've always been interested in the way that people live out their identity on a day-to-day basis and especially when that identity is under siege. I think that the way that people make places is one of the ways that you can really see that. So I had read through a report that was done by a cultural resources firm here in Colorado for a grant-funded project that was actually co-sponsored by a group of former Amache incarcerees.

I saw that there were a number of remains of gardens that were there. So I think about the fact that here are these people who were being incarcerated in large part because they don't seem quite American enough. So then they're building a number of different gardens, including some that are very traditional Japanese style gardens. I just was fascinated by what we might be able to learn about these gardens and the stories that they might tell to a larger public.

Dr. Catherine Cooper: So you've worked at Amache for a number of seasons. Can you talk about why you decided to write the book at this point, and are you continuing the study?

Dr. Bonnie Clark: I wanted to get the book out because, for those of you who read it, it's called Finding Solace in the Soil. I worked with a number of Amache survivors on the book, whether it was because they shared with me their stories, they shared with me family photographs, their own remembrances. So I really wanted to get it out while those folks could see it and appreciate it, and also give me some feedback on it, so to be my ethical peer reviewers.

I had six field seasons worth of data at that time, which is a lot of data. I knew if I waited until the project was all the way over, it was too long. So I was excited to be able to pull together the information that I had from the over a dozen gardens that we've excavated and the hundreds of gardens that we've surveyed. So I felt like we had enough data. But I will tell you that there will have to be a second edition because of the new information that's coming out, both through our survey, through some of the digitization of our digital imagery, and also through this just blockbuster excavation that I just got back from.

I will say we have worked on lots of different kinds of gardens, lots of the entryway gardens that people built for themselves as you're coming into your barrack. We've also looked at some of the public space vegetable gardens as well as public space sort of center-of-block gardens. What we hadn't looked at before this field season in terms of excavations were mess hall gardens, which are really important because people stand in line at mess halls. They spend a lot of time there, and gardens really relieve some of that…sort of the boredom of standing in line. They also in the High Plains importantly provide shade, which is particularly important during the summertime.

So this summer, we identified a mess hall garden that wrapped all the way around a mess hall that used lots and lots of pieces of concrete that are left over from the process of building the camp because all of the buildings are on concrete foundations. So they're taking some of these, and in some places, they're just using them to make the walls that are just set onto the ground. But in other instance, we had this amazing feature that takes these and then put them all together with fresh cement into what we first looked at and thought was a pond. As we investigated it more, we've decided that at least on some occasions it was a waterfall.

Dr. Catherine Cooper: In certain parts of the book, you've mentioned the concept of giri How does that relate to the archeological practice you've set up at the site?

Dr. Bonnie Clark: Well, so giri is really interesting. It's a set of relationships that people find themselves in. They have overtones of both gift and obligation. I kind of learned this in just being at many community events where I showed up. There were always like gifts to be given away, and then the expectation that you will send a thank you. Then these relations kind of continue on. I started to think about the remains that we found at the site as giri. So that they are a gift from the past, but they're also an obligation to the future. So we exist in relationship with them.

Then if we think about them in this way, by teaching my students this concept of giri, I think it helps them understand that it's more than just data, right? It's more that working with these things obligates us to both them and to the people who made them and to the people who care about them.

Dr. Catherine Cooper: From what you said about why you wrote the book, when you wrote the book, the book is giri too. What will people see of the gardens if they've visit Amache today, as opposed to what the survivors would've experienced when they built the gardens?

Dr. Bonnie Clark: You're going to have to have some imagination. Because the vast majority of the plants and the vast majority of what we would call more hardscaping, so limestone walls and things like those, are evidenced by relatively subtle... You might have some decaying limestone that suggests that underneath there, there would be a limestone wall.

The thing that is the most striking and that people will see are trees. There are thousands of trees at Amache. Every single one of them either was planted by an Amachean or is the descendant of one of those trees. Because it's up on the High Plains on a sort of terrace up above in like these sort of stabilized sand dunes, so no trees belong there. So each of those trees that are in the original location, and many of them are still alive. Now, some of them are dead, and they're standing. Some of them are dead and fallen. But the ones that still survive, I like to think of them as witness trees. So they were there at the time. And now we can be there and have a relationship with them.

We have a few other things. There are some roses that still survive 80 years later out at Amache. A few other plants that were transplanted that are survived, especially the cactus. So there's some Cholla, which is a type of cactus that doesn't really grow right there in that part of Colorado that has been transplanted. Those have survived. So it's the very hardy plants that have survived. But you're not going to see some of the other stuff that I get through pollen. You're not going to see the lilies. You're not going to see the cattails. You're not going to see the dogwood or the plum trees.

So those, again, you have to kind of use your imagination to know that when you see these trees, they were also accompanied with all sorts of other rich plantings. There were wooden fences. There were pergolas. There were benches. There were bird houses, just a lot. There's definitely hints of it. You can see little concrete ponds, like the one that I was talking about, it's very visible. It's right there at the mess hall. But others again, are going to take a little more imagination.

Dr. Catherine Cooper: Amache has recently become part of the National Park Service. How does that affect your work going forward?

Dr. Bonnie Clark: Well, it means that it's going to be even more collaborative than it is already, which is kind of amazing given that I work with such a broad variety of stakeholders from high schoolers to Amache survivors. So now we'll roll in another partner in terms of thinking about our planning, and how we're going to curate the collections that come out of it. So we've got a lot of conversations that have happened. But every National Park is, as you know, and all parcels of land that are managed by the federal government, are supposed to have a full archeological survey. And most of them don't.

So the fact that we are systematically slowly going block by block through Amache to do this means that we are helping the Park meet an unfunded mandate. I actually was just on a Zoom call with the Park Service staff today. So they are really hoping that we can continue this really robust collaborative research program and kind of roll them into the planning of it and the management of it.

Dr. Catherine Cooper: What do you hope that readers will take away from the book or do with what they've learned, even if they can't visit the site in person?

Dr. Bonnie Clark: Well, first off, I think that reading through the book and just looking at the photographs and spending a little time even going to the Amache website, is to think about how when you're singled out, that you don't have to respond to inhumanity with inhumanity. Like you can do something beautiful and humane in response. Like you can build a garden in your prison.

In fact, you probably ought to build a garden in your prison because it's going to make you feel a whole lot better. It's going to keep you in tune with some of those natural cycles that being out of control like kind of spins us into unhealthy patterns. That gardening in particular can kind of help us be literally grounded in a way that's much more healthy for us. So that's kind of one of the, I think, the takeaways.

I also have a sort of recipe for an Amache-inspired garden. This is just based on the hundreds of gardens we've surveyed and the over a dozen gardens that we've test excavated. You need to find something that’s value has been overlooked. So maybe it's a pot that is already cracked. You're going to still use it to plant something in. Or maybe it's a corner of your yard that has been underappreciated. Or maybe it's some other castoff that still might have some beauty within it, if set in the right way.

Then you want to include something that relates to your heritage, so maybe it's a heritage plant. Maybe it's a stone from a home place or an important location. Maybe it's even an object that has some of that kind of connection for you. Then you want to do something that's local to where you are, to where the garden is. So maybe that's a native plant. Maybe again, it's a stone that you've gathered from nearby. Then you incorporate all of those into some kind of a little design.

So I actually have a little Amache-inspired garden in my backyard that I sort of took that template and made. It's in a broken pot. That then I take where the broken part is, and that's where I trail out the trailing part of the plant so that it flows over and kind of looks like it belongs in there. Then my local thing is I have a stone that I actually picked up at the Arkansas River, which is what flows nearby Amache and also is in the southern part of our state. I also planted a native plant in there. Then I have a piece of stone that I actually picked up from a favorite family fishing hole in Utah, which is where I'm from.

So something that I want people to hope, to sort of embrace, from the Amache story is about how the Asian American heritage and Asian American history is American history. In terms of the vast impact that, in this instance, that Japanese had or on farming practices throughout the United States. The way that as they were dispersed across the country during World War II, that they made all of these different connections. I am out there at the site or even telling the story, and people come up and they talk to me about like, "I know someone who was at Minidoka, and they are a family friend." Which is the National Park Service site and former incarceration camp in Idaho. Or, "I grow this particular type of vegetable that I found out recently was developed by a Japanese farmer." Which is so true of so many of our really important varieties of both sort of vegetable crops as well as flowers.

So that's kind of one of the things that I think these gardens help us see is the way that there's this deep history of horticulture and connection to nature that sort of flourished in Japan, was brought to the United States, and then flourished here in this very interesting and complicated way and in a complicated time.

Dr. Catherine Cooper: Thank you so much for sharing all of this with us today.

Dr. Catherine Cooper speaks with Dr. Bonnie Clark about excavations of the gardens at the Amache WWII Incarceration Camp

115. Book Publishing in Cultural Heritage (Episode 115)


Dr. Catherine Cooper: I'm Dr. Catherine Cooper. I am here with

Mary Puckett: Mary Puckett. I'm an associate acquisitions editor at the University Press of Florida.

Dr. Catherine Cooper: Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got involved in publishing?

Mary Puckett: I have probably a similar career trajectory of a lot of people in scholarly publishing, which is I started working at the Press while I was in graduate school just as a part-time job. And I just really liked working at the Press, that career appealed to me more than an academic career path.

I really liked that I got to work with scholars and scholarly ideas, but I also got to do fun things. I got to go to conferences and talk to other people about their ideas a lot. In academia, a lot of times it feels like you're limited to thinking about whatever you're working on specifically, but publishing is a great opportunity to be able to talk to other people about what they're thinking and doing and working on. That's what really appealed to me about the publishing process and working in book publishing.

So, I just stayed at the press. I graduated so that was great, I was proud of myself for finishing, but I just stayed at the press and I was lucky enough to have job opportunities open up to me here. Your career in scholarly publishing is an apprenticeship model where you start out as an assistant to an editor and you learn the basic things you need to know about making a book and all of that and then you start to gain knowledge about different parts of the process and for me, that's the acquisition side of publishing.

So, I started to learn more about how to acquire book projects and how to talk to prospective authors and how to deal with situations that can come up that are kind of tricky and how to negotiate those things. So you just learn gradually on how to do it and then a job opened up for me here at the Press and so I just stayed; and I really like working at UPF specifically

Dr. Catherine Cooper: When you select manuscripts or proposals, what are the things you're looking for? Is there anything in particular?

Mary Puckett: The books in my subject area are archeology books. Part of that is the cultural heritage studies list and we have a series in that list too. So, I work on heritage studies projects and the archeology list in general. The first thing that I look for is how well a book project will fit in with our existing catalog of books and that has to do with some things like our ability to market books. We know what our audience is for our archeology books and so we want books that are similar to the books that we already have so that we can sell the books appropriately and so that we can reach the right readers.

So, that's the biggest part of it is just that fit within books that we already have published, but I also try to find ways to branch out into new topics. And so I'll try to figure out if it's a book on another part of the world that we haven't published on, maybe it fits in with a theme from a book that we've already published that's about a place in North America or something. So, I try to find those connections and that can help us to branch out a little bit.

I don't really have requirements. You don't have to be a tenured professor to submit a book proposal. It can be anyone, I'm happy to talk to even graduate students if they're thinking about publishing a book in the future. The publishing process can be such a mystery and so I've tried to make myself available to junior scholars and graduate students who are just wondering about what publishing a book is like and I'm open to reading proposals from all career levels, all backgrounds. And I've even read proposals that I don't think would be a good fit for the press, but because I have a knowledge of what other scholarly presses publish on, I can recommend the press that would be a better fit for that project. So, I'm happy to provide advice on that too.

So at UPF, and I think this is the same for a lot of scholarly publishers, we do not accept unrevised dissertations. So, an unrevised dissertation just means your dissertation as you wrote it, you didn't do anything to change it, it still reads like a dissertation, you've got your literature review and the whole formula. Dissertation revisions are just fine to propose for book ideas and I think it can be a good idea to talk to an acquisitions editor if you're thinking about revising your dissertation to get their feedback on parts of the dissertation that you would maybe want to leave out, maybe things that should be added to.

I always give prospective authors who are revising dissertations some book recommendations for them to read for strategies on revising their dissertation, things they should leave out, things they should keep in. I don't discriminate against revised dissertations, I think they can be really great books, but they do take a lot of work to revise and to make actual books. But if an author is willing to put in that work, I'm happy to work with them on that.

Dr. Catherine Cooper: Do people come to you with a proposal? Do they come to you with a manuscript? Do you approach them?

Mary Puckett: Yeah. It's a mix of all three. Usually, it's a proposal or an idea and I can help authors put together a proposal. I can tell authors what kind of materials we need to consider their proposal for a contract and to put that together. Sometimes authors send full manuscripts. That's not as common because usually authors want some, and understandably so, they want some kind of commitment from a press before they put all the effort into writing a manuscript. And also the feedback that you can get just from a proposal can be really helpful for writing the full manuscript. So, it's usually a proposal, I often reach out to scholars I think would be good authors for our press, authors who are working on some kind of research that fits in with our list or that sounds really interesting or fascinating and so I've reached out to authors to ask if they want to publish a book before.

And so there are three main parts of the publication process. So, the first part is the acquisitions part. So, that's the proposal part and I'll review the proposal and talk with the author about it. We'll decide if we want to do an advanced contract and that means that it's a publishing contract that's signed before the peer review process. The other route is called a standard contract, and that's where the contract is signed after the review process. At UPF, our advanced contract process is pretty straightforward. So, we tend to do a lot of advanced contracts. We'll talk about those details with the author and then we'll sign the advanced contract and the author and I will decide on a due date for the manuscript.

And then once the manuscript is in, the next main part of the acquisitions process is the peer review process and that's what really distinguishes university presses from trade presses is that peer review process. That's the bulk of my job is shepherding manuscripts through the peer review process. I work with authors on that. I choose the reviewers and communicate the reviews back to the author and talk with them about how to move forward with their revisions or anything else that can improve the manuscript. At UPF, we require two peer reviewers to recommend publication in order to move on to the next step.

So, once the peer reviewers approve the manuscript for publication, we then send the project to our faculty editorial board for final publication approval. And the faculty editorial board reviews the review process, which sounds very confusing, but they'll just make sure that the review process has been rigorous and that the author has responded to the peer reviews appropriately. And so it's usually a pretty straightforward process of the board approval so long as I've done my job appropriately.

The next main big part is preparing the manuscript for our editorial design and production department. So, that's when the final manuscript is ready to go. It goes to our editorial design and production, or EDP department, and that's where the manuscript really becomes a book. It’s typeset and placed, copy edited and all of that.

And then the final step is the marketing phase and that's where the book gets sent to conferences or to bookshops, where it's physically published, it's ready to go to buyers. We have a great marketing department, and we have a pretty good idea of how to sell our archeology books for example, and our other disciplines too, I'm just not acknowledgeable about those. But we really appreciate author engagement with the marketing side of things. It can really improve sales.

If the author is good about promoting their book on social media or if they do book talks. Any opportunity that the author has to incorporate their book into their work just to advertise for it in some way is really appreciated by us. And there can also be those little niche conferences that we may not be aware of that we could advertise the book at. We ask authors for those kinds of events or places that we may not know of that we could use to sell the book and raise the book's profile. So, we really like it when authors are participatory in that process, it's helpful for us and we learn from it.

Dr. Catherine Cooper: How similar or different would you say it is, and how, to publish a book as opposed to a scholarly article?

Mary Puckett: The review process actually can maybe sometimes take about the same amount of time, which is interesting. Everyone’s so busy and there are all kinds of timelines with COVID delays and things like that these days. So I think the review process could be comparable, but I think it’s definitely more work to write a book than an article. It’s a really sustained argument. Some of the same steps are involved as far as you have to get permissions to publish images and books the same way you do for a journal and images need to be a certain size and resolution and I think that journals have those same or similar requirements, but definitely the book project it’s a long game. I don’t know if I have any specific guidance on how to determine if something is an article or a book. I think if you can think of three or four solid chapter ideas, it could probably be a book.

Dr. Catherine Cooper: What would you recommend for people interested in publishing a book? What should they consider?

Mary Puckett: The first step would be determining if you have a book project and then the second step would be thinking about where you would want to publish your book and maybe reaching out to the acquisitions editor at that press. We're always happy to hear from prospective authors and to talk about book proposals that's the fun part of our job and it's almost never a bad thing. Like I said, if it's not a good fit for whatever press you have in mind, that editor may be able to tell you what publisher would be a better fit for your book and so that could be a helpful next step. Think about what you have in mind. It can be just a letter of interest to an acquisitions editor telling them “This is something I've been thinking about, I don't really have a timeline, I don't have a manuscript, but I wanted to get your feedback on it.”

Even questions like that are perfectly fine to send to an acquisitions editor and it can be really fun to talk about the projects at that stage because it's so early, it's really exciting. At UPF, we don't really have timelines in mind and so even if your idea is several years out, it still doesn't hurt to talk to a prospective editor about what you're thinking.

Dr. Catherine Cooper: How would you recommend a prospective author go about choosing an acquisitions editor to approach?

Mary Puckett: I would say that if it's a scholarly book especially, to look at what publishers have published the books that you turn to the most and that you like the most in your field. That's probably going to be the first indication of the press that publishes books like the one that you're going to write. If it's a book on archeology, hopefully, you'll see that UPF has published a lot of those books! Because we have published a lot of archeology books. And so that's one way to figure out where your book fits in with the grand scheme of scholarly publishing. So, that's where I would start. Maybe if you have a book that's a model, that's something that I advise, see who published it and then just go to that publisher's website and you can usually find the list of acquisitions editors for the different subject areas and then find an email address for them. And as easy as that.

Dr. Catherine Cooper: Great. Thank you so much for talking to us today.

Mary Puckett: Thank you. This is great.

Catherine Cooper speaks with Mary Puckett, associate acquisitions editor at the University Press of Florida

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