Title

Hidden Histories: Finding Water in the Landscape

Item Type

Poster

Location

Elaine Langone Center, Terrace Room

Session

Poster session

Start Date

26-10-2018 8:00 PM

End Date

26-10-2018 10:00 PM

Keywords

Susquehanna river, Lewisburg, environmental history, river towns, mapping, humanities fieldwork

Description

We often think of rivers - especially rivers in the course of human history - on the grandest of scales, as “great tracks carefully provided by Providence,” as Alexis de Tocqueville wrote. But the students in “North American Environmental History: Rivers” (a history/environmental studies class) have been studying how the largest themes in environmental history - themes like settlement, harvest, urbanization, and restoration - may be found both along storied rivers like the St. Lawrence and the small, numerous tributaries that vein across Pennsylvania and gather in the Susquehanna watershed. As part of this course, students were asked to follow one of these tributaries on foot, beginning at the Susquehanna and moving through the town of Lewisburg. They first consulted archival aerial photographs and insurance maps to identify points of interest in the historical record, and then - feeling a bit like Indiana Joneses - they were to “groundtruth” those records. (Indeed, for most students, this was their first serious consideration of any of these water courses, despite having crossed them innumerable times.) They were asked to document, through notes and photographs, the relationship they saw between people and water: was it one of accommodation or avoidance? An asset or an obstacle? A component of scenery, or invisible? The key was to identify evidence of that relationship in the past - and to find evidence of human intervention in or adaptation to the landscape in ways, in artifacts, that might now go unremarked. How does something so fundamental to continental and to local history - freshwater rivers - fade into the background of our daily lives? This poster is a collage, of sorts. Photographs of these hidden histories submitted by students have been assembled onto a section of the 1884 bird's eye map of Lewisburg. The result is a revealing statement, we think, of the value of historical study and local curiosity in understanding the place of rivers today.

Language

eng

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Oct 26th, 8:00 PM Oct 26th, 10:00 PM

Hidden Histories: Finding Water in the Landscape

Elaine Langone Center, Terrace Room

We often think of rivers - especially rivers in the course of human history - on the grandest of scales, as “great tracks carefully provided by Providence,” as Alexis de Tocqueville wrote. But the students in “North American Environmental History: Rivers” (a history/environmental studies class) have been studying how the largest themes in environmental history - themes like settlement, harvest, urbanization, and restoration - may be found both along storied rivers like the St. Lawrence and the small, numerous tributaries that vein across Pennsylvania and gather in the Susquehanna watershed. As part of this course, students were asked to follow one of these tributaries on foot, beginning at the Susquehanna and moving through the town of Lewisburg. They first consulted archival aerial photographs and insurance maps to identify points of interest in the historical record, and then - feeling a bit like Indiana Joneses - they were to “groundtruth” those records. (Indeed, for most students, this was their first serious consideration of any of these water courses, despite having crossed them innumerable times.) They were asked to document, through notes and photographs, the relationship they saw between people and water: was it one of accommodation or avoidance? An asset or an obstacle? A component of scenery, or invisible? The key was to identify evidence of that relationship in the past - and to find evidence of human intervention in or adaptation to the landscape in ways, in artifacts, that might now go unremarked. How does something so fundamental to continental and to local history - freshwater rivers - fade into the background of our daily lives? This poster is a collage, of sorts. Photographs of these hidden histories submitted by students have been assembled onto a section of the 1884 bird's eye map of Lewisburg. The result is a revealing statement, we think, of the value of historical study and local curiosity in understanding the place of rivers today.