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Planning for National Historic Landmark site Blood Run, SD-IA

June 1, 2020

On a cold, blustery morning last November, I followed an abandoned railroad grade to the South Dakota and Iowa state line. I had two maps in front of me—one an annotated paper printout, a collage of colors and lines overlaid on an old topo map, and the other Google Maps, open on my phone, my blue dot tacking southwest. I wasn’t lost. I was on a trail that did not yet exist.

The route, unmarked and at points choked by trees, had been outlined to me a few days earlier by Brenda Williams, ASLA, a landscape architect and director of preservation planning at Quinn Evans Architects in Madison, Wisconsin. Williams had recently led the development of a master plan for this area, an important but not widely known archaeological site known as Blood Run. The old railway was the proposed arrival sequence.

Typically, the few visitors who came to Blood Run, which became a National Historic Landmark in 1970, parked at the top of a bluff and followed a path down to the Big Sioux River, the state border. But Williams had been explicit: Take the railroad grade. Rather than start high, Williams wanted visitors to begin in the valley, to park and walk along the creek that gives the area its name before reaching the earthen mounds that are some of the site’s more visible cultural and historic remnants. It was, in part, a practical decision: The abandoned railroad provided a level path all the way from the main road to the mound grouping. But mostly it was about being immersed in the place, bringing people into the site with as few visual intrusions as possible, as few opportunities to break the spell.

So begins a 2017 Landscape Architecture article by Timothy A. Schuler. You may read the entire article here.

Covid-19 takes its toll among the Navajo

May 13, 2020

TUBA CITY, Arizona (AP) — The virus arrived on the reservation in early March, when late winter winds were still blowing off the mesas and temperatures at dawn were often barely above freezing.

It was carried in from Tucson, doctors say, by a man who had been to a basketball tournament and then made the long drive back to a small town in the Navajo highlands. There, believers were preparing to gather in a small, metal-walled church with a battered white bell and crucifixes on the window.

On a dirt road at the edge of the town, a hand-painted sign with red letters points the way: “Chilchinbeto Church of the Nazarene.”

From that church, COVID-19 took hold on the Navajo Nation, hopscotching across families and clans and churches and towns, and leaving the reservation with some of the highest infection rates in the U.S.

So begins this AP story on the novel coronavirus among the Navajo nation. You may read the entire story here.

The Black Death in Venice and the Dawn of Quarantine

May 13, 2020
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Buffalo Doug

An aerial view of the lagoon of Venice. An aerial view of the lagoon of Venice. DIDIER DESCOUENS / CC BY-SA 4.0

JUST BEYOND THE SHORES OF Venice proper—a city that comprises dozens of islands—lie two uninhabited isles with a rich history. Today these landmasses are landscapes of grasses, trees, and worn stone buildings. But once they were among the most important gateways to this storied trading city.

The islands, known as Lazzaretto Vecchio and Lazzaretto Nuovo, are now yielding fascinating insights into Venice’s response to one of the most famous pandemics in history. In the mid-14th century, Venice was struck by the bubonic plague, part of an outbreak known as the Black Death that may have killed up to 25 million people, or one-third of the population, in Europe. This spread was just one of several waves of the plague to strike Northern Italy in the centuries that followed.

Venice, as a trading center, was especially vulnerable…

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The Early Master Plans for National Parks Are Almost as Beautiful as the Parks Themselves

November 18, 2019

The 1939 Master Plan for Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

In the beginning, there was Yellowstone: more than 2,000,000 acres of mountains, fields, forests, geysers, and rivers, a place of such commanding beauty that, according to an early account describing the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, “language is entirely inadequate to convey a just conception of the awful grandeur and sublimity of this masterpiece of nature’s handiwork.”

So begins Anika Burgess’s Atlas Obscura story on National Park planning documents. You may read her entire post here.

The 1918 Parade That Spread Death in Philadelphia

November 14, 2019

A Red Cross nurse wearing a face mask, c. 1918

The influenza pandemic of 1918-19 killed between 50 and 100 million people around the world, more than died in the battles of World War I. In the United States, the hardest-hit city was Philadelphia, where the spread of the disease was spurred by what was meant to be a joyous event: a parade.

So begins Allison C. Meier’s JSTOR Daily post about Philadelphia’s influenza disaster in 1918. You may read the entire post, with links, here.

Who Speaks for Crazy Horse?

September 17, 2019

Past Mt. Rushmore is another mountain, and another memorial. This one is much larger: the Presidents’ heads, if they were stacked one on top of the other, would reach a little more than halfway up it. After seventy-one years of work, it is far from finished. All that has emerged from Thunderhead Mountain is an enormous face—a man of stone, surveying the world before him with a slight frown and a furrowed brow.

So writes Brooke Jarvis in his astute report on the Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills. You may read the entire New Yorker piece here.

Place, Societies, and The City of God

July 29, 2019

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“What our societies desperately need, therefore, are common objects of love that bind us together but inhibit our tendencies to idolatry.”

“The beauty and promise of place lies in its capacity to turn our eyes away from ourselves and our imagined images of ourselves to the reality of the world and the contingency of our place within it. The love of place is inherently modest, and therein lies its promise.”

So argues Australian theologian Andrew Errington at ABC Religion and Ethics. You may read his entire lecture here.

 

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