This presentation is part of the Proceedings of the Maritime Cultural Landscape Symposium, October 14-15, 2015, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Brad Barr: So, our first speaker today, the session today, the session this morning, session two, is called Characterizing Maritime Heritage Landscapes. The objective this session is really to learn more about academic and government applications of the concept of maritime cultural landscapes and how MCL’s have been identified and characterized, and throughout the rest of the day today I think what we’re going to see is many more examples of where people have used cultural landscapes as a part of the characterization of the places that they are, that they’re, in which they’re working.
Our first speaker today is Val Grussing. Val is a Cultural Resources Coordinator for the National Marine Protected Area Center. She works with federal, state, academic and NGO underwater archeologists, coastal tribes, and other marine resource managers to foster partnerships and create information and tools to help protect and preserve the nation’s coastal and marine cultural resources. Her current projects are coordinating the creation of a cultural resources toolkit for marine protected areas managers and coordinating with, coordinating the Characterizing Tribal Cultural Landscapes project funded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. She has her BA in History from North Carolina State, MA in Anthropology from the University of Iowa, and a PhD from, in Coastal Resources Management in the maritime studies track, from East Carolina University. Without further ado, Val. Thank you.
Valerie Grussing: Thanks Brad. First I’d like to thank the original inhabitants of this particular landscape for allowing us to be here. There are 11 federally recognized tribal nations in Wisconsin: Lac Du Flambeau, Ho Chunk Nation, Forest County Potawatomi, Lac Court Orielles, Red Cliff, Bad River, St. Croix, Oneida Nation, Stockbridge-Munsee, Sokaogon Chippewa Community, and Menominee. I’d also like to thank Daina in the Wisconsin SHPO’s office for working so hard to make this happen. We’re all delighted to be here and to be tuning in and we appreciate the hospitality.
First principles, wow. I’m honored to be the lead off presentation of sorts, although it’s a challenging task to introduce the history of this topic and its key aspects in 15 minutes, so I’ll probably take about 16. Complicated by the fact that Christer Westerdahl, who is credited with popularizing the concept, was slated to be the keynote, and was not able to come. So I’ll just cover everything he would have, with the same gravitas of course, and add my own stuff in the allotted time. No biggie.
I’ll provide a brief history of the concept and its first principles, its evolution and methodological development. I’ll also outline some of the concept’s key aspects and its growth into the government and policy arena, including a number of related efforts that are implementing a landscape approach. And I’ll conclude with a hopeful outlook for the future.
Although landscape level studies can be said to date to the 60’s or 70’s, it was in his 1992 article in the International Journal of Nautical Archeology that Westerdahl coined the term, in English that is. He defined it as “human utilization of maritime space by boat, settlement, fishing, hunting, shipping, and its attendant subcultures and features.” As his own work on this evolved over the years, he has clarified that maritime culture indeed covers all aspects of man’s relationship to the sea and the coast. He emphasizes the importance of the cognitive landscape, the remembered landscape of nature, and the landscape at the back of your mind. Getting at this naturally requires multiple ways of knowing.
The concept grew into a dull roar by the mid-2000s when a critical mass of folks realized that implementation was lacking. Ben Ford, who is offering our concluding remarks tomorrow, organized an MCL session during the 2008 annual conference on Historical and Underwater Archeology which grew into his 2011 compilation of 18 articles that represents a crucial transitional phase for the concept. To summarize Dave Stewart’s preface, it was time to put the wheels on the bandwagon, to graduate from theory to method, and then, importantly, even further in to cultural interpretation, which again requires an interdisciplinary approach. Ford states, succinctly and powerfully, that landscape exists at the intersection of culture and space and that it therefore falls neatly within and between the disciplines of history, geography, and archeology. As the various chapters in his volume illustrate, representing just a fraction of recent scholarship on cultural landscapes, this has to mean that archeology … this has to mean archeology as a branch of holistic anthropology, taking into account all aspects of humanness. Multiple sources of data and ways of knowing are required: geology, biology, ethnography, oral history, folklore and many more.
Around this time there was a perfect storm of brainpower being devoted to this topic. In addition to all the work described in Ben’s book, folks on several other fronts were also trying to, as a colleague said to me, “Figure out how to do this, or stop talking about it.” Tapping into this capacity, a number of federal initiatives, including the one that brings us here, began grappling with the question of implementation. This is where I come in. Here’s a bit of background on my office, and our interest in this.
The Marine Protected Area Center was established by executive order as a collaboration between NOAA and Department of the Interior to help protect and conserve the nation’s natural heritage, cultural heritage, and sustainable production or fisheries resources. By developing a national system of MPA’s, existing MPA’s can build networks to better accomplish these common goals and areas can be identified where new NPA’s would be beneficial. Our mission is here for you to read. Existing MPA’s include federal programs and sites, such as national marine sanctuaries, wildlife refuges, and national parks with a marine component. They also include federal/state partnerships such as estuarine research reserves, and Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, as well as sites such as state marine parks or shipwreck reserves and sites under travel authority.
When I started, I had the opportunity to guide the cultural component in a new direction and assembled a cultural heritage working group under the MPA Federal Advisory Committee to advise us, which was a really formidable brain trust, including some of the folks in this room. In fact, John Jensen was the one who said to me, with that conspiratorial gleam in his eye, “What we really need to do is cultural landscapes.” The groups work culminated with a white paper in 2011, “Recommendations for Integrated Management Using a Cultural Landscape Approach in the National System.” Although NCO was not our abbreviation du jour, the recommendations focused on a landscape level approach to managing MPA’s beginning with more inclusive definitions and criteria for cultural heritage, encompassing not just sunken vessels eligible for the National Register, but other archeological sites, paleo-shorelines, sites that span the land/sea boundary, and sites and resources important to indigenous communities, including biological resources, and intangible, intangible attributes and values.
A cultural landscape approach takes into account the fact that cultural heritage and resources are part of the ecosystem and the broader landscape, and it examines the relationships among all resources of the place and their environment over time. This is in order to integrate management of cultural and natural resources at the ecosystem and the landscape level, similar and analogous to ecosystem-based management, adding the element of the past. This comparison helps non-cultural resources folks (at NOAA I call them the fish people) understand why it’s important.
At its most basic, this approach is based on the understanding that humans are an integral part of the landscape, both shaping and being shaped by it. Because of this, people in a community have an intimate knowledge of place, often over a deep time scale. As Brad Duncan states, in his 2011 chapter “the local knowledge held by community members is the product of many generations of collective knowledge.” Recognizing this, we then try to use that knowledge to inform planning and future management. Doing so, particularly with regard to indigenous communities, can not only lead to more effective and appropriate management of a landscape’s cultural resources, but also better management of its natural resources.
One of the key points from the white paper is the artificial administrative divide between cultural and natural resources. They are considered and managed under separate policy and mandates, even though on the ground they are interrelated, interconnected, and frequently one and the same, as with biological resources possessing cultural value.
One logistical question that has been raised is “does the holistic approach mean that everything is important?” If so, that would make the task of preservation overwhelming and impractical. Not everything in the lens is worthy of preservation. An example from the white paper is scour marks from draggers, ballast dumps, sunken logging timber, or old navigation markers may not need preservation, but they can provide important evidence about the way humans interacted with the marine environment.
Following on to the white paper, and around the time that the MPA center got assimilated into the Sanctuaries Collective Office, the Maritime Heritage Program convened an internal workshop involving expertise from the good Drs. Ford and Jensen. This led to the MCL initiative intended to implement this approach in existing sanctuaries, but also taking into account broader regional perspectives, since, of course, landscapes don’t have the decency to stop at sanctuary boundaries.
Beyond cultural interpretation and resource preservation, we’re also charged with management. In Brad’s 2013 article on MCLs, he outlined some of the wicked problems confronting coastal communities. Some are more traditional resource management issues, such as maintaining water quality and the status of living marine resources, but also extend to issues such as jobs and economy, the impact of large seasonal changes in population, insufficient transportation and infrastructure, and even more fundamental social problems such as crime and poverty. Typical approaches to addressing these problems, from local coastal zoning to formulation of national ocean policies, tend to focus on individual sectors, or on the snapshot of current conditions, or on large geographic areas of a scale people do not feel a connection to. An MCL approach considers multiple sectors and perspectives, incorporates local historical knowledge as context for managing today’s problems, and is grounded in people’s back yards, places they know and value.
Speaking of artificial divides and boundaries, another important one worth mentioning is the shoreline as bridge, not boundary. It’s the title of Ford’s own article in his edited volume, and it’s a phrase that really resonates. Whether we’re talking about the wreckage of errant ships, lost during their passage from one shoreline to another, the remains of ancient communities now submerged as the shoreline itself has risen, or modern, indigenous communities who conduct subsistence harvest from the sea using traditional knowledge. The unifying element is their connection to the marine and coastal environment. As government managers, we are required to use lines to mark land from sea, but these too are administrative. MCL has the power to break down this divide.
A number of other federal initiatives and projects have begun in response to, and hoping to take advantage of, the collective brain power and capacity being devoted to cultural landscapes. In 2011, the Advisory Council in Historic Preservation and Park Service held a forum to discuss Native American traditional cultural landscapes. This led to the advisory council’s traditional cultural landscape action plan later that year.
Around 2012, project ideas regarding tribal cultural landscapes and paleo-shorelines converged from multiple directions to be funded by BOEM. You’ll hear more about these during the symposium. Not only do they involve indigenous communities and the characterization of their own important resources and places, but they are pioneering methods for pre-consultation, so that tribes and agencies can build better relationships in advance of any proposed undertakings and coastal tribes can have a stronger voice in planning and management.
The Captain John Smith National Chesapeake, Chesapeake National Historic Trail has an indigenous cultural landscape team, which you’ll hear about in this session. In 2013, the National Register Landscape Initiative began as a forum for discussion of the way cultural landscapes are considered in the Register and has led to this symposium. In 2014, the MP Center received a small grant to create an online cultural resources toolkit for MP Managers in which we outline a seven step process for implementing a cultural landscape approach. I’m sure there are other initiatives that I’m not mentioning, but you get the idea. The MCL movement is big. Arlo Guthrie says that we can call it a movement if we have 50 people a day, which you can see that we do, and it is happening now.
I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to share my excitement over a relevant news item. The announcement last week that two new sites have started the designation process, and I emphasize process, to become new National Marine Sanctuaries. Mallows Bay in the tidal Potomac River in Maryland and an 875 square mile area of Lake Michigan right here in Wisconsin, both based on the areas’ collections of shipwrecks and maritime heritage. A third site, in central to southern California, based on Chumash heritage, both natural and cultural, has had its nomination accepted by NOAA and has been added to the inventory of areas under consideration for potential designation in the future. These nominations were among the first to come in when a new grassroots process was created last year for sanctuary designation, following a long hiatus. In an era where we’re constantly challenged as historic preservationists to demonstrate relevance and justify funding, I’m gratified and excited that when people are given a chance to convey what’s important to them, to preserve and celebrate, it turns out that its heritage.
In conclusion, it is truly an exciting time to be in historic preservation, with many opportunities to influence the future direction of our collective field. Researchers, practitioners, managers, and officials seem to be in agreement that the time has come to work more appropriately, and by that I mean using a cultural landscape approach, including its indigenous and maritime components, which will help us all better accomplish our common goals: preserving what’s important from our past, learning from it, and using it to better equip ourselves for the future.
I’d like to thank you all for being here, being part of the conversation, and contributing your ideas. Thank you.