This presentation is part of the Proceedings of the Maritime Cultural Landscape Symposium, October 14-15, 2015, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Brad Barr: The next speaker in this session is John Jensen. John didn’t provide us with a bio, but I think many of you in the room know him. John is currently a professor at the University of West Florida, a position he recently took, leaving New England, at least temporarily. That’s good for John, bad for us, but he’s still actively working around the country, so that’s a good thing. I’ll only say, in terms of an introduction, that I’ve worked with John for a number of years. The thing I value most about John is that when he feels you’re going off the track, he’s not shy about telling you that you’re full of crap. You cannot undervalue people in your life who will tell you when they think that you are going astray.
John Jensen: Thank you, I think, Brad. It’s always delightful to be involved in these projects with sanctuaries. What I want to do today … First, I want to thank you and the other organizers of this symposium. I don’t have pretty pictures today, but I’m going to use a few words that I’m going to read, which I don’t usually do. But, I want to thank you guys for this symposium, particularly the fact that this is an effort to systematically address the potential of cultural landscapes in maritime cultural heritage management, and of course for the invitation to speak today.
I began my career in maritime heritage and in historic preservation here in Wisconsin more than 25 years ago, and many of the ideas about applied cultural landscapes that I’ve had a hand in developing, or have helped to refine and circulate or popularize have their foundations in work completed through the Wisconsin Historical Society. Now, the overall goal … I was reviewing the statements here … Is, to quote, “Suggest standard definitions and best practices to the preparation of preliminary guidance materials for incorporating maritime cultural landscapes into national register evaluations.” Now, determining clear standards … We’re very clear to include these landscapes in national register. It’s vital. It’s vital to bring order; I hope more consistency and higher quality to the management of cultural heritage in the coastal zone and in the expanding issues of the continental shelf.
Now, the objective of the symposium is, quote, “To provide a platform to exploration of MCL, and its role in the investigation, evaluation and management of terrestrial/submerged maritime culture resources.” Now, the subjective, I think, is more important than the goal in some respects. The objective, with a little bit of imagination, empathizes increasing our understanding of complex historical and human relationships, and associated policy issues. This is critical given the intensity of human uses on the coast, the growing impacts or at least our growing awareness of climate change, and the rapid expansion of human economic activities; offshore and along the coast. It’s where the action’s at. It’s frankly where the actions almost always been at, but it’s much more intensive now.
Now, thanks in large part to the visionary work of Dave Cooper … The first Wisconsin underwater archeologist … The state’s long been at the forefront of submerged cultural heritage preservation in the United States. With Cooper and Paul Kreisa’s 1991 multiple property nominations, ‘Great Lakes Shipwrecks of Wisconsin’, the historical society, affiliated archeologists, generations of volunteers, have added … I guess now, the count was 59 shipwrecks to the National Register, and that’s a big deal.
Now, going back in time a little bit to the late 1980s and 90s … This was a pioneering days, in some respects, of public underwater archeology in Wisconsin and in other places. You know some of us may have come across as a little brash and occasionally a little righteous. We were not arrogant. We may have seemed that way once in a while. But, we had a zeal that extended way beyond just the technical preservation of shipwrecks. It became, rapidly, not enough just to do that. We wanted to make them accessible and meaningful to the public. We were trying to preserve and to recover not just things … And we didn’t pull stuff up … Very bright thing that was laid down early on. But we wanted to recover ideas and find these forgotten relationships, or nearly forgotten relationships, between the people of Wisconsin and the Great Lakes and rivers that formed her borders.
In order to preserve shipwrecks, we needed to find broader meanings, not just their official historical significance. Although we begin documenting individual shipwrecks, we organized our field work and inventories regionally … Door County, The Apostle Islands, Mid-Lake Michigan, The Mississippi River. This spread into how outreach was conceptualized, to form things like the influential Maritime Trails Program. Looking back more than two decades … Aside from the fact I have less hair now … I see that we were thinking in cultural landscape well before we began to use the term officially here. We naturally began to use these cultural landscape approaches to look critically at the coastal and maritime world, and to figure out how we were really engaged with communities.
Now, moving on to the topic of historic preservation … The first attempt, as far as I’m aware of, to explicitly try and use cultural landscape in underwater archeological preservation in Wisconsin, began in the wake of a closely watched legal dispute over the wreck of the Rosinco: A yacht found, looted and claimed in admiralty court by a well-known wreck hunter and salvage diver, Paul Ehorn. US Court of Appeals 7th Circuit decision in Ehorn v Sunken Vessel known as Rosinco did a number of things. It reaffirmed the Abandoned Shipwreck Act proviso that said that, “Wrecks in state waters that were determined eligible for the National Register, or on the National Register, were …” The title went to the states.
Now, that decision, when it came down, did something important. It elevated the importance of the Register as a maritime preservation tool, at least here in the region where the 7th District jurisdiction held sway. At the time … Memory is notoriously bad looking back … It seemed that the logical conclusion that a number of us came to was that securing national register eligibility, or better yet a listing … Now, in addition to the normal protections or influence that a national register listing would have … Getting a DOE or a listing, really gave some particular protections. It was more important than ever, and it seemed really important to come up with a time and cost efficient way of trying to be as inclusive as possible on the National Register.
By this point, I had moved on to Academia in the east, but I kept my fingers involved. I was working with underwater archeologist Russ Green at the time, and later his successor, Keith Meverden. I did a number of projects. But, I took on an ultimately unfinished, or unsuccessful, effort to nominate a large section of Wisconsin’s Mid-Lake Michigan waters as an archeological district. I chose to develop this nomination around the idea of cultural landscape. I don’t have time to get into the details of all of this, but I read deeply in a lot of these things. I worked out a lot of ideas, and ultimately, I synthesized my research in a unpublished technical report for the historical society … “Pieces, Patterns and Past Toward a Cultural Landscape Approach to Maritime Cultural Resource Management a Study in Western Lake Michigan.” This report evaluated the area that conveniently now may become a National Marine Sanctuary, and I evaluated this area and its shipwreck-related cultural resources, its defining features in a rural historic landscape, that I called The Western Lake Michigan Transportation Corridor.
After laying out the theoretical foundations for cultural landscape and an Atlantic cultural context for the corridor; the report described in some detail how each of the four processes and seven component categories of National Register Bulletin 30: Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting Rural Historic Landscapes, applied or may apply to the region and it’s submerged resources and I’ve done this in some other places since that time.
The report recommended integrating emergent cultural landscape-based archeological and preservation theory with the new analytical and mapping capacities of GIS, through a cultural landscape framework. Embracing the results, I argued, would improve the analytical content of Wisconsin’s Maritime Historic Preservation Documentation Work, while quickly expanding national register coverage over a much larger number of Wisconsin’s shipwrecks.
Now I pushed things too far, too fast. That’s true. The technical issues associated with defining boundaries were problematic. It really stopped the draft nomination, you know, cold. However, the intellectual content of the report, and the process of doing the draft nomination, really became one of the foundation elements of a lot of later work that has led to a more developed, applied cultural landscape approach that some of us call CLA, parts of which have influenced the MPA stuff. We do various things. The point is the ideas were powerful. They worked. It was an important moment, I think, in developing at least how some of us think about cultural landscapes.
Now, what I’m going to talk about now is adopted from that report because I think, again, part of the problems is the timing wasn’t right before. We didn’t have all the technical details together. That’s one of the things this symposium is working at. Now, Daina showed a beautiful picture of Wisconsin’s state seal, which is on the state flag. Wisconsin’s flag contains powerful symbols of the maritime imprint of the state’s culture. The emblazoned anchor, caulking mallet in the grasp of a powerful hand and arm, and blue-jacketed mariner can be read as cultural and historical symbols that represent the introduction of Atlantic world technology and culture to the fresh water frontier during the 19th century. Sharing iconic space with the images of the miner, bars of lead, a cornucopia, a pick, shovel and plow, the flag depicts in graphic terms, the implicit and explicit interplay between the natural environment and Wisconsin’s pioneers. To move forward … As instructed in the text at the top of the seal on the flag … One had to break up the soil to unleash its fertility, delve in the earthen depths to release trapped mineral resources, and tame the tempestuous Great Lakes by converting stands of virgin forest into good ships manned by strong and able mariners.
The complex interplay between culture and nature, whose signature is written boldly across the Wisconsin flag, is the hallmark of cultural landscapes. This important way of organizing our understanding of the historically evolving and continuing relationships between society and the environment. Cultural landscape is increasingly recognized by the historic preservation and cultural heritage professionals agency world-wide as an important category of tangible and intangible heritage resources, and a really important way of interpreting the past. All sorts of virtues to this have been talked about: Cultural plurals, multi-vocality. I don’t have time to get in all of this stuff. But put differently, cultural landscapes reveal much about the interplay between places and processes, which leaves ample room for multiple cultural groups to derive or to impose meaning upon geographic space.
I’m not going to get into sour and all the things that are in here, cause we know a lot about this. The point is, these are some quite old ideas, quite old ideas. In the applied kind of landscape work that I’ve done, and we do at the University of Rhode Island, other places … The Westerdall stuff doesn’t really apply as much as the terrestrial elements of all of this.
Now, in the Great Lakes region, among other places, shipwrecks and other cultural materials deposit on bottom lands and along the shore can be evaluated as a single or series of nested cultural landscapes, that reflect distinct, although often related, historical context and cultural orientations, and maritime cultural landscapes have great potential for yielding archeological, historical and cultural information about Wisconsin’s past, and we’ve looked into this in a number of ways. Among of its values is … Depending on the question you’re looking at … Applying the landscape framework to Western Lake Michigan, for example, in its submerged resources. It has the capacity to bring historical and anthropological questions to light, questions that both encompass and transcend even state and local boundaries into the international sphere. It will allow Wisconsin’s maritime past to be read in national, international, as well as local context.
Now, I did attempt to put together, at the time, a nomination, and I’m going to read now my significant statement at the time. I would write it slightly differently now. I’ve done a lot more work with Noah on this topic, but I still think it’s relevant, because it’s using the tools of the register as they exist today. I think that’s the important part, is coming up with a way to do that. Don’t write the new book.
“The West-Central Lake Michigan Maritime Heritage Archeological District is a long linear rural historic cultural landscape that qualifies for the listing on the National Register of Historic Places under criterion A and D. A watery highway of national importance, the Transportation Corridor is intimately associated with transportation, settlement, and industry in Wisconsin. The natural environment in related to the collection in spacial organization of objects, sights, and structures associated with historic maritime transportation on Lake Michigan offer a rich tapestry for exploring human responses to the problems and opportunities associated with frontier ship building, settlement commerce, and the advent of large scale agricultural and industrial development. The West Central Lake Michigan Maritime Heritage Archeological District consists of a section of a navigation corridor that’s constituted the principal route down the western side of Lake Michigan during the 19th and early 20th century. A regional highway, the corridor also provided critical points of access, connection, and exchange between maritime communities, both large and small. During the mid-19th century, hundreds of thousands of Americans and immigrants followed this maritime pathway to new lives and lands in Wisconsin and other Midwestern states and beyond. As these settlers developed the landscape, the corridor provided a critical avenue for carrying surplus products to market, and for bringing goods in from other regions and other nations. In the later 19th century and 20th century, the corridor became an essential component in the circulation networks for the rapidly industrializing Midwest. Included in the district are the lake’s surface waters, weather patterns, sub-surface natural and cultural features. When analyzed using current archeological theories and methods, these elements come together to form an important and coherent segment of Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan Maritime Cultural Landscape. This landscape has documented associations with three of the historic contexts, identified and well-developed in the multi property nomination Great Lakes Shipwrecks of Wisconsin, early industries, fishing, lumber, agriculture, settlement and pack. Further research could well identify additional historic contexts.” That was the idea at the time. We can do a lot more with it.
In subsequent time … I want to wrap up here. In later time, I’ve been able to go back to the look at the landscape of that area, again, to help create data and insight for this designation process. One of the things that’s become very clear in the last 10 years of working on these kinds of projects … Trying to figure out how to do it in multiple sites in New England, the mid Atlantic, Alaska, other places on the Great Lakes … Is that adopting a cultural landscape approach as a way of looking at the world yields information that can be clearly useful in management. It can lead to much better and more encompassing contexts for traditional National Register nominations. It’s that way of looking at the world that is so important, and we can see that in a number of different ways.
I don’t have time to get into some of the specific things for Western Lake Michigan, but in each place that we’ve gone to, this approach tells us something about these relationships that we did not know before, in ways that directly tie not just to interpreting history or assessing significance. But it could help to tell us how we might want to manage these resources, where the vulnerabilities are. How has the human history of regulation of these spaces helped create the landscape that we have today? That’s in the big picture of these things.
So I’m going to wrap it up with this, because I can keep going for a long time. I’ll really end with just this one element here … is that…Cause I started with it. We’re in a position … Where I ran into trouble before; we didn’t have the language to use this in regulatory constructs that we live with. In 10 years, we’ve learned a lot. I think what we need to think about now, is how to create that language to, you know, include landscapes as a subset of existing categories. To work on this language … The big ideas, I think they’re there, they’re strong. It’s the time to collectively create the language to make those languages. 10 years ago I was kind of shooting off my mouth, and I believed in what I was doing, but all the parts weren’t there.
Brad: I think we have time for probably one question?
Speaker: Could you go ahead, you mentioned technical details throughout your initial defense
John: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Speaker: Could you briefly summarize your work
John: The principal one, as I recall … Again, human memory is a fallible thing, and I didn’t go through all my things. But, one of the real challenges … we were doing … We were looking at two approaches to a district: A continuous district or a discontiguous district. What we couldn’t get a handle on was defining boundaries. You know, whether justifying the big boundaries … That seemed to be too much for many people. Then, going with a discontiguous boundary trying to figure out how you would break that up … Not only determining the justification for the space it surrounded, but trying to come up with a justification for the things that were not included.
And, so for a lot of reasons, it didn’t make sense to pursue it at that time. When you look at what’s gone on in the 10 years since, I think that … let’s say that really good things, it went on an excellent track. I understand why that was, but that was really … That’s what I mean by the language. We weren’t quite there yet, in terms of the technical nominations. For me, I think … and I still continue to think the big issue here, is that this holistic kind of approach … It’s interdisciplinary but its discipline kinds of research … Provides types of insight and data, and in fact, better historic interpretations. There’s so many things to be gained from it. It has a value, as Dr. Grussing was talking about, to bringing in natural resources. There’s much to be gained from this. But, in the time … you know it was…We did the best we could. Hopefully.