This presentation is part of the online document Acknowledging Landscapes: Presentations from the National Register Landscape Initiative.
Jill Cowley: What are evocative landscapes? I like to quote my, again, Australian colleague Ken Taylor, in that all cultural landscapes should be evocative. In other words, they should have or they need to have sufficient physical integrity and ongoing meaning and use, to be able to tell the story of that landscape, to be able to evoke the meaning and embedded memories of that place. So the goal of preservation is to retain this ability of a landscape to evoke meaning and memory. And some landscapes are more evocative than others. The photo in this slide is Pecos National Historical park in New Mexico.
Okay, a little bit more definition. So we’re talking about an evocative landscape having the ability to evoke story, memory, associations and like Barbara said, an emotional response. Again, going to the dictionary, evoke means to call forth or summon, or to elicit an image, reaction, or response. So, let’s look at the photos on this slide. The group in the middle, at Little Big Horn National Monument, what are they commemorating and why? And why are they doing it out on the land?
So looking at the lower left, what are these women taking a picture of, and why? And the lower right, why is that women painting that particular landscape? These questions all have to do with these landscapes and their evocative landscape values. Other terms, and Barbara mentioned some of these, in various other contexts are used, that relate to evocative landscapes include inspirational or associative landscapes, also aesthetic landscapes where aesthetic is used in its broader meaning, referring to a sensory experience of place, rather than artistic style. Other terms used again, this is, this is from the Australian work with Juliet Ramsay and others, on aesthetic value of landscapes. Other terms are themed landscape, powerful, contemplative or uncommon landscapes. Stories in the landscape, defining images and creative expressions related to the landscape. Landscapes that inspire action, that have related cultural practices, and sacred or spiritual landscapes. Evocative landscape values include how communities and visitors perceive and experience the landscapes.
Today, I’ll be focusing on landscapes that have little or no structures or evidence of human manipulation, little obvious material cultural evidence, where National Register integrity focuses on location, setting, feeling, and association. In other words, landscapes don’t need to contain structures or evidence of human manipulation in order to be considered cultural, in order to have historic character, and integrity and meaning, and in order to be able to evoke the story and memory of that landscape.
To use a metaphor from Susan Dolan, cultural landscapes are like a woven rug, with interwoven threads, rather than like a blueberry muffin with space or setting around individual sites, and for our discussion today, the woven threads in that woven rug, can be all natural threads. Vegetation, land form and so forth, natural or natural appearing, in other words, the landscape can be all “setting.” So I’m going to be talking about some examples, and we can ask, given that evocative qualities of the landscape are important to document and preserve in order to maintain, you know, the integrity, and be able to convey the meaning and association of that landscape. Given that this is important, how well are evocative landscape values represented within existing National Register documentation? And how perhaps could they be better represented?
Generally, cultural landscapes are geographic areas with meaning for people. And again, they don’t need to have obvious structures or other evidence of human manipulation in order to have cultural value. This is a photo of the Ghost Ranch landscape in northern New Mexico, and I’ll be talking more about this later.
So, we can ask, well do evocative landscapes have to be natural or natural appearing? No, evocative landscapes can be urban, but today, at least, in my presentation here, focusing more on landscapes that have little or no visible structures or evidence of human manipulation.
So the first example is the Trinity Site in New Mexico, south central New Mexico, which is a national historic landmark. This photo was taken about 15 years ago, so, thus it’s a little bit grainy. This photo was taken on one of the two days of the year, when the Department of Defense opens this site to visitors. And this landscape marks the place of a very significant event, the July 16, 1945 atomic bomb test. Where the atomic bomb, nicknamed Fat Man was detonated as a test. The NHL nomination for this site was completed in 1975, and in the description of resources, you know, the site itself does include the remains of some structures. They’re not visible in this particular slide other than the obelisk there on the left. Of course it’s a very evocative place, with a lot of strong emotional responses, and associations. And, just out of this picture, actually when I was down there taking this picture, just off to the right, of the frame, there was a mime group, dressed all in black, giving an anti-war protest, performance. So it’s a very interesting place.
Let’s take a look at the National Historic Landmark nomination from 1975. How is the resource here described in that nomination? And we can keep in mind, that, you know, the nomination having been done in 1975, that’s a while ago, and perhaps if we were doing it today, we would describe the resource a little differently.
To orient you, on this slide, the central picture, which I got from the Trinity website, is an aerial shot of ground zero. This is where the bomb actually dropped, which is about where the obelisk is. So you can see there’s an area enclosed in cyclone fence, and the blue rectangle in the back, that’s the remains of the bunker. So there is one structural feature, at least at ground zero. On the right, is a sample of an interpretive display that’s attached to the fence, that’s a picture of the bomb. And on the left, I believe that’s a replica of the Fat Man bomb that is trucked in for display on one of those two days a year.
How does the NHL nomination describe the resource? It describes historic features, ground zero with the obelisk and the eight foot deep depression in the ground, and also the trinitite, which is the sand fused into glass, that happened after the explosion. There are bunkers, and remains of a ranch and a camp, where the folks involved in this activity were working out of during the time – those are not visible in this particular slide.
So let’s focus on ground zero, as an evocative landscape. In the nomination, the landscape is described as “the terrain is flat and semi arid. There are no substantial intrusions, and the site was suitably flat and dry, although windy.” Suitable, of course they’re referring to the explosion, suitability for the test. What are the evocative values and qualities of this landscape? And, are they adequately represented in the nomination, or could they be more, could they be better, represented in the nomination? What about oral histories from neighbors who experienced the blast? What about vast undeveloped open views, the sense of isolation and quiet. Unrestored dirt tracks, you can see. The fencing is mentioned. Also the security environment. Now, to get here is a bit of a drive, you have to go through the guard station, it’s fenced, it’s heavily, you know, monitored. That gives the experience of being there a certain quality.
So we can think about, those two basic questions. What are the evocative qualities of the landscape, and how well are they represented in National Registered documentation? Because if they’re not well represented in National Registered documentation, perhaps they will not be adequately preserved.
Just as a comparison – comparing with an evocative landscape that is not necessarily historic, in other words, has low integrity, and again an urban one, just for comparison. This is the Santa Fe Railroad area, in Santa Fe New Mexico. In this area, there are a couple of historic buildings that are on the National Register, but it does not retain sufficient historic integrity to be a National Register district. Of course there are a lot of places, whether they are on the register or not, you know, the remains of historic fabric, and historic uses, evokes the history of the place.
Changes over the years, in this particular location, include a recent new development, where traces of the older railroad were, or have been, maintained. You can see an example right in the center of that slide, of an old railroad track. In this case, these traces of the railroad track, do evoke the history of the place, but unless these kind of traces have very strong associations, the evocative quality of the landscape overall may be limited due to low integrity.
Second example, the Ghost Ranch Conference and Retreat Center in northern New Mexico, which is a privately owned property on several hundred acres, actually several thousand acres, in northern New Mexico. It is closely associated with the life and work of nationally significant artist Georgia O’Keeffe. O’Keeffe lived here, seasonally and year round, from the mid 30’s to the late 70’s. The National Park Service put together a nationwide painting and sculpture theme study, and Ghost Ranch was one of the landscapes mentioned in this theme study, as being included in the northern New Mexico area, associated with O’Keeffe. You could call this an associated, and associative landscape. The National Park Service followed with a study of alternatives specific to the O’Keeffe theme. The cover of this document is on the lower right. The document outlined alternatives for using Ghost Ranch and other landscapes to commemorate O’Keeffe’s life and work.
Just a note, there has been no formal action, no additional federal land acquisition as a result of that study. It just explored options. Now here, within Ghost Ranch, I’m not aware of any existing National Register documentation. And, I’m not sure whether they are pursuing National Register documentation or not. But let’s take a look at this landscape.
The photograph shows an area of the ranch, characterized as badlands, or the Red Hills area. And from this you can see there’s a telephone pole, but not, not a lot of evidence of structure or manipulation for that matter. It’s mostly natural or natural appearing. And for most visitors, the landscape has natural elements, looks natural, but with strong cultural associations. The culmination of the landscape itself, the physical landscape, and the activities that the ranch holds in this area, the tours, the artistic retreats, those kind of activities work together to evoke the association with O’Keeffe. Now this landscape of course has many cultural historic layers, O’Keeffe is one. There’s Native American settlement, Euro-American history, and the history of Ghost Ranch itself. So, I’m only addressing the association with O’Keeffe specifically.
Again, the same two questions. What are the evocative landscape values of this landscape, and how best to represent those? So, we start with what are the evocative landscape qualities of this landscape? I think a big one is, and this is, the photo, the color photo of the landscape, this relates to integrity. The fact that a number of painting sites, sites that O’Keeffe painted during her time there, still exist and they have not been modified, is key. No structures added, no trails, they’re pretty much the same as when she painted them. So that’s a good evocative quality relating to integrity. And, other ones as well. So how best to document and preserve these evocative landscape qualities? Say if we were developing a National Register nomination we could include a description of overall landscape character. We could talk about integrity of association and setting. We could talk about stories and memories associated with this landscape, and also describe uses that would be compatible.
Second example is Washita National Historic Site which is a National Historic Landmark. The National Historic Site and the NHL do have different boundaries, and there are some similarities between between Washita of course, and Sand Creek. Washita is a landscape in Oklahoma, where on November 27, 1868, Custer’s 7th Cavalry attacked southern Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle’s village. Since 1868, this landscape has changed from a village site and native prairie, to a Euro-American agricultural landscape, and then to a National Park Service preserved landscape. The Washita legislation called for restoration of the landscape to the time of the battle. With the intent, I don’t think … I have to recheck, whether evoke, that term is actually used in the legislation, but I think the intent was to remove 20th century structures, which has been done, by the park, in order to help this landscape evoke the event of 1868. These images come from the website, since I haven’t been out there myself for a number of years. So the landscape is again, like the other landscape example, fairly natural appearing.
This slide is somewhat fuzzy, but an enlargement of that image, from the website just so that you can see that a little bit better.
Of course this is a very evocative landscape that evokes history and memories, and like Sand Creek, has very strong meaning and association for associative tribes, and others. The image in the lower right is the contemplative garden that the tribes associated with Washita and worked with the park to develop. So it’s not a historic feature per se, but it helps strengthen the ties with the tribes and also strengthen its evocative qualities. Now again, looking at the National Historic Landmark nomination, and again this is another one from the 1970s. In the description of resources it includes that Washita includes six miles along the Washita River, the plains at the bend of the Washita, Black Kettle’s campsite, area of primary military maneuvers, ridge lines and mountains, and a verdant valley sheltered by surrounding hills. So general description of the landscape, what would be in the setting category, and also a part of landscape character. So, again, what are the evocative landscape qualities? Evocative qualities of the landscape, and how well are they represented?
In addition to a description of the landscape, as is already included in the NHL nomination. There could be discussion of little bit more about overall landscape character, how this relates to compatible of uses, the history of use since the event. That’s it’s a natural appearing landscape, again, referring to integrity compared with the time of the historic event. There are of course a lot of subsurface remains, that aren’t necessarily visible.
A closer image of that contemplative garden. So this is a very evocative landscape, and evocative landscape values are perhaps not as well represented in the existing National Register documentation as they could be. And, you know, speaking with folks, the superintendent, and others who manage the National Historic Site, they would agree with this, that there could be some more description of these evocative values that could be included within National Register documentation in order to enhance the likelihood of preservation.
My last example is the Tsankawi Unit of Bandelier National Monument, also in northern New Mexico. Tsankawi is a detached unit of the monument, and is part of the traditional homelands of San Ildefonso Pueblo, and associated with a number of other pueblos and Native American communities here in New Mexico. This is an archaeological and historical landscape. The landscape encompasses mesas, drainage areas, drainage’s and areas that were used in pre contact times for growing crops. And also, circulation paths incised within the mesa. You can see an example, a close up on your lower right. And also remains of some pueblos and historical structures. The structures are primarily archaeological, so they’re not real visible.
This landscape evokes the lives of Puebloan people who once lived there. And here in this slide, is an image of artist Pablita Velarde who came from Santa Clara Pueblo, and she completed a number of paintings of pueblo life for the Park Service.
So again, these same two questions. What are the evocative qualities of this landscape, and how well are they represented in either National Register or other documentation. In this instance I’ll be talking about the cultural landscape inventory (CLI) that’s been completed for Tsankawi. I believe the park is working on a National Register nomination, it may be in draft form. So the CLI includes lots of detailed description of the history and ecology of the landscape. Pre contact and historic features, vegetation patterns, and overall landscape character. And I’ll read you a quote from the CLI “The sense of timelessness and isolation, and the spectacular views from the mesa top and the rest of the unit are integral to the character of the landscape.” And thinking about this, a sense of timelessness and isolation of course refers to current conditions more than historic conditions, when this would have been an active community, today it might feel isolated, I don’t think it would have then.
Another quote, “The most famous cultural feature at Tsankawi is the pre-contact trail system that was worn into the soft volcanic tuff as pueblo people traveled up and down the mesa.” So perhaps here it’s a combination of … and you can see an example of that in, of an incised trail there in the image on this slide. So it seems like it’s a combination of the integrity, the extent physical feature, and the experience that this feature affords. The experience of walking in this area, walking in and on these incised trails that helps evoke, the memory, the history, and also, evoke some emotional responses.
So how well are evocative landscape qualities represented in the CLI? And again, these qualities need to be represented in documents in order to provide justification for preservation. And this example brings up the question of, is it appropriate to, within National Register documentation specifically, to talk about experiences, to talk about emotions. I think, perhaps to get to evocative landscape values that it is appropriate, and that’s been done to some degree in various National Register documentations.
Okay. So to, to sum up, evocative landscape qualities are important to preserve, how can National Register documentation represent and help preserve these qualities? And here is a list of my ideas, and I know that you folks have other thoughts. We can describe overall historic landscape character, we can talk about historic associated features. These have been discussed in a previous webinar here in this series. If a landscape is identified as a site on a National Register form, you can drill down and identify elements within that site using the category of historic associated features, developed by Bob Page, and folks up in the Northeast Region. We can talk about integrity of setting and association, ethnographic significance, overlapping with TCP, traditional cultural place criteria. We can talk about experiential values. The experience of the place, what experiences, what unique or special or characteristic experiences a place affords. Talk about uses, meanings, and memories, oral histories and interviews. And also something that we talked about before in a previous webinar, making revisions to the biotic elements, vegetation and so forth can be listed countable resources.
Barbara Wyatt: I do want to say a word as a, as a reminder that, first, evocative, in case you all are wondering, which bulletin is that in, where is that discussed? You won’t see evocative landscapes in any of our bulletins.
This is, you know, as with so many of our webinars, we’re putting, we’re putting new things on the table for consideration. So evocative landscapes, of course, as you understand from Jill’s presentation, and with the next two, in and of itself is not a reason, there has to be, it has to be evoking something of historical value, and one thing that I really liked about Jill’s presentation was the suggestions she gave us on incorporating these evocative qualities into the description. And I would really like for us to keep that in mind. I will say that, as you, yourself may be experimenting with this kind of property, they of course, like landscapes are nominated as either sites or districts, we all know that, we’ve talked about that several times within our webinars. And, and, so you need to follow the guidance that we have now, but what we’re hoping is that maybe we’ll have some additional guidance as we all get on board with some of these concepts. But Jill’s ideas about enhancing your description to describe the evocative qualities through better landscape descriptions and associated features and so on, I think an excellent way to go and something that is totally acceptable for National Register nominations now and with our current guidance.