This presentation is part of the Proceedings of the Maritime Cultural Landscape Symposium, October 14-15, 2015, University of Wisconsin-Madison
James Delgado: The time has come now for some concluding remarks from Ben Ford. Ben Ford is a rather important figure in the field of maritime archeology. Don’t make faces Ben, I can’t really see you but I know you are. And I think Ben’s an important figure because he has in this country along with John Jensen, the two giants really if you will with Maritime Cultural Landscape theory and practice taken us to a different level. Where in the past we really did just talk about shipwrecks, and we argued over that, and applied some theory to it. But forgot the culture that was there and forgot more than just the maritime world of the Europeans being important but indigenous maritime worlds and interactions with the environment and of course where people wrecked between land and sea.
When I first met Ben he was a student at Texas A&M getting his degree there, coming out of a career in cultural resources management. And I was struck by the irony that here’s a fellow who’s brilliantly looking at Maritime Cultural Landscapes and theories in a school that prides itself on documenting every timber off of every ship down to the nail hole, which is important in that procedural way, but I think also is a reminder that as we look in our various areas there are people like Ben and like John who take us to that next level and what it all means in the big scale of things and also at its most intimate on the human scale. Ladies and gentlemen, Ben Ford.
Ben Ford: So that’s going to be hard to follow. So first off I just want to say thank you. I want to thank Barbara and Val and Jim and Jimmy and Brad and Dana. Did I miss anybody that was involved? And Mike Russo. Apologies, Mike. For setting this up. This has been awesome, and I really appreciate just being involved at all in it. And it’s sort of … there’s a caveat to the thank you in that we’ll see how appreciative I am because this is a little daunting to have to then follow up two days of which is basically a master’s course in maritime cultural landscapes and try to say anything general at the end of that. It’s doubling daunting being the dumbest, least wise person in the room, that makes it that much harder.
Because there’s folks here like John Jensen, like Todd … Todd, how do you say your last name? Braje. I was wrong. Who’s stuff I’ve been following for years and who I kind of hoover up anything that they write, and then a bunch of other folks that I’ve heard in the last couple days that I’m going to have to start reading more. And so it’s really, this is kind of a daunting task but I’ll do what I can here.
I’m really excited about all of this. This has been really exciting, this has been really rewarding. What I’m going to try and do is tamp down my excitement and frame these comments in the idea of sort of thinking about how the federal preservation process works, and sort of not get sucked into that was cool, that was cool, that was cool, but sort of what can we do with this and pull some ideas that other people have talked about. And just a little bit to contextualize sort of how I come at this, I’ve been playing with this idea of Maritime Cultural Landscape both on the land and on the water for about a decade. And I came to look at MCLs after a career in cultural resource management. But I was starting an academic program, so I’m kind of bridging that particular divide.
It appealed to me because it was a way to apply the skills that I had learned doing CRM in an academic world. I was an underwater mouth breather, shovel bum, ground pounder type of person, and so this was a way to use those skills but do academic type stuff because it framed it in a way that academics liked. And so I ran across Christopher Westerdahl’s 1992 article like what, twelve, thirteen years after he wrote it, so kind of late to the game. And Christer had been writing in his native language for almost two decades before that or so, or fifteen years before that. So this was a well-developed concept, and I just basically had some timing and latched onto the jargon of it is really what I did.
To be clear, Christopher has moved on. The ’92 article is a management approach. And that also appealed to me, because coming out of a management approach to archeology, so that management aspect of the ’92 article really appealed to me, but if you read Christopher’s more recent stuff he has definitely moved on. So this is an evolving concept which also sort of appealed to me because it was a way to do anthropological underwater archeology and I love ships like a lot of people have talked about, I came out of a program where we measure and record ships. I sort of agree with Dave in that they’re an artifact, but they’re the most complicated artifact that any preindustrial person made, and hence they’re slightly different than a projectile point.
And you could argue that they’re actually a site or a structure or what makes you happy because a lot of people lived on them. So if you look at a submerged prehistoric site or a submerged pre contact site or a submerged first persons site, sorry Bud, old habits die hard, maybe more people were on that ship than were on that site. But regardless, there’s a fetishism with shipwrecks in underwater archeology, and this was a way to kind of break away from that. And so all of this really appealed to me. That’s sort of how I came to do this.
So what I’d like to do in the next couple minutes here is sort of offer a couple things. Talk briefly about the benefits that I see in this approach. Talk about at more length about the problems that I see applying this approach within the federal process that are not insurmountable, but problems, and then sort of end with maybe a couple of suggestions about process and procedure that might be helpful as you move forward here.
So in terms of benefits, this maritime cultural approach supports a whole bunch of different perspectives. You’ve got multiple cultures perspectives can be locked into this. You’ve got multiple theoretical perspectives can be put into this, so phenomenology, practice theory, Marxist theory, cultural ecology, whatever makes you happy you can do it within this framework, and I think importantly you can bring in a management perspective as well.
And so it’s a broad church so it’s got a lot of parts we can pull in here. And to be honest I think the fact that we can bring a lot of different publics in a lot of different scholars in is really helpful because the scholarship we do today is grounded in the beliefs of today, what people want today, how people see the environment today. And so there’s a grounding in today that’s important, but there’s also the things that we study the things that we choose to study influences what people in the future see as important. And so there’s this recursive relationship between the public and academics, the public and scholars, that is grounded in today but hopefully building towards the future. And so I think that’s key here. The theoretical perspectives, we’ve talked a lot about theory in the last couple days, is helpful because that frames those questions. Theory is what takes things from being cool old stuff to being something people care about. That’s how you frame the argument, how you tell the story, what the context is what makes it actually interesting and worthwhile story.
So I think we need all these different approaches coming in and I think that’s part of what makes this a strong thing. What also makes it a strong … to me at least makes it a strong approach, is that space is what we all share. Cultures come and go, people come and go, but the space is there. The space is always there, the place is always there. And so I may see it one way, somebody else may see it differently but we’re seeing the same physical place. And I think that gives us a little bit of strength, it binds us all together, it gives us some commonality that we can build on. Some commonality that gives us multiple constituencies. Because if you’re doing preservation, building constituencies is important. The more people who care about something, the easier it is to argue to preserve it. The more people who have your back when it’s time to preserve something, and so we can bring more people in and if we all share this one thing I think that is a strength.
And the place itself has these characteristics. And those characteristics help link us today with our forbearers. They sat there and they looked at the ice and saw the ice come in, they saw the clouds, they had the waves, they heard the waves, they experienced that place in very much the same way that we can experience, at least the physical components were all there. So I think there’s a strong way to link today and the past together with a place based, landscape based approach.
And there’s also a physicality to this. The physicality is what makes archeology somewhat different than history. The fact that I can the student an artifact and say, “This is ten thousand years old,” and they go, “Woah.” And if I can go to a place and say, “This place has been important for fifteen thousand years,” there’s something to be said for that. And so the physicality of it, the fact that there’s a physical linkage between then and now and then moving into the future, I think all really argue for this approach.
I also like it because I’m from Ohio. I’m a working class kid from a landlocked state. I’m a landman. That’s where I grew up. My people don’t necessarily trust the water. And so this approach lets us draw a landsman in. It moves beyond swimmers and divers and boaters and kayakers because parts of the maritime culture do go up on land or pushes the water back away from land. So this is a way to pull in a much larger population. It is important to view the landscape from the water, that’s an important perspective to have, but we can also pull in lands people. So again, it lets us build this larger constituency, and I think again building that constituency is really important to any sort of preservation.
And finally along those lines, the maritime cultural landscape approach allows us to build linkages to the built environment, to the buildings peoples, through archeology, through traditional cultural places or properties, and I think importantly to ecology. Ecology is the idea that humans are an animal and we’re operating in the environment, we affect the environment like any other animal does. So ecology lets us bring in environmental protection, and people like old stuff. But they really like having clean water, and livable environments. So I think this is again, because it’s place based, because it ties into human environment interaction, this sort of approach allows us to build an ever larger constituency.
And ultimately I take a very pragmatic approach to this. I don’t really care why you agree with me, I just want you to agree with me. So if we all are agreeing that this is important, I don’t really give a shit why you think it’s important, I just want to take care of it. So that’s important here, because basically water links the world. And if you’re going to do from a cultural perspective it’s through all kinds of transportation. So up until the modern era, that’s how we got around was mostly by water. But more importantly, it’s key to life. It’s a resource that’s important to everybody. And so how we deal with water, how we protect water, I think is a universal. So again, we can build this large constituency to then argue for preservation. And we want to preserve old stuff, but that’s one form of preservation.
Sort of along the ideas here of one more reason why this is helpful is that it allows for broader interpretation. It allows for synthesis. It allows us to look across time, across space to ask larger questions. Basically this whole big data thing, like NSF loves big data, everybody talks about big data these days, this is big data. We’re looking big areas, long periods of time, and through space and time basically, round dimensions there.
It’s a big set of data to pool from and then we can make some really interesting comparisons and synthesis and actually maybe ask some questions that matter, and that’s really why I read your stuff, Todd, because you talk about stuff that matters and I think that’s helpful. And so just to sort of wrap this up here, or at least the positive side and then I’ll switch to the hard part. It’s a powerful tool. It’s got a broad church. It’s a good way to look at the world but I don’t think it’s unproblematic within the national register with the right places framework.
So I see a couple of problems. I see boundaries, because that came up a couple times as a problem. And Hans raised the question of, “When does it stop being maritime?” And to me that’s relatively easy. This is a little bit trite, but Homer answers this. Homer says it better than I did, because he’s Homer. But you take a paddle and walk inland, and when it stops being a paddle and becomes a threshing paddle, or take an oar and walk inland and the oar becomes a threshing paddle, it stops being maritime somewhere around there where the use of it changes, the perception of it changes. That’s that line. So to me that’s relatively straight forward.
The issue of scale and boundaries though I find less straightforward. The modern world’s connected. We saw with Matt Sanger’s talk earlier that the ancient world is connected and pretty largely connected, and then when you add in European invasion and expansion, then everything is connected starting in the 1600s. And so you could draw a maritime landscape that’s global. And there’s some use in that, but I think we need to draw the line somewhere smaller than that. If we draw it too small, we lose the power of landscape, we lose the power to connect. But if we draw it too big, I’m afraid that we’re going to tip people’s tenuous meter … there’s a tenuous threshold for folks. I call it the bullshit meter. And we’re going to peg that over if we make this too big because it becomes cold to people. It becomes too much of a grab to folks, I’m afraid. This is my concern, I don’t know if this is true or not but this is my concern.
We need to find somewhere sort of in between, and that I don’t have a good answer for, but I think settling on some idea of how to define scale and boundary is going to be important. I think more troubling to me in terms of boundaries though is that a lot of times Maritime Cultural Landscapes involve things that move. They’re fluid in the most literal sense. So the water comes through. That’s obvious. But sediments come through so there’s shore drift and all that kind of stuff happening which can change the landscape. The critters come through. So animals, fish, and birds which might be very much part of that landscape, part of why it’s important. They transit through here, which is going to be an issue from a management perspective because if that’s an important part of that landscape and we try to draw a boundary around it, we can’t manage the critters because they’re outside of the boundary. So I think that becomes … there’s some issues there that we’re going to have to probably grapple with.
I’m also afraid there may be some jurisdictional issues in that maritime landscapes don’t have to cross the waterline but a lot of them might, which means that they’re possibly going to move from private to state to federal jurisdictions. And if everybody can play nice, that’s awesome. But in my experience, that doesn’t always work. And so I have some concerns that the nature of crossing the waterline and what that does in terms of jurisdiction and ownership might cause some issues that we’re again going to have to grapple with. Not insurmountable, but something I worry about.
Just sort of more broadly, I like the Maritime Cultural Landscape approach because it breaks down boundaries. It gets rid of that prehistoric historic line. Like you said, it’s insulting and kind of pointless because there’s people before and there’s people after, and they all have different ways of keeping track of history. So we can get rid of that, and we can just track use of that landscape right on through. It’s a good way to dissolve political boundaries, because people in the past transited state lines by water and didn’t really care. Where I work they went back and forth across the international line like it didn’t matter, because it didn’t matter really. We can dissolve a lot of boundaries. You can dissolve the waterline boundary because the waterline has moved and there’s resources on both sides that were created by the same people. If you’re a maritime person you left stuff in the water, left stuff on land, same person dropped it. So we can dissolve a lot of boundaries with this, but the National Register for these places needs boundaries. I think just in general bounding is going to be something we’re going to have to figure out how to deal with.
The other thing that I think I want to point out is most of the talks in the last couple days focused on what I would consider one facet of a larger maritime culture landscape. So we talked about first peoples sites that are submerged or we talked about a group of shipwrecks. We talked about a bunch of canoes. We talked about a lot of different stuff, but to me those are all part of a Maritime Cultural Landscape. The landscape would be the space and the human use of that space through time.
And what that’s going to result in is multiple property types. We’re not going to be able to define it as one property type. We’re going to have to work across a huge swath of things, because it could be first peoples sites that are underwater and on land in addition to shipwrecks, in addition to port features and shoreline features, in addition to how people perceive the surface of the water, in addition to where I believe that Paul Bunyan drug his toe. Because I’m from the Midwest, so he’s our culture hero. But all of that is valid, all of that is part of this story and that’s a lot of different types of resources that we’re going to have to sort of deal with.
And I think there’s a strength there because they’re all linked by this tie to the place and they link a bunch of different people together, so it’s a strong thing, but it also means that we’re going to have to deal with archeological sites and districts and buildings and structures and prehistorically older properties and a lot of other stuff that’s all going to overlap. And so I think in terms of managing that, that’s going to take a little bit of dealing with. And there’s going to be a lot of different types of integrity there.
And I would argue that actually we should think about landscapes from the archeological integrity approach. It’s not going to look like it did when the person who lived there lived there, because landscapes change. Landscapes are part nature, nature by its very nature changes. Trees grow back. Things come and go, things erode in the water sense. There’s a shift there. And people keep coming back to that same place. And that’s what makes it an interesting landscape is that recurring use of it, but there’s this idea that landscape is the unwitting biography which I think is a nice way to describe it, but the other way I think about that is that biography has been erased and rewritten, erased and rewritten many, many times. It’s going to be different.
Or to put this in archeological terms, site formation processes are constantly at work on a landscape, both cultural and natural site formation processes. For my conceptual friends, we’re talking about C transforms and N transforms. And so that’s going to be happening and so I think the archeological level of integrity is what we should be looking at in terms of thinking about integrity for these things. Again, just my opinion.
So in dealing with this, I have a couple of suggestions and then I’ll quit. We shouldn’t get wrapped up in the jargon. If there’s an existing approach we should use it. So I think Ms. Blanco made this point that if districts work for you, then use districts. If you can call it a site, call it a site. If it’s a traditional culture property, call it that. Work within the existing form, because I think that will make life easier.
Also, I don’t think we should get hung up on the idea of maritime cultural landscape as a term. Personally, cultural landscape to me is a little bit redundant. Landscapes are cultural. If there’s no people involved, no culture involved that’s the environment. It’s doing fine without us basically. So I think we could call it, now we’re down to maritime, and maritime to me is a modifier of landscape. And so I think we could talk about a lot of sufficient terms of a landscape. And I understand that it’s troubling to some folks, especially those of us who live and work on the water, the idea that land or sort of woman versus man. That sort of by modifying it with the term you give more power to one side of it. So if we want to call them scapes, if that makes people happy, that’s fine.
I actually sort of like the cultural landscape approach terminology, the CLA, in part because it’s an active term. It talks about an approach. And so I think there’s some value in that. And that’s something I’m curving from Brad’s paper that was suggested reading. He talks about the CLA approach. And so I think that’s a good … I don’t think we should get hung up on the terminology basically is what I’m driving at.
The caveat there though is the maritime culture landscape idea might still be useful though. So use something that already exists, don’t get hung up on the language. But if there are places that are really important, and places that cut across a lot of the existing ways that we deal with culture resources for their TCPs and their archeological sites and their districts and it’s all sort of bedded together, then maybe this term becomes useful in that sense. And so I think there’s something along those lines.
We often think about our goals. If our goal is interpretation and education, then I think there’s existing things to work with. There’s the heritage areas, these big swaths of the continent that we use for education interpretation. The marine sanctuaries are awesome for this. National Parks do this. And so if that’s our goal then I think we should run with that.
If our goal is more broad based management and preservation, then we’re kind of back to the National Register of Historic Places because that’s our main tool for this, and that’s going to then require us to think about issues of integrity, boundaries and significance. And like I said, the boundaries trouble me, the integrity I think should be archeological. Significance I’m not too worries about. I think we can make a pretty strong argument for a lot of things under (a) or (d) and so I think that that’s not so bad.
And then the last thing I’d end with is just an idea about procedure. And I was thrilled to hear Ole talk about NEEPA. I was actually surprised we didn’t hear about NEEPA earlier, because to me NEEPA’s one way to go about this. And NEEPA doesn’t really provide protection, but at least it’s a mindset in terms of humans in the environment. The environment is important. Both the air you breathe and the things that feed your soul, that’s all environment. And so I think that’s one way to think about this. And I like NEEPA because NEEPA talks about consultations. Part of the scoping process, and like really consultation, like discussions about equal type consultation. So I think NEEPA is one way to sort of conceive of this if we’re moving forward with this.
I think we should also use the existing laws that are out there and formats that are out there so like when John Jensen was talking about they’re using the rural landscape approach, I think that’s one way to sort of conceive of this. Breenan, your idea with that sort of the matrix approach. Susan Dolan’s landscape characterization. All that stuff is existing. I think that we should draw on that.
And then last thing I’ll add is the English heritage has this idea of what they call characterization. And I really think characterization is not a bad way to think about landscapes because landscapes like I said, they’re going to change. What characterization does, what their approach is, is they go in and it’s designed for large areas. And you determine through consultation and through study, what are the characters of that place. What is absolutely critical and should not change? What is a character of it that’s fluid and should be allowed to change, and what do we not worry about too much? And this is a way to think about landscapes and preserving these places and preserving what matters about them. And it keeps them vibrant because it allows them to change. It doesn’t ossify them. It doesn’t lock them in, it doesn’t make them a museum piece. It lets them breathe and lets them continue to be a landscape. But it also allows us to manage what’s important.
So from a maritime perspective, like fishing. If traditional fishing or traditional people using it for fishing is important, then we keep that as a use of it, but they’re allowed to fish it however they want. As long as they continue to use it because their use of fishing has changed over time. For us to lock it at now or to try and push it back doesn’t make sense. So we look at the character of the thing. What sort of helps define it and then we try to preserve that which defines it without locking it in. I think this makes it easier to manage, there’s less to manage, and it makes an easier sell to people. Because you’re not trying to tell them that they can’t do things. You’re telling them keep doing what you’re doing, we like that. And so I think it’s a way to make management easier, and this is a little bit outside of how we do things in the U.S. but I think it’s a model to at least think about.