Posts tagged ‘cultural landscapes’

In Pursuit of Primary Sources (National History Day Part II)

As a continuation to the National History Day post, we wanted to offer ways to find credible primary sources for any research projects. There is an infinite amount of information available to students today, but it is also infinitely important to know how to search for credible sources. Resources are available both online and in-person if you know where to look.

Collage of Archives of American Gardens primary sources.

The Archives of American Gardens is just one place to look for primary sources related to gardens, parks, and cultural landscapes. Landscape design plans, postcards, and photos can all provide rich primary source material for research.

If your student is looking for something available online these are great starting points:

However, not everything in an institution is available online. If your student has the ability to do so, visiting an archive is a great way to find primary and secondary sources. Local courthouses and city offices hold historical records such as property deeds or census records and registries. Art museums and galleries are also a great source. There may be local colleges or universities in your area with historical collections waiting to be explored. Don’t forget to look for historical societies, churches, and of course libraries which all may have primary sources about your area. All it takes is a phone call or e-mail stating your interest to find out what material is available to you!

-Catherine Bell, Archives of American Gardens intern

October 6, 2014 at 8:30 am Leave a comment

National History Day and the Archives of American Gardens (Part I)

Collage of Archives of American Gardens materials

The Archives of American Gardens contains a variety of materials including advertisements, hand painted glass slides, 35 mm film negatives, and postcards.

During a recent conversation, a parent of a high school student brought up the question of how to find primary sources to use in National History Day projects. That got the Archives of American Gardens staff thinking; maybe we have items that could help students find interesting and exciting ideas for projects. The 2015 theme for NHD is “Leadership and Legacy in History,” and a further description for the theme can be found here: http://www.nhd.org/images/uploads/Theme_2015_5-7.pdf.

NHD encourages participants to develop their understanding of history using both primary and secondary resources, finding new stories beyond what is generally taught in the classroom. While the NHD website offers some great ideas for topics, the staff at AAG have a few of our own to offer. Each of the topics listed are ideas or starting points for an NHD project, and we have included places to find further information and resources beyond AAG collections.

Garden Club of America dedication ceremony of redwoods grove.

Garden Club of America dedication ceremony. The first section of the GCA Grove was purchased in 1931 and formally dedicated in 1934. Photo courtesy of The Garden Club of America. Courtesy of Save the Redwoods League.

Legacy of the Redwoods: How the Garden Club of America saved a Forest:

Milton Hershey’s Legacy: Public Spaces at the Hershey Rose Gardens:

Sargent in the Library at the Arnold Arboretum examining Quercus herbarium specimens.

Sargent in the Library at the Arnold Arboretum examining Quercus herbarium specimens. Photo taken by T.E. Marr in 1904. Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, J. Horace McFarland Collection.

The Leadership and Legacy of Charles Sprague Sargent:

The Leadership and Legacy of Frederic Law Olmsted: (Note: Materials listed are extensive)

Leader in Conservation: The Legacy of J. Horace McFarland:

Other ideas for further research include:

  • The Leadership of the W. Atlee Burpee Company
  • Legacy of Gardening in America
  • Changing the Landscape: the Legacy of Women in Landscape Architecture and Design
  • Public Parks: the Legacy of Public Spaces in American History

Whatever topic your student may choose, we hope these offer some unique opportunities to create an interesting project for National History Day. The Archives of American Gardens staff welcomes any questions regarding these ideas or collection materials and can be reached at aag@si.edu or 202-633-5840.

-Catherine Bell, Archives of American Gardens intern

October 1, 2014 at 7:45 am 1 comment

Reflections on Landscapes, Archives, and History Part I

Back in the warmer days of August, I had the opportunity to attend the Detroit Agriculture Network’s 15th Annual urban garden tour in Detroit, Michigan.  Hundreds of people gathered in the late afternoon at Eastern Market to board buses or take off on bikes to visit gardens and hear from gardeners on the east, west, and central areas of the city. Above all, it was an occasion to hear from passionate individuals and view the city from the ground up.

A garden tour stop at Manistique Community Garden on Detroit’s East Side
Image by Joe Cialdella

Even though my first experience seeing and volunteering with urban gardens in Detroit was in 2004, looking at the gardens in Detroit’s landscape – a compelling assortment of open space, roads, and buildings (many still inhabited and, yes, many long abandoned) – continues to be at once jarring and inspiring; a poignant and thought-provoking place because of the layers of time and meanings collected here.  As garden historian Kenneth Helphand writes,

“When we see an improbable garden, we experience a shock of recognition of the garden’s form and elements, but also a renewed appreciation of the garden’s transformative power to beautify, comfort, and convey meaning despite the incongruity of its surroundings. Gardens are defined by their context, and perhaps the further the context from our expectations, the deeper the meaning the garden holds for us.”[1]

As a historian, the context I look to when I see these gardens is often that of the past. How did social, political, economic, environmental and cultural conditions shape transform these spaces?   The seeming improbability of gardens as a part of post-industrial landscape challenged my expectations, and sparked my interest in learning what deeper meanings, and histories, gardening in Detroit might have.

Through this experience with a place, the landscape itself becomes an inspiration and an archive.  A record of changing tastes, values, style, and use, for example, is captured by looking closely at the location, age, and size of buildings.  Natural features, such as rivers and waterways often mark the original contribution to the archive of a landscape.

Yet in a place like Detroit, where seemingly endless redevelopment and decline are starkly juxtaposed, you cannot help but wonder what is missing from the landscape today.  This can be particularly problematic when digging deeper into the history of such fleeting spaces as small scale community-minded gardens in a constantly changing urban environment.

Old and new features of the landscape meet where the Greening of Detroit’s “Detroit Market Garden” borders an industrial building.
Image by Joe Cialdella

Gone from Detroit’s landscape is the rich tradition of gardening culture that came before the contemporary movement. For example, during the 1890s, Mayor Hazen S. Pingree started a municipally-supported gardening plan to feed unemployed workers (many of whom were Polish and German immigrants).  The Garden Club of Michigan was one of the 12 founding members of the Garden Club of America in 1913.  During the Great Migration, African Americans moving to Detroit used gardens as a means of providing food and improving the appearance and value of their neighborhoods. And in the 1930s, thrift gardens again provided sustenance to many of those left unemployed by the Great Depression.

As the Haupt Fellow at Smithsonian Gardens, I’m in the process of digging up the details of these gardens using more traditional archives to better understand the history of what it means for people to contribute to an urban-industrial landscape by gardening. This can be a difficult task since the spaces themselves are often fleeting and records of them scarce, unlike many of the design plans and photographs of more famous landscapes.  Looking back to the 19th and early 20th centuries, sociological surveys, government reports, meeting minutes, scrapbooks, maps, newspapers, magazines, and photographs are often surprisingly detailed documents that provide us with a way to re-imagine what these types of gardens looked like, their contexts, and how they were used in the past.

Map of “Pingree’s Potato Patches” from an 1894 government report

Together, the actual landscape and the two-dimensional records of experiences long removed from the land lend themselves to a fuller garden history that contributes not only to understanding gardens themselves, but also how gardens can reflect changing social, political, economic, environmental, and cultural contexts that give more people a way to consider the role of gardens and landscapes in their own lives.

The fleeting, seasonal nature of gardens also points to the importance of documenting garden spaces today. While we all hope they will last forever, proactively considering how you can preserve a garden or landscape’s history for your family, community, or organization provides an opportunity for reflection and sharing of information between one another that can often help to create connections and networks of support that will help these spaces exist into the future.  One way of doing this is through creating a collection of photographs, such as those found in Smithsonian GardensArchives of American Gardens.  Look for more on this in my next post.

Tomato Plants and Detroit’s Skyline.
Image by Joe Cialdella

– Joe Cialdella, Haupt Fellow, Smithsonian Gardens

For more information on being a part of preserving garden history or beginning your own research, check out the resources below.  

Take 10 minutes to “tag” an image form the Archives of American Gardens to help make their extensive collections more accessible to the public, researchers, and landscape designers!

These websites offer good tips and instructions for beginning your own archival adventure into the history of a garden or landscape near you:

http://www.williamcronon.net/researching/landscapes.htm

http://envhist.wisc.edu/cool_stuff/landscapetips.shtml

http://www.ultimatehistoryproject.com/early-detection.html


[1] Kenneth Helphand. Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime, 2006, pg. 9.

October 11, 2012 at 2:06 pm 4 comments


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 266 other followers

Visit our Website!

Recent Posts

June 2017
M T W T F S S
« May    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  

%d bloggers like this: