Field Institute in Environmental & Borderlands History

2009 NEH Summer Institute
for University and College Teachers

June 14-July 11



General Schedule

Our general summer institute schedule balances classroom seminars with field study tours. The field study tours, guided by scholars and experts, move the classroom into the outdoors and into historic locales beyond the university. Our plan is to engage us all as active partners in the learning process, through our physical immersion in the regional environments as well as through our intellectual discussions of readings, documents and ideas in the field. We intend to model ways to extend the intellectual reach of undergraduate humanities courses.

The immersion experience, on the field study tours in particular, does make for a full schedule. Mindful of the travel demands, we have included optional excursions, so that you may determine your own needs. The preliminary detailed schedule, which includes all readings and recommended texts, is posted on this summer institute website but let me give you a shorter overview here.

Week One
The first week of the Summer Institute is devoted to situating the participants in place, time and approach. Our orientation to the Sonoran Desert environment will occur at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, the world-renown outdoor natural history museum, through seminars and walking tours. We’ll engage the historical context in seminars with both University of Arizona faculty (Oscar Martinez, Katherine Morrissey, Thomas Sheridan) and visiting scholars (Cynthia Radding, Samuel Truett). Dr. Radding (Wandering Peoples: Colonialism, Ethnic Spaces and Ecological Frontiers in Northwestern Mexico) will share her work on native peoples in the Spanish borderlands. Dr. Martinez (Border People: Life and Society in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands), Dr. Truett (Fugitive Landscapes: The Forgotten History of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands), and Dr. Sheridan (Where the Dove Calls) will introduce borderlands and environmental history. We will demonstrate our approach in a daylong field study tour of Spanish colonial missions with the archeologists Barnet Pavao-Zuckerman (UA), Jupiter Martinez (Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Hermosillo, Sonora) and Jesus Garcia (Arizona Sonora Desert Museum). Through seminars in the UA Special Collections, Center for Creative Photography, and Arizona State Museum, we’ll introduce participants to available textual and visual resources from which they will be able to draw for their own research or curriculum projects. And a special seminar on the uses of photographic evidence, with a particular focus on repeat photography led by photographer Mark Klett (ASU) and plant ecologist Raymond Turner (UA), will offer interpretive tools for reading visual evidence of environmental and cultural change in the borderlands.

Week Two
After this introductory week at the University of Arizona, we’ll spend the Institute’s middle two weeks in the field, locating ourselves in three interrelated ecological regions that stretch across the border—the arid valley grasslands with centuries-old ranching cultures; the forested mountain ranges of the Chiricahuas with their legacy of mixed 19th-century land use and 20th-century federally-managed multiple use; and the urban and industrial mining landscapes that link Sonora and Arizona. As we move through space, we’ll also move chronologically through time. In these historically rich locales, we will focus on the ways in which these landscapes changed during the 19th and 20th centuries.

The field study tour begins in southwestern New Mexico at two adjacent ranches, the Armendaris and the Ladder, ideal locations for examining the links between history and ecology in the borderlands. The historical owners of the Armendaris and Ladder ranches managed them well, permitting an illuminating measure of environmental change. Ranch managers Thomas Waddell and Steve Dobrott, wildlife biologists Joe Truett and Harley Shaw, as well as historians Diana Hadley, Marsha Weisiger, and J.C. Mutchler will be our guides as we explore the effects of 19th-century human activities, such as ranching, guano mining, settlement and scientific management. While in residence we will also pay particular attention to the questions raised by the restoration of habitats and species, including prairie dogs, peregrine falcons, Bolson tortoises, Mexican gray wolves, and bison.