An academic weblog exploring the interpretation of the Lewis and Clark expedition and bicentennial in museums, historic sites, interpretive centers, and popular media.

Friday, July 17, 2009

End of the Trail

I have decided not to post any new entries to Lewis and Clark Trail Watch. I thank everyone who followed this weblog through the L&C bicentennial years and who have communicated with me about the various topics covered. I have received emails from all over the country and beyond, as recently as a week ago.

I will keep Trail Watch available for the time being. Thank you so much for reading!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Coming Attractions

Dear Readers,

I know it looks like I fell off the face of the earth, but I plan to resume posting to Trail Watch later in the spring and over the summer.

In the meantime, I received an email pertaining to a blog by ecologist and environmental writer Daniel Botkin, the author of (among many other works) Passage of Discovery: A Guide to the Missouri River of Lewis and Clark (1999). He has decided to serialize this book on his website, posting one chapter per week or so. There are 40 chapters, so that ought to keep readers busy for a while!

Here's the link to Botkin's project:

Dr. Botkin is described by his blog manager (who contacted me) as "a well known ecologist, who writes about nature, ecology, the environment, and people's connection with the environment, including some of the big issues, like energy policy and endangered species." I commend Daniel Botkin for freely sharing so many of his works and ideas with the public via his weblog.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Jefferson City News and Events, Part I

I've accumulated several email correspondents over the years who have discovered this weblog and sent me photos and news related to Lewis and Clark events and interpretative facilities or exhibitions. One such individual is Bill Stine of Jefferson City, Missouri, who recently shared with me the information presented here and in the next post.

I wrote about a previous visit to Jefferson City in May of 2005, with a separate post on some of the other Missouri River towns in the central part of the state. At that time, there were plans to further develop what came to be called the Lewis and Clark Trailhead Plaza on the Capitol grounds, which would eventually include a new bronze statue and other features. Well, the day is fast approaching for the dedication of the new plaza: the festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 4, 2008, for those who are in the area and want to attend.

Jeff City aerial view
Jefferson City and the Missouri River from the air, looking northwest. The round white building on the left edge of the picture is the hotel where I stayed during my visit. [Photo provided by Bill Stine.]

Here are a couple excerpts from an announcement about the dedication (also provided by Bill):

Cross Jefferson Street on East Capitol Avenue to view up close the new Lewis & Clark Monument Trailhead Plaza. Heroic size bronze figures in a native stone and waterfall setting look out over the plaza to the Jefferson Landing and the Missouri River. Conceived by mid-Missouri sculptor Sabra Tull Meyer and funded by private commissions and contributions that also included Missouri school children’s donations --it remembers the heroes of the Corps of Discovery, and the part Missourians played in the Lewis & Clark bicentennial across America. Public transportation enhancement funds and city matching funds were used for the trailhead plaza setting.
Note in particular Lewis’s dog Seaman and the lesser known members of Lewis & Clark’s team who traveled with them in their Captain’s Mess. Also note the waterfalls and trailhead plaza design of internationally renowned landscape architect Austin Tao Associates of St. Louis. The plaza functions as a cyclists and hikers trailhead to eventually connect to the Katy Trail State Park Trail via a pedestrian bridge across the Missouri River. Check it out at dusk as the plaza and monument are bathed in light after dark. The plaza will be dedicated on June 4, 2008, exactly two hundred and four years after Lewis & Clark first traveled past the future site of Jefferson City.

The new Lewis and Clark Trailhead Plaza is located next to the Capitol, at the corner of Jefferson Street and Capitol Avenue. Surrounded by large limestone rocks, the site includes two waterfalls, accent lighting, and bronze figures of Lewis, Clark, George Drouillard, York and a Newfoundland dog named Seaman. The trailhead will connect the Capitol complex with the Katy Trail and the greenway trail network. The dedication begins in the Capitol rotunda and wraps up with the unveiling of the monument at the Trailhead. Contact the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau for details.

From the website of the sculptor, here is a picture of a smaller version of the new bronze statuary:

L&C sculpture

The five figures left to right are York, Lewis, Seaman, Clark, and George Drouillard. As far as anyone can tell, this is the only sculptural representation of Drouillard. Mr. Stine asked me if I knew of any other statues or images of him along the trail, and I do not, so that makes this bronze especially interesting.

In a couple days, I will provide some additional information about this new L&C interpretive site, including a special appearance at the dedication by "Thomas Jefferson."

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Discovering Lewis and Clark in Unexpected Places

Okay, I guess a six-month hiatus is enough! Truly, I did not realize it had been this long since I've posted here.

I recently rented the movie Night at the Museum because I've become interested in the image of "the museum" in popular culture. I'm teaching a course on tourism and museums this term and just finished a weekend course on visual culture and museums, so I've got museum stuff on my mind.

In looking for possible documentaries about museums to use in class, I found that since the 1930s, there have been numerous Hollywood movies taking place in museums, most of them featuring a murder! It reminds me of the several murder mystery and crime novels that also take place in museums, for example, Murder in the Smithsonian by Margaret Truman. Museums are obviously creepy, dangerous places.

Night at the Museum continues this theme of the museum as a scary place, with dead things and people weirdly coming to life when no one is around. No one dies or is murdered and it's primarily a comedy, so the tone is lighter than that of its predecessors. Ben Stiller plays Larry, a character who gets a job as the night watchman in a natural history museum in New York and ends up coping with stuffed animals coming to life, Neandertals and Attila the Hun running around the place and threatening to escape, a friendly
T. rex skeleton who wants to play fetch with one of its rib bones, and tiny living cowboys, Roman soldiers, and Mayan warriors with blowguns who emerge from miniature dioramas.

But to my amazement (since it takes place in New York), the undead characters include Lewis and Clark and Sacagawea, who by day are figures in a glassed-in exhibit. Lewis and Clark spend the whole time arguing with each other over a map or something, but Sacagawea steps down from the diorama and interacts with Larry and Teddy Roosevelt, played by Robin Williams, who looks just like him.

Lewis and Clark
Lewis and Clark arguing and pointing on the other side of the glass. I took these photos from my television, so I hope no one sues me.

Sacagawea approaches Larry soon after coming to life at night. The Theodore Roosevelt character, it turns out, carries a torch for her and watches her wistfully every night through his binoculars.

A daytime docent in the museum turns out to be writing her dissertation on Sacagawea. There is one scene where she tells Larry all about how significant Sacagawea was for the Lewis and Clark expedition, how she guided them through the wilderness, that sort of thing. At the end of the movie, she is thrilled to meet Sac in person and ask her all the questions she thought she'd never find answers for.

Teddy Roosevelt
Robin Williams as Teddy Roosevelt. At one point, Larry asks for his help with something but is told, "I'm not really Teddy Roosevelt. I'm just made of wax."

All in all, it's a pretty fun film--and Robin Williams as TR is great--but I sure didn't expect to discover Lewis and Clark when I popped in the DVD and hit "play."

[Photos from the film Night at the Museum.]

Sunday, October 21, 2007

An Unlikely Source of Inspiration

One of the things I most want to do about Lewis and Clark interpretation is examine the themes and meanings of all the amazing public commemorative art--the statues, murals, and billboards, as well as the art and music (and dance) used in museums, roadside interpretive signs, and reenactments.

The problem is that I have no training as an art historian or any other kind of analyst of the arts (except for a smidgeon of experience teaching about the arts in my anthropology classes), and so must learn as I go. Thus, I was delighted to find this little book on Civil War commemorative art by Thomas J. Brown (2004). Its concepts and ideas are perfectly transferable to examining how the arts are used to commemorate any historical event.

T. Brown's book
A very helpful book by Professor Brown, historian at the University of South Carolina.

Most if not all the books and exhibits I've seen about "Lewis and Clark art" feature oil paintings or watercolors of scenes from the expedition or portraits of individual members, often by a single artist. These books and exhibits demonstrate a very limited and, let's face it, snooty definition of art, excluding murals, quilts, children's drawings, lamp post banners, events posters, decorative architectural features, any manner of sign, even "fine art" statuary, not to mention music and the performing arts. I, by contrast, want to look at these things through the anthropologist's inclusive eye.

One other thing the author does that gives me all sorts of ideas is include speeches, newspaper articles, and commentary related to the various public statues and so forth. Some of these are remarks by historical figures made at the unveiling of these works. Fascinating! It's especially interesting to see why some people criticize certain pieces, for example, a statue of Abraham Lincoln installed in London that makes him look overly awkward and disheveled, or a statue that supposedly commemorates the end of slavery by showing an abject black man kneeling at and almost kissing Lincoln's feet.

Kansas City mural
What might we say about the images and themes in this colorful Kansas City mural?

So now I will be looking for textual commentary that accompanies the works I have photographed or will soon visit. Thomas Brown's book has given me a wealth of new ideas and I am excited about going in this new direction.

[Photo of KC mural by K. Dahl, copyright 2005.]