#EnvHist Worth Reading: October 2014

Harold Fisk's maps of the alluvial history of the Mississippi River, 1944. Source: US Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering Geology & Geophysics Branch.

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Every month we carefully track the most popular and significant environmental history articles, videos, audio, and other items making their way through the online environmental history (#envhist) community. Also check out the second installment of our monthly #EnvHist Worth Reading videos above. Here are our choices for items most worth reading from October 2014.

1. Harold Fisk’s Incredible Maps Track the Ghosts of the Mississippi

Harold Fisk was a cartographer who was commissioned by US Army Corp of Engineers in 1944 to conduct a “Geological Investigation of the Alluvial Valley of the Lower Mississippi River.” Using geological evidence, Fisk mapped the past paths of the Mississippi River and the result is visually stunning. Kyle Hill, writing for Nerdist, fittingly states that the “maps are an incredible visualization of a river.”

2. Using Digital Techniques to Broaden Participatory Approaches in Environmental History: The Snow Scenes Exhibition

Another visually based-selection: in the latest installment of Environmental History’s Field Notes, Alexander Hall looks at the photographs of Joseph Hardman, which were taken from the 1930s to 1950s in Cumbria. He writes that “Hardman’s photographs present a great resource for environmental historians in their attempts to narrate cultural and landscape histories that have often left few textual records.” As part of the snow scenes project, Hall found 500 photos that depicted winter conditions. In the post, he shows how the merging of these historical photographs with contemporary photographs of the landscapes help to illustrate change over time.

3. “Slow Awakening: Ecology’s Role in Shaping Forest Fire Policy”

Demonstrating the close relationship between environmental history and the history of science, retired US Forest Service Research Forester, Stephen Arno, wrote  a piece this month for the Forest History Society’s blog, Peeling Back the BarkArno show why fire management practices, which replaced fire suppression methods in the 1970s, have been difficult to implement. He argues that “to understand why fire management is impeded and perhaps gain insight for advancing its application we need to look at the history of fire policy in tandem with the development of the science of disturbance ecology.” Arno’s piece effectively illustrates the way in which environmental history can be used to inform current policy.

4. Reflections on Extraction 1: Mining the Invisible

Edge Effects, the new blog of the Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, made its debut in October. One of the first pieces dealt with the CHE’s trip to northern Wisconsin in pursuit of “landscapes of extraction” that could tell stories of how the land and people have been shaped by mining. The post is divided into three sections and serves as a good companion piece to the work of the Abandoned Mines project at Memorial University, led by John Sandlos and Arn Keeling.

5. Alfred W. Crosby on the Columbian Exchange

The last selection for this month is a throwback to an environmental history classic, Alfred W. Crosby’s Columbian Exchange. Megan Gambino, at Smithsonian.com, interviews Crosby about the term, ‘Columbian exchange’ and the book by the same name. Crosby states that the Columbian exchange is not a difficult concept, but it did not work itself into the history discipline until the 1970s because historians were thinking politically and ideologically, rather than ecologically. In the interview, Crosby answers questions about his research process, how the book was originally perceived, and the specific species/diseases that were involved in the exchange.

Remember to follow #envhist hashtag and NiCHE (@NiCHE_Canada) on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ to keep up with the latest environmental history content.

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