America's Mining Heritage
Culural Resource Mangement, Vol. 21, Issue No. 7 (1998)
Published by the US Department of the Interior, National Park Service.
Although this themed issue of Cultural Resource Management covers the
vestiges of mining across the northern half of the American continent, from
Mexico to Canada and the Alaskan north, it addresses many problems which
will be familiar to mining historians on this side of the Atlantic.
In his introductory paper Robet Spude emphasises the diverse nature of
American mining heritage, and that is evident in the content of this issue,
but points out that there is more to mining history than the physical
presence of mines and mills. He highlights the need to examine 'the great
cultural diversity, and the resulting social and political fabric' of
mining. Mining history, he says, needs new direction - 'There is a need for
new points of view and historical methodologies.'
This man is speaking a language that I can understand!
The papers presented in this issue are a catalogue of successes in
conserving, protecting and managing mining hertitage over the last ten
years. I am particularly impressed by the work done in preserving the
Mayflower Mill at Silverton, Colorado. Perhaps a project of this scale -
retaining a complete mid 20th century flotation mill, whilst fulfilling the
statutory requirements for contaminated land reclamation - are something we
in the UK can only dream of but it shows that, even in the most litigatious
of countries, the determined efforts of local groups can challenge the
perceived role of public protection agencies.
Whilst the vast areas and public control of National Parks in the US might
suggest to us an ideal opportunity for the preservation of mining landscapes
they do bring problems of their own. Free public access to wilderness areas
presents a threat of litigation over accidents involving open mine
entrances, the remedy for which is generally total closure, something which,
thank goodness, has not yet become standard practice in this country. The
problems of identifying and conserving mine sites in the vast wilderness
areas of Alaska are dealt with in Logan Hovis's paper - Finding Them Was the
Easy Part - a title which hints at the on-going task of the mining
historian in what is still an active prospecting field.
Other problems encountered are more familar to the European mining
historian. We can appreciate the work of Brick, Thorson and Poirer in
mapping the un-documented Jinny Hill Mines in Connecticut; and the
identification and proper handling of mine resident bat populations is a
familiar, sometimes sensitive, subject; as is the interpretation of museum
sites like Newgate Prison and Copper Mine, Connecticut.
The closing paper by Homer Milford, on the threats to American mining
heritage, raises the point that the accelerating loss of mining sites is
'not because of the gradual effects of wind, weather and vandals. but
primarily due to well-intended government programs, professional
mining-orientated artifact collectors, and new open pit mines.' Whilst we
might regard the collectors as vandals, and in the Irish Republic they would
probably be regarded as criminals, it is the similarity between government
programmes in the US and those which are gathering momentum here which
catches my attention. Milford, as a co-ordinator for one of the US
programmes, is well placed to put this common problem in perspective.
America's Mining Heritage is useful reading for those keen to compare
progress in mining history management on the other side of the Atlantic with
experiences at home. The electronic version is accessible on the web at URL
<http://www.cr.nps.gov/crm> Go to the Index of Past Issues - Vol. 21, No. 7
- for the contents list, but you will need Adobe Acrobat to read the text.
Peter Claughton, Blaenpant Morfil, Rosebush, Clynderwen,
Pembrokeshire, Wales SA66 7RE.
Tel. 01437 532578; Fax. 01437 532921; Mobile 0831 427599
University of Exeter, Dept. of History
E-mail: [log in to unmask]
Co-owner - mining-history e-mail discussion list.
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Mining History Pages - http://www.exeter.ac.uk/~pfclaugh/mhinf/