2 Feb

Geographical Review Preview: Geography, Heritage, and Things: Analyzing an Agricultural Landscape in Southern Idaho

By: Bryan D. Orthel

A record clover seed crop from the Clover Tract (1916). Image by Clarence E. Bisbee, undated, courtesy of the Twin Falls Public Library.

What is the main purpose of your study? 
The study links everyday stories about an agricultural landscape with the experience of living in that place.  The combination of history, geography, and everyday experience is valuable for understanding the motivations we have to protect landscapes, the objects in them, and our ways of living.

What are the practical, day to day, implications of your study? 
Our life experiences (everyday stories) motivate us more than big-story ideas about history.  We react to hold on to these everyday experiences.  Our protective reactions create a new heritage that may reflect what we know or require us to rethink the future.

How does your study relate to other work on the subject?
The example of the Clover Tract challenges preservationists and heritage professionals to rethink the ways they approach landscapes.  Geographers know landscapes are dynamic, cultural products.  Preservationists and heritage professionals should embrace this knowledge.

What are two or three interesting findings that come from your study? 
Change can protect. Change is not an existential threat.

Left: Property patterns reflect the PLSS land survey system (grid), the original gravity-based irrigation system (canal and laterals), and sprinkler-based technology (circles), homesteads are represented by dots; Right: A pivot sprinkler system on the Clover Tract (2016). Original graphic and digital photography by author.


What might be some of the theoretical implications of this study? 
The study relies on interdisciplinary ideas from geography, heritage studies, anthropology, and thing theory.  These ideas address different scales of human experience but overlap in how they consider human meanings.


How does your research help us think about Geography? 
The study continues to link geography with fundamental questions about how human actions and values matter.  In the example of the Clover Tract, the stories people share everyday about how to live are embodied in the changing landscape.  We know this.  What do we do with this knowledge?  For heritage professionals, we should recognize what cultural geography reveals about change, value, and thingly meaning.  And, we should adapt policies and regulations to reflect the complexities of these meanings.

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