Mapping Nature Across the Americas: Schedule

Participants in the five-week institute will follow a program of lectures, seminars, workshops, and readings of recent scholarship from multiple disciplines, and will have the opportunity to work directly with Newberry materials. Most weekday mornings during the institute will be devoted to a combination of lectures and seminar discussions of readings and images led by guest faculty or the co-directors. Participants will have the opportunity to meet and discuss their interests with faculty during informal brown bag lunches and early afternoon office hours. These sessions at the Newberry will be complemented by field trips to the Illinois and Michigan Canal, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and Chicago suburban and planned communities to contemplate how maps have reflected and contributed to the transformation of these Midwestern landscapes. On most afternoons participants will be free to pursue their own research in the Newberry’s extensive collections.

Lecture and Seminar Sessions

On most mornings, institute participants will attend three-hour sessions led by the co-directors or invited faculty. The first half of these sessions usually will be in lecture format, followed, after a break, by seminars discussing the lecture content and assigned readings. Session leaders may select for viewing a small number of items from Newberry collection related to the morning’s topic, drawing in particular on the library’s extraordinary collection of maps and sources related to the history and culture of travel.

Participants will meet during the first week with the co-directors to identify and develop their research interests and during the subsequent weeks will confer with other faculty during informal brown bag lunches and early afternoon office hours. There will be opportunities as well to meet informally with other Newberry curators, archivists, librarians, and visiting scholars to enhance the use of the collection and develop their program of research.

Field Trips

The history and landscape of the Chicago region provides an ideal context for extending the insights of the institute beyond the seminar room and library stacks into a rich physical and social environment. Human settlement and development involve fundamental reorganizations in any region’s ecosystems. Like historical maps, onsite explorations help uncover long-term changes and underlying ecological processes that might otherwise remain unappreciated. Accordingly, we will organize three field trips led by notable historians and geographers as an integral part of the institute’s academic program.

The first trip will explore the natural basis for and human history of mapping along the Illinois and Michigan Canal. Essential to the early settlement of Chicago, the Illinois and Michigan Canal linked two continental drainage basins and the nation’s agricultural and industrial sectors, bringing the products of both into national commerce. (Conzen and Brosnan, 2000) The trip will be led by Dr. Michael Conzen, a distinguished historical geographer of the United States who was instrumental in the creation of the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor.

The second trip explores the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Henry Chandler Cowles (1869-1939), a botanist who pioneered dynamic ecology, studied vegetation development on these sand dunes to develop the theory of ecological succession, or the changes in the species structure of ecological communities. Cowles helped to preserve this ecological laboratory even as urban and industrial development increasingly encroached on the landscape. (Worster, 1994) This field trip will be led by Dr. Brosnan in conjunction with National Park Service personnel.

A third field trip considers the environmental history of suburban growth in metropolitan Chicago and allows participants to contemplate how maps have reflected and contributed to the transformation of these Midwestern landscapes. Chicago’s suburbs include one of the earliest planned communities, captured in the Riverside Landscape Architecture District, and more recent incarnations that filled wetlands, leveled hills, and eliminated open spaces. (Rome) This field trip will be led by Dr. Ann Keating, a historian specializing in the history of Chicago and its suburbs.

Individual Projects

Summer programs at the Newberry offer visiting teachers and scholars superb opportunities to renew and develop scholarly interests and teaching skills at a premier research library. Each institute participant’s pursuit of their own project utilizing the Newberry’s extensive humanities collections is an essential part of this experience. These projects may be designed to develop new teaching materials or courses, promote the participant’s growth as a scholar and researcher, or both. Suitable projects include new course syllabi or classroom assignments; teaching resources such as online exhibits, web pages, or reading materials; new lectures or sets of lectures; research contributing to new scholarly publications; and annotated bibliographies. For example, an art historian teaching a modern art course might develop a digital course packet incorporating examples of illustrations from tourist maps and brochures, analyzing their use of visual tropes and allegories in the representation of nature. A social historian might pursue research that will generate a journal article exploring how the representations of climate, soils, and natural resources in maps, views, and texts published in guidebooks might have influenced nineteenth-century migrants in the United States. A specialist in Spanish literature might develop an upper-level seminar on the indigenous concepts of space, history, and environment in the maps and literature of New Spain. These research projects will be regarded as works in progress. No specific outcome is required at the end of the institute; however, each participant will present a progress report during the final three days of the institute. Participants who wish to do so will be able to publish written reports of their work in the Smith Center’s newsletter and/or web pages.

We will schedule counseling sessions with each participant during the first three days of the program, and one or both of us will be available for regular office hours each afternoon thereafter. Participants will be encouraged to discuss progress on their projects with the entire group during the third week of the institute, and we will devote the final three days of the institute to more formal progress reports.

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