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Crew excavating eroding house at Walakpa in 2017. Image courtesy of the Walakpa Archaeological Salvage Project.

Libraries Burning

The impact of climate change on archaeological and heritage sites in the Arctic region is devastating. New techniques of research and analysis are providing increasingly rich data about the long history of humans in the environment. Just as the value of these sites is being recognized more fully, the sites themselves are being destroyed by thawing permafrost, rising sea levels, and increasingly violent storms. Nowhere is this being felt more intensely than in the Arctic, which is warming two to three times as fast as the rest of the planet (Hoag 2019).

View of the Mississippi River and the city of Grand Rapids from the Fire Tower at the Forest History Center. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society, Tumblr.

Past Flowing to Present and Future Along the Upper Mississippi

A turn-of-the-last-century logging camp; a modest house on the Mississippi that sparked the dreams of a young boy; an early-statehood-era farm; a flour mill; a fort and its surroundings that have layers of contested meaning; a collection of houses from the pre-statehood era; a railroad magnate’s palatial house. What—if anything—do these things have in common?

The Cannon River riverfront in Northfield, Minnesota. Photographer of Alexius Horatius (CC BY-SA 3.0 US).

Water Unifies Us All

A dominant narrative in media today tells us that American society is full of juxtaposition and conflict: rural v. urban, rich v. poor, black v. white, conservative v. liberal. We might get the impression that we must stick to our own in-group in order to feel safe and heard. And yet, there is an issue central to life as a Minnesotan regardless of how you identify or with whom you spend your time. That issue—clean water— is a necessity for life and good health.

St. Anthony Falls Laboratory on the Minneapolis riverfront in 1942. The landmarks of Minneapolis are evident, as well as SAFL’s intimate relationship with the river. Courtesy of University of Minnesota Archives.

Lab on the River – Snapshots of the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory

The St. Anthony Falls Laboratory (SAFL), which falls under the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota (UMN), is one of several historic buildings along the Minneapolis riverfront. Constructed in 1938 using funds from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), SAFL utilizes the 50-foot elevation drop over the St. Anthony Falls to bring water into the building for use in experiments and research of fluid dynamics…

Landscape view at Whitewater Park. Notice the fields on the hillside. Image courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Fields: The Transformation and Healing of the Whitewater Valley

They say hindsight is 20/20. Farmers of the past didn’t have information about environmentally friendly agricultural techniques. The farming techniques used today to reduce erosion and other negative environmental effects were developed as we learned from agriculturally derived disasters. Situated in the Whitewater River Valley less than 10 miles from the confluence with the Mississippi River, Beaver, Minnesota was one such town that suffered…

First snow at Triple Divide Peak. Image courtesy of Daniel Lombardi.

Where the Water Flows: Understanding Glacier’s Triple Divide Peak

Imagine pouring out a glass of water. Where does the water go?

After soaking your computer or floor, it would eventually flow to join a greater body of water and become part of a larger drainage system. Where I grew up, outside of Milwaukee, my water would join with Lake Michigan. In the Twin Cities, where I went to university, it would flow into the Mississippi River. From Jackson, Wyoming, where I’m writing now, it would combine with the Snake River and flow into the Pacific Ocean. But Glacier National Park, where I worked in the summer of 2017, has a unique little point called Triple Divide Peak.