As of this issue, Open Rivers: Rethinking Water, Place & Community has officially been in production for three years. Over the past year, we have continued to reach new readers, include work from new writers, and expand community and campus conversations about the myriad ways water is implicated in shaping social and material landscapes.
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As the water quality coordinator for the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA) for nine years, I organized and hosted the Mississippi River Forum. A monthly informational and networking series, the River Forum was one of my more visible tasks. A fundamental organizing principle of this ongoing series was to bring together a disciplinarily diverse group of water resource practitioners and decision-makers for conversations with people beyond their typical working relationships.
While there are many ways of approaching community-engaged research, the way that research projects are set up rarely provides the time and resources to create a research deliverable for community partners. This needs to change. Creating research products for academia and partners advances both science and the conservation work of communities.
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 bones that lie below the ruins of a medieval fortress in Dmanisi, Georgia, tell a story about the exodus of early humans from Africa almost two million years ago. The remains of five early humans, known as Homo erectus, have been found at Dmanisi. This 1.78 million-year-old World Heritage site is located in the country of Georgia on a promontory above where the Masavera and Pinasauri Rivers converge.
The title of the 1976 novella by Norman Maclean, A River Runs through It, is also an apt description of the career of Minnesota archaeologist Douglas A. Birk, who passed away unexpectedly in March 2017. Actually, several rivers run through his remarkable and pioneering career, which spanned nearly 50 years. Birk was among the first historical archaeologists to conduct underwater investigations of sites relating to the North American fur trade along the “voyageur’s highway,” the chain of rivers, lakes, and overland portages that run along the Minnesota-Canadian border.
On the drive northward from the Twin Cities on the straight and flat road of I-94, and then Minnesota’s Highway 10, the landscape of urban and suburban development slowly cedes to wide open fields and scattered towns, sometimes lined with rows and patches of trees. This is not the most exciting or scenic of drives, but it’s exciting to us nevertheless, because this is the way toward another season of archaeological fieldwork on a late eighteenth-century fur trade post located on the Leaf River in Wadena County.
Archaeology, the study of past human societies, has a certain aura of mystery to it that captures the public’s imagination. The authors in this issue, myself included, are broadly defined as archaeologists. Not the Indiana Jones kind—more the geeky and scholarly kind, whose job and passion is not only to uncover how past people lived based on the things and structures they left behind, but also to take prodigious amounts of notes, photographs, measurements, and soil samples.