Student note on Confederate Monuments in North Carolina

‘”The monument was erected in honor of the 321 men from Alexander County who lost their lives in the Civil War. It is a single granite block 7 feet tall, 4 feet wide, and 8 inches thick with two small circles above the front inscription containing pairs of crossed confederate battle flags.”
Image courtesy of Commemorative landscapes of N. Carolina.

Kasi E. Wahlers has published an interesting student article in the North Carolina Law Review titled “North Carolina’s Heritage Protection Act: Cementing Confederate Monuments in North Carolina’s Landscape”. It takes up North Carolina’s handling of remnants of public monuments aimed at remembering and commemorating some ugly aspects of its past.

From the Abstract:

Even in 2015, the North Carolina landscape is densely populated with Confederate monuments, appearing in more than half of the state’s one hundred counties. The state has more monuments honoring the Civil War than any other event, with five Civil War monuments for every World War II monument. Most of these structures were erected between 1890 and 1930 and many are located on public property, commonly found in and around courthouses, town squares, graveyards, and University campuses. In July of 2015, North Carolina enacted the Heritage Protection Act (“HPA”). This law severely restricts the removal, relocation, or alteration of any monument located on public property. While neutral on its face, North Carolina’s Heritage Protection Act was enacted for the purpose of protecting Confederate monuments.

This Recent Development argues that the North Carolina Heritage Protection Act creates a lack of accountability on behalf of the N.C. General Assembly, usurps powers of local governments, and is amorphously vague as to what objects it applies to. Clarification of the statutory language by the General Assembly as well as a provision allowing for the erection of plaques that contextualize these monuments within local history is needed. Analysis proceeds in three parts. Part I of this Recent Development briefly sketches the propagation of Heritage Protection Acts across the South, outlines the North Carolina Heritage Protection Act, and highlights ways the North Carolina statute differs from other states. Part II discusses the confusing nature of this statute and analyzes legislative history to offer insight as to: (1) what role the North Carolina Historical Commission plays, if any, in deciding to permanently remove or relocate monuments; (2) whether this statute applies to county or city owned monuments; and (3) what constitutes a “display of permanent character.” Finally, Part III argues that this statute is in need of clarification and a provision that provides for plaques that contextualize these monuments within their local history. A brief conclusion follows.

Wahlers, Kasi E., Recent development. North Carolina’s Heritage Protection Act: cementing Confederate monuments in North Carolina’s landscape. 94 N.C. L. Rev. 2176-2200 (2016).

New National Monument Proposal for the Bears Ears

The proposed Bears Ears national Monument would protect over 100,000 archaeological sites
The proposed Bears Ears national Monument would protect over 100,000 archaeological sites

A coalition of Native Americans has formed an Inter-Tribal Coalition to promote the designation of 1.9 million acres in Utah as a National Monument. The area contains granaries, rock art, burial sites, and many other important natural and historic sites. So its not surprising then that 26 tribes support protecting the area, which gets its name from these the two buttes which resemble a large bear. This area was described beautifully in Craig Childs’ excellent work on archaeology and heritage in the four corners region. Designation of the massive area would protect scores of ancient sites, burial sites, and pieces of rock art. An area which has suffered repeatedly at the hands of amateur archaeologists and later illicit looting.

President Obama seems to be taking a more open approach to the designation of the lands than Bill Clinton took when designating the nearby Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996. A July public hearing allowed members of the public a chance to voice their opinion to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell for nearly four hours. Writing about that meeting for High Country News, Jonathan Thompson reported:

Today’s crowd contains as many brown faces as it does white ones, a refreshing change from other such gatherings in the past. The land in question is an important part of contemporary Ute and Navajo history, and members of those tribes continue to use it for wood-, herb- and piñon-gathering. The pueblos here — including the Bluff Great House that’s just a stone’s throw from today’s hearing — were inhabited on-and-off from the 9th to the 13th centuries by the ancestors of today’s Zuni, Hopi and Rio Grande Pueblo people. And the Bears Ears and other landmarks on this landscape are considered to be important religious sites.

That, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye tells Jewell in the hearing, is why his tribal government supports a national monument. “We relate to them (the Bears Ears) like an Anglo relates to a family member,” he says. Begaye’s tribe, along with the Hopi, Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute, and Ute tribe, overcame historic antagonism to join together to form the coalition that’s pushing for the monument. That’s unprecedented, as is their proposed management structure: a committee of eight, including one representative from each tribe, and one representative each from the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. 

“It’s been far too long that us Natives have not been at the table,” says Malcolm Lehi, the Ute Mountain Ute council representative from the White Mesa community, just up the road from Bluff. “Here we are today inviting ourselves to the table. We’re making history.” 

The proposal and coalition has the support of six of the seven Navajo chapters in Utah, at least two-dozen additional tribes and the National Congress of American Indians, along with a host of environmental groups and more than 700 archaeologists.

But there is a long history of entrenched private property owners in the southwest that often resist these efforts, as demonstrated by Utah’s two members of the House: Continue reading “New National Monument Proposal for the Bears Ears”

Profile of Syrian Preservation Group

“A human life doesn’t have much value without culture to go with it” says Markus Hilgert, director of the Pergamon Museum. He’s interviewed in a CNN profile of Heritage for Peace, a group working to document the destruction taking place there. The group walks a delicate line, trying not to take a stand in the dispute. The group has limited funding and works with a number of volunteers with founder Isber Sabrine:

A 29-year-old archaeologist from a village near the Mediterranean coast in western Syria, Sabrine is using modern technology to trace and document the looting and destruction of his country’s ancient heritage.

Working from Berlin, he runs a network in Syria of around 150 volunteers — archaeologists, architects, students and simply concerned citizens — who often pose as antiquities buyers to see what has been stolen in the course of Syria’s now more than four-year uprising. He communicates with them via Skype when the Internet in Syria is working, which isn’t often.

“They go to the locals and they say look, we are interested. They cannot buy, but at least they make photos and they send us photos,” says Sabrine. “Like this we have a list of looted materials from Syria.”

That list is shared with law enforcement, auction houses and collectors. CNN asked if we could publish some of those photographs — we saw statues, mosaics and coins — but Sabrine declined for fear the photos might expose the volunteers.

After years of chaos, the market for stolen antiquities is flooded, and dealers are holding back some of their most valuable items. “We know that the most important objects don’t go to market now,” says Sabrine. “The big dealers are waiting, maybe two, three or four years, and then when the opportunity is right, they will sell.”

  1. Ben Wedeman, Syria’s Struggle to Save the Past – CNN.com, CNN.

5Pointz Suit Continues

5Pointz before it was whitewashed
5Pointz before it was whitewashed

The legal battle over 5Pointz has entered a new phase this week, as a complaint by some of the artists whose works were destroyed when the building was whitewashed has been filed in Federal Court. Though this may seem to be a new suit or new proceeding, it really should be viewed as a continuation of the dispute that has been ongoing since 2013 and earlier. Only instead of asking a court to prevent the destruction of the works at issue, now the artists are seeking compensation for the actual destruction of the works when they were whitewashed. Nicholas O’Donnell has kindly posted this new complaint on his blog, and he argues that one interesting thing to watch in the dispute, is the measure of damages: Continue reading “5Pointz Suit Continues”

Kersel on the ‘Archaeological Curation Crisis’

Morag Kersel, an assistant Professor in the Anthropology department at DePaul has published an article in the Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology & Heritage Studies titled “Storage Wars: Solving the Archaeological Curation Crisis?“. She has posted the piece online at academia.edu. From the abstract:

Whether sponsored by academic institutions, governments, international agencies, or private landowners,the results of archaeological investigations are the same: the production of knowledge and an accumulation of things. The material manifestations (artifacts and sam-ples) and the accompanying daily notes, digital records,maps, photographs, and plans together comprise a comprehensive record of the past. Once these items havebeen amassed, they are deposited in dig houses, maga-zines, museums, repositories, storage containers, andsometimes in personal basements and garages to be heldin perpetuity. Across the globe, storage (here implyingcuration and permanent care) is one of the most pressing issues facing archaeology today. Te following examines the curation crisis and some of the traditional and inno-vative solutions to the storage wars, arguing that rather than something that is viewed as a time-consuming,costly afterthought; curation should be an integral part of archaeological praxis. 

“Yamatane” and temporary art

Yusuke Asai, "Yamatane", Rice University, Houston 2014.
Yusuke Asai, “Yamatane”, Rice University, Houston 2014.

So much effort goes in to thinking about where art belongs, how it should be preserved and conserved. So in many ways I can be guilty of taking the idea of preservation for granted. But more attention should be paid to thinking through what exactly preservation means. After all, preservation comes with costs. And thinking about how much does not get preserved, and how much effort it takes to preserve art and sites can seem overwhelming. Which is why it can be refreshing to just enjoy some art every now and then. Yusuke Asai, a Japanese painter created a massive installation at Rice University titled “yamatane” (Japanese for mountain seed). But you can’t see it any more, it has been “deinstalled”, which was the idea all along. As a result he gently forces the viewer to enjoy and take in the work while you can.

Asai's soil samples from Houston and Texas
Asai’s soil samples from Houston and Texas

He uses dirt and earth as a medium. In Houston he had Rice students and volunteers collect soil samples from around Houston and Texas, which he used to create 27 different shades.

Of his works he says:

I do not decide on a story or meaning before I start painting. Imagery of figures and creatures comes to me in the moent. Fox, bird, cat, and sunshine – everything has a role; parts disappear and something is added. The world accepts it and keeps changing. I begin each work thinking of the countless small things that come together to make a larger world. I choose to use the earth as a medium because I can find dirt anywhere in the world and do not need special materials. Dirt is by nature very different than materials sold in art stores! Seeds grow in it and it is home to any insects and microorganisms. It is a “living” medium.

Continue reading ““Yamatane” and temporary art”

Perhaps art and archaeology should work together

Detail of a petroglyph in the White River Narrows in Nevada
Detail of a petroglyph in the White River Narrows in Nevada

Central Nevada’s Garden Valley is home to wildlife, Native American rock shelters, the White River Narrows archaeological sites, and ancient trails used by the Shoshone and Paiute peoples. In September Senator Harry Reid introduced legislation to put over 800,000 acres off-limits to energy exploration and exploitation there. The Bill has been referred to Committeee, and can be tracked here. Though Sen. Reid’s office did not respond to initial press questions about the Bill, setting aside this land must hinge on protecting these natural and archaeological resources. But the area is also home to Michael Heizer’s ongoing City project. Continue reading “Perhaps art and archaeology should work together”