Poverty Point Friday, Nov 6 2009 

Poverty Point was everything I had hoped for: a large, publicly owned site, good interpretation, a visitors’ center, and a dormitory that housed the Heritage Resources students on our overnight trip.  The Poverty Point Earthworks have been noted since the 1870s, but aerial photography revealed a more complex system excavated since the 1950s. The site’s purpose is to preserve and interpret the earthworks. The earthworks are a National Register listed State Park, National Historic Landmark, and is a National Monument.

Poverty point has been the location for a number of field schools for Tulane University, University of Louisiana- Lafayette (ULL), and Washington University in St. Louis, among others. The central hall of the dormitory area includes photographic testament of many of those field schools.

More recently, Mississippi State (Starkville) and University of Louisiana- Monroe have employed “high tech” methods  including magnetic graditometry and began limited excavation of the central plaza earlier this year.

Since our group constituted the visitors present early on Halloween morning, I chatted with the park rangers about their knowledge of the site and visitors’ usual questions. Interpretive rangers like to explain the Poverty Point culture and differentiate it from the later Coles Creek culture of Sarah’s mound.

Erosion is a major concern for preserving the site, and site workers are in a constant battle to reduce erosion.

The only recommendations I have are for the State of Louisiana to provide a larger staff to care for the site, and to implement credit/debit card machines in the gift shop.

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Military Maneuvers Museum Friday, Nov 6 2009 

The Louisiana Maneuvers and Military Museum, located at Camp Beauregard, shattered many of my preconceived notions. Knowing that the museum is run by the Louisiana National Guard, I assumed it to be overflowing with patriotic propaganda and devoid of scholarly rigor or critical interpretation. The museum was undoubtedly patriotic, but was a real surprise. The museum, located in a two-storied wooden barracks, is one of the best small museums that I have visited.

Captain Richard Morgan provided excellent interpretation of the museum in general and the Louisiana war maneuvers specifically. It was a real pleasure to meet him. He explained most of the museum in detail then showed us the workshop and curation area. CPT Morgan will be shipping off for Iraq soon.Since the high level interpretation was dependent on his narrative I am worried about the future of the museum.

The emphasis of the museum was on great military leaders and military tactics employed during World War II. There was a noteworthy “home front” section, but the emphasis there was on material culture like ration books, patriotic ribbons, etc. It would have been good to have a video or audio kiosk with oral history and interviews of civilians that remember the maneuvers. But overall, the local history was conveyed in a top-notch fashion.

My biggest concern is the larger, overarching, geopolitical interpretation of the museum. Genocide is not a subject matter that most people feel comfortably conversant in. The museum did a fairly good “textbook” job conveying Nazi atrocities. CPT Morgan’s interpretation and the written information focused exclusively on the Shoa (Holocaust),  the death of some six million European Jews.  The visual images included pictures and diagrams of patches worn in concentration camps by homosexuals, Romani, Slavs, people with disabilities, etc. I reminded those in attendance that Hitler and his war machine killed between 11 and 17 million civilians and prisoners of war, and that communists were the first targeted by the Nazis. Despite repeated questioning by Mr. Evans and myself, CPT Morgan maintained justification for the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, noting that fire bombings killed more and that a conventional invasion of Kyūshū alone could have mounted 200,000 casualties, compared to the 50,000-70,000 of the atomic bombs. Mr. Evans noted that Long term radiation deaths brought the total number up (to at least 200,000). When another classmate noted the scientific breakthroughs of German scientists brought to the United States after the war, the Captain made a remark regarding  that could easily be misinterpreted.

Soldiers execute orders. It’s the politicians who create foreign policy. In an ostensibly democratic country, it is the responsibility of all of us to demand a just foreign policy, and to question whether, and when war is beneficial to the broad populace. To that end I offer a “patriotic” inscription from the (“new,” c. 1862) Massachusetts statehouse, and a poem from an early supporter of Hitler, Pastor Martin Niemöller.

“CommonWealth Forever, Empire Never”

“First they came”- Martin Niemöller

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.

The museum also has an associated library. The library has an extensive Native American collection. Richard H. Holloway is the Archivist and Library Director. The library is new and has no publicity or promotional materials.

The Museum and the library are both interesting resources. Both are woefully under-utilized by the public. Perhaps this is primarily a function of their location (on a military facility), but promoting the sites may bring additional visitors.

Civil War era flag and clothing

Civil War era flag and clothing

Captain Moran

Captain Morgan

Insignia

Insignia