Speaking of finding stuff in attics and digging up hoards of Anglo-Saxon treasure, Volunteer Park Ranger Doug Leen (day job, dentist) has worked for decades to track down vintage posters of U.S. National Parks and to recreate them. Here’s how he got started:
During the fall of 1972 or 1973 in the Tetons, which was my second or third season there. Every year we’d have a cleanup day and every ranger would work on cleaning up after the summer season. My boss called and we commenced to clear out the old horse stalls at Beaver Creek, which were full of stuff laced with cobwebs.
We were working in the barn when I noticed an old poster destined for the burn pile. It was hanging by a nail up on a crossbeam. I thought it was unique and asked my boss if I could have it for my Jenny Lake park cabin; it later ended up in my house in Seattle when I began studying dentistry. At the time of its “discovery,” there was no huge artistic attraction as only 30 years had elapsed since its publication at the Western Museum Laboratories in Berkeley, California.
With that find, an obsession was born. You really should check out the hoard of artistic treasures he’s rediscovered and recreated. (Here’s a tip: try opening this link in Firefox–when I used IE, I couldn’t see the images on the first page.) Many thanks to Historiann’s blog administrator, DMM, who sent me these stories–and who’s spent some good times with Famille Historiann up in our local national park, Rocky Mountain N.P. (By the way, the Boulderfield Shelter Cabin–not an option any longer when you’re climbing Long’s Peak, friends. That sure looks a lot more cheerful than a lonely tent on the mountainside!)
Some of you may have heard that Ken Burns’s new 6-part, 12-hour film, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, premiers tonight on PBS. It sounds like more of the old Ken Burns schtick–well-written, informative, and beautifully photographed, but unbearably celebratory and sentimental. His thesis in every movie is: “(Insert Topic Here) is a genius that made America America!” So, Frank Lloyd Wright–he was a genius! Thomas Jefferson–another genius! I’m sure we’ll learn tonight that the National Parks were. . . well, “America’s Best Idea!”
Ken Burns makes Americans feel good about America, and that’s what the people want. Plus, PBS can re-run the series endlessly during pledge week. (Why don’t professional historians write books people actually want to read? Why do we hate America, anyway?)
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