What Stories Should be Told at the River?
Because I’ve been involved in Mississippi River work for a long time, people (sometimes) think I have something to add to their projects. I had the pleasure of spending a couple of hours last week with two people who are working on developing interpretation and planning ideas for parts of the riverfront in Minneapolis. It’s always fun talking with folks who care about the same things I do, and this was certainly no exception, but they caught me up short with this question: What would I want the interpretation on the Minneapolis riverfront to convey?
Never at a loss for words, I warmed to the task quickly, after some initial hesitation. I’m actually not sure I gave them what they were looking for, since I’m not necessarily inclined to name specific people, events or facts that everyone visiting the riverfront should learn. We’ve mis-taught history as a “march of facts” for far too long.
So here, in no particular order and with much explanation left out, are the things that I think riverfront interpretation and education should convey to the public:
- This is a place of converging biological, physical and human dynamics and stories;
- This is a place that has been valued for millennia by people who are still here;
- The making of this place by industrial and urban processes follows patterns common to other places but also unique to here;
- The place that is made here does not serve everyone equally;
- Understanding this place now means knowing its past and its possible futures;
- Understanding this place now means understanding upstream and downstream;
- Understanding this place means understand that it is dynamic, that it carries various things from one place to another, it is a place of flowing as well as a place of stasis;
- Nothing here is accidental.
I hope to hear from some of you about what I have left out or what I have perhaps over-emphasized. I’m certain I’ll be writing more about this in the days/weeks ahead.