I’ve been working on a narrative project for Writing for Online Media with Professor Hanley this semester. Non-linear topical organization, what I call gunfire writing style – short bursts, more precise the better, each sentence a bullet carrying a complete topical target payload. Short. Clipped. Detached. Yet linked. Engaging. Reaffirming. Taking a complex topic and breaking it into facets and then building it into geometrical castles of topical relevance structured around subtle nuance.
Anyway, I selected the topic of the controversy surrounding Mount Rushmore. (I’ll post it as a website when I’m done.) But I figured, I’ve taken a look at a lot of the basics… time to actually see what the official US National Park Service website had to say about it. I mean, I’ve never been there. Aside from watching the folks on the reality show “Hidden Treasure” clamber all over the faces on the Rushmore trails, I’ve never actually seen the place in any detail. That, and being turned on to the whole controversy by Penn & Teller’s BULLSHIT! Season 5 episode where they go into the whole controversy which surrounded Mount Rushmore at every single stage of the project, historically on up through present day.
The Official Site
So I decided to see what the National Parks Service had to say about the controversy.
Not a single thing on the website. Now, I grew up in Hyde Park, NY, in a cul-de-sac along Route 9, halfway between the Vanderbilt Mansion which bounded the northern side of Hyde Park, and the FD Roosevelt Home & Library, which bounded the southern side of Hyde Park. They were connected along the Hudson River by national trails, and they both had excellent ‘adventure’ and ‘exploration’ potential as a young boy with a bike in an age before Lyme disease and sexual predators became topics of parental paranoia. Before the age of 16, all tickets to the Home and the Mansion were free. (If you’ve ever been to them both, while technically both are ‘mansions’ by any standards, the Roosevelts were quite poor by the standards which included their next door neighbor, Cornelius Vanderbilt. That’s like comparing the wealth of the Southern Baptist Church to that of the Vatican.)
Anyhow, I became a bit of a pest, and a favorite of some of the park employees and tour guides. They recognized me from the boy scout troop trips, and summer after summer of hanging out with friends. Then the high school trips from honors classes into the archives, and finally getting a full-on behind-the-scenes one-on-one curator-led tour of the FDR Home & Museum because I told the tour guide I was a college student studying museology (anthro of museum displays).
Given that albeit local experience with the National Parks Service, I was actually kind of shocked that there was no mention of any controversy on the website for Mount Rushmore. None. I’m… I’m a bit upset by this, because it seems wrong.
I shall write an email!
So I wrote them an email. And submitted it. And here, good friends, it is. I invite folks of like mind to write similar inquiries. (Poke around the site… you’ll learn lots about mountain goats that got away from General Custer, but not a heck of a lot about anything to do with the Native Americans, or, say, the fact that the chief artist on the project was a known and active member of the KKK). When the topic is done for the class, I’ll post the Mount Rushmore project here. Or at least link to it here.
My name is Adam, I’m a graduate student studying Interactive Communications at Quinnipiac University in CT. I am putting together an interactive display speaking toward the more controversial elements surrounding the history of Mount Rushmore. I had hoped to find some historical data or reference materials to the storm of controversy which has surrounded Mount Rushmore from the inception of the project’s vision by Doane Robinson, but alas, I cannot seem to find any links or resources on the official website mentioning anything about this.
Perhaps there is a virtual museum display which is being developed on such a topic? It’s not like the conflicts between the Native Americans and the Settlers over the Black Hills was a quiet period in history. After all, the 1848 Fort Laramie Treaty which formed the basis of the Lakota Sioux claims to the Black Hills in perpetuity was the only instance ever where the United States acknowledged defeat to another political entity, the Sioux Nation.
Could you please direct me to files or resources of public record concerning these claims, artifacts or virtual catalogs of documents held in public trust by the National Park Service which document not only the policy stances taken through word and deed by the creators of Mount Rushmore, but also the relevant historical and dissenting movements which opposed the creation of this monument in various ways along its creation?
As a communications professional pursuing advanced scholarly coursework, I am hopeful that this material has been carefully assembled and worked into the national monument’s display area in the physical monument. As an internet-specialist in the field of communications, I am hoping as well that this information will be made available quickly, on-line.
As a citizen, I am of course hopeful that the National Park Services are presenting -all- aspects of the history of such monuments as Mount Rushmore, and not just a ‘history of the victorious’, as it were.
And as a fellow human, I hope that we are communicating all aspects of a controversial subject in an open and transparent manner, empowering all viewers to weigh the facts and come to their own decisions and appreciations of the complexity of the issues… and not preemptively making those choices *for* them.
Thank you for your attention. I look forward to hearing where I can find the story of the Native Americans and the controversies among politics in the broader US society which surrounded the creation of Mount Rushmore.