Photo: A dark and dense bog crossing along the Lane Cove Trail. Isle Royale National Park, MI. © Chris Miehle.
On this day, exactly one hundred years ago, President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill into law that created the National Parks Service (NPS). The bill mandated that the agency “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such a manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
In the past century, the total number of parks has risen to 59, preserving more than 84M acres of land and 4.5M acres of lakes and reservoirs. But the NPS is charged with more than preserving just the ecology; they are also designed to protect the historical integrity of these locales, which include some 68.5K archaeological sites, 27K historic structures, and more than 121M objects housed in museums collections.
Taken as a whole the NPS is an extraordinary phenomenon in a nation dedicated to “progress.” By maintaining the integrity of what already exists, the NPS has become a repository of the natural and cultural heritage of the land, creating space for both scientific study and recreation. In celebration, The G2 Gallery, Venice, CA, has curated a four-part exhibition series highlighting what has been called “America’s Best Idea.” Each three-month exhibit showcases a region of the United States: The North East, The South, The Midwest and The West.
Now on view through October 2, 2016, 100 Years of National Parks: The Midwest features work by Buddy Weiss, Chris Miele, Felix Gil de Casa, Javier Gil Vieco, Kevin Connolly, Kevin Ebi, Rick Kattelmann, Robert Glenn Ketchum, and Rusty Nelson. The exhibition features works made in both famous and letter known national parks, each showcasing an aspect of unique history and significance.
Featured states include Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, home to locations right out of the history books. From Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail to Trail Of Tears National Historic Trail, the paths etched into the landscape have long been scenes of triumph and tragedy.
The NPS allows us to go back into time, to discover locales like Pony Express National Historic Trail in Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. We can also consider locations that predate the arrival of Europeans, and reflect on tens of thousands of years of life lived by native peoples.
The National Parks remind us that this land exists not merely as a vehicle for the people of the nation but as a manifestation of Nature’s greatest gifts. The photographs selected for the exhibition allow us to indulge, to dip a toe in the creek or run barefoot through tall grass among the antelope—for the beauty of art is the singular way in which it transforms our experiences in the here and now.
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.