Thursday, September 1, 2011

Not Ha-Ha Funny, But...

This morning I was listening to the Armstrong and Getty Show while lazing in bed surfing the 'net, when I saw this Tweet from Truckee's local newspaper: @SierraSun_News "Donner Summit visitor center to close after Labor Day"

The story explained why the Big Bend Visitor Center was closed Monday. I was considering hanging around until Friday to visit the exhibits, but the article says the display items are already in storage pending relocation. Thanks Sierra Sun!

This gives me pause. American progress has always been moving forward, sometimes at breakneck speed. The touchstones of our history get passed by and forgotten in no time. Sometimes our history gets trampled underfoot.

Big Bend up near Donner Summit is emblematic of this, and a little walking around the area tells quite a tale. America's Western Migration came right through these parts...The Emigrant Trail, The Dutch Flat-Donner Pass Wagon Road, The Transcontinental Railroad, The Lincoln Highway, US Highway 40, Interstate 80 all came through this valley, some remain, some just vestigially remain. Thank God for folks like Norm Sayler and his Donner Summit Historical Society! Much of this history has been lost...or misplaced until enthusiasts like Sayler find it, catalog it, put it on display, and announce it's existence.

I-80 overpass above US Hwy 40. The original dirt Lincoln Highway (once the Dutch Flat-Donner Pass Wagon Road) is obscured by the forest, as is the transcontinental railroad, now the Union Pacific, above them all.
Fun fact: Norm told me that the first four Central Pacific Railroad locomotives came to Donner Summit by wagon, over the Dutch Flat-Donner Pass Road, and were assembled on the mountain.

My own search for the original Lincoln Highway bits in my neighborhoods, have shown me what a huge task shepherding history's bits and pieces is. Take today, September 1st...72 years ago today, Hitler's Wehrmacht invaded Poland beginning World War Two. Lots of eyewitnesses to the World's last major upheaval are passing away without telling their stories. What a tragedy.

I worry about the history we're making today...not just that we're building today on the ruins of our history, but I worry about the records of our new history. Some would say: "Are you kidding? There's millions of people all over the world blogging every mundane little bit of meaningless trivia...a historian's delight!

This is a fact. Billions of digital photos are posted online daily, a treasure trove of historical long as the files survive, and the software to open the files survive. Technology moves at history's pace raised by orders of magnitude. Blogs are just files and software too.

As far as I know, there is no Internet Curator husbanding all our files...The last two music albums I'd like to buy are not available on CD, only as digital downloads...obscure artists?'s a dead bluesman, Junior Kimbrough who's "First Recordings" is available from Amazon on vinyl, or for download at iTunes. The other artist is "Utopian Riot" an up and coming Metal band from Las Vegas.

iTunes and Amazon will sell you Utopian Riot's new album "Utopian Riot" as a digital file.

Digital Files...the Ultimate Ephemeral Artifact...this is going to take some thinking through...

1 comment:

  1. Seems like my past is methodically being wiped out by Mother Nature's historic weather events of the past year. Big Bend, CA from historic snow fall and Rochester, VT from Hurricane Irene.

    Catharsis? Going forward?

    Is Salyer Flats named after his family? I love the little historic societies. They retain the local history of places and alot of the little everday lives of the long ago and far away.