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New Article Explores Regional Park System

February 26, 2021

Geographer Rob Briwa shines some light on state parks, which are often an understudied feature of United States cultural landscapes, but a treasure trove cultural and heritage.

In his new article, “The Changing Terrain of Heritage at a Montana State Park,” he documents the early development of Montana state parks and explores evolving heritage production at Bannack State Park between 1900 and the present. Bannack heritage evolved in six phases, each with a different set of actors, mechanisms, and funding sources. Prior to Bannack’s acquisition as a state park, heritage production relied on local mechanisms and actors, including storytelling and commemorative events by civic groups.

Local advocacy and fundraising allowed the creation of Bannack State Park, heralding shifts towards state-directed heritage production, heavily reliant on ebbs and flows of funding from state and federal sources. Increased state and federal funding permitted consolidated visions of state-directed heritage that demonstrate processes of symbolic accretion. Decreased funding drove formal public-private partnerships and more dispersed processes of heritage production. This research demonstrates how North American regional park systems are bound into the construction of place-based heritage.

“The Changing Terrain of Heritage at a Montana State Park,” is available in the Journal of Historical Geography.