Report from Bridging Ages Conference in Las Cruces, April 15-18, 2013

Papers and workshops were presented on a variety of topics from museum interpretation to classroom instruction, from water wars in New Mexico to reconciliation in South Africa, and from language preservation to Manhattan Project exhibits.  From early morning to late evening, the attendees to Bridging Ages 2013 in Las Cruces had a packed week of presentations, workshops, networking, excursions, and Time Travels.

The Time Travel to 1912 at Fort Selden had us making adobe mud bricks, picking cotton seeds out of cotton, doing needle point embroidering, shopping at the Women’s Improvement Association store, and debating whether women should have the right to vote. Our excursion to the plaza of Mesilla allowed us to visit the Taylor Historic Site and participate in the trial of Billy the Kid, followed by a Mexican dinner at La Posta restaurant.

The Western dinner and Blue Grass music at Fort Selden saw us whirling to a Virginia Reel  from the 18th century as well as other dances. At Fort Selden, the light failed before our energy waned. Our all day excursion on the last day of the conference to Lincoln, a Wild West town where we saw Billy the Kid escape from jail, to Three Rivers petroglyph site with 21,000 examples of rock art, and to the White Sand National Monument had us dancing once again, this time on top of the white sand dunes.

Jon Hunner, History Department at New Mexico State University, USA

“Confronting Controversy in the U.S. National Parks”

How to interpret the American Civil War 1861-1865

Keynote speaker, Dr. Dwight Pitcaithley’s talk about the National Park Service and Civil War battlefields was a high point of the week. He explored how the National Park Service has changed the way that it interprets the causes of the U.S. Civil War by emphasizing the role of the protection of slavery as the main reason that the nation went to war. Confronting slavery as a cause of the war was traditionally avoided by park managers until 1998, when battlefield superintendents decided to incorporate explanations of slavery as a reason for the secession of eleven southern states from the Union in 1860-1861. The presentation detailed the resulting public outcry and the efforts of the NPS to deal with it.

Comments from participants:

It was a useful and fascinating conference. It indeed constituted a bridge between the different people, different cultures and their stories. It was such a conference that not only created new ideas but also strengthened the Bridging Ages organization. We got a lot of experience and energy to make it better from the conference.
Ebru İltenmis, Turkey

The Conference was an amazing experience of life, cultures, history and the very special people and places that forms part of it. We are richer for having been able to share this experience with all the participants and organizers and to gain more insight from other countries on how they are implementing historic environment education and related projects.  It has been a life-enriching experience, both professionally and personally and we trust that the relationships and networks built, new knowledge and insights gained will help us on our path of developing and implementing the Landscape Education Programs within the Western Cape of South Africa.  We look forward to keep in touch and share as we Travel through Time.
Sunet Basson, South Africa

All the topics of the conference were intriguing:  most especially for me, water in the natural history of the land. I encountered a contrast between Venice located in the lagoon of the Adriatic sea where I live, and New Mexico located in a desert.  The presentations helped me to better understand this land, its history and the way these people lived. The conference offered us the opportunity to share our activities and experiences with friends and also discuss new projects.
Cecile Franchetti, Venice, Italy

It was a very interesting conference and great to have it located at an open air Museum. Since there have been few Americans attending the conferences in Europe and Africa it was interesting to hear their stories this time and their history is so different from Europe! As always it was great to meet new and old friends and for us from Kalmar its fantastic to see that Time Travels in different shapes works all over the world!
Emma, Linda, Eva, Kerstin, Kalmar läns museum, Sweden

The Conference was really inspiring for offering a wide choice of different kinds of history, e.g. natural history, new perspectives on nuclear weapons, American and New Mexico history, which I knew very little of, the Far West and the Native Americans History, Mexican stories, the Spanish Conquistadores etc. etc. coming real for us in their own immense land. The Time Travel to 1912 was most intriguing and White Sands unforgettable. Particularly, Margaritas and Tequila Sunrise at the end of the day in the bar of the Ramada was an excellent way to be together after the conference with old and new friends. Thanks Jon!
Eugenia Bolognesi, Rome, Italy

All of us found the conference and the surrounding program extremely rewarding and memorable. Our warmest thanks to the whole crew for doing a marvellous job in making us feel so welcome and satisfied. Words that come to mind when thinking back on the days in New Mexico are: open-mindedness, happiness, time travel, friendship, sandstorm, white sands, Billy the Kid, history, cultures, happy birthday in many languages... and people getting together! It was nice meeting you, hope to see you again!
Tack / Kiitos Thank you from the Finns!

The Bridging Ages International is more of a circle of friends with interest in history and heritage than an academic body of scholars with interest in theories and abstracts.  Although there is a limit on academic debates but more reports on various projects each presenter is involved in, the whole conference papers were informative.
The conference programme was over-subscribed to an extent that one had to choose among three sessions which one to attend.  Although this arrangement limits the participation of one, it was obviously based on the many people who were interested in speaking at the conference.
Radikobo Ntsimane, South Africa

The concept of living history through Time Travel was absolutely new and fascinating to me. My knowledge of history was broadened by an assortment of archaeologists, museum curators, environmentalists, academicians, and above all performance artists.  My sincere appreciation to the organizers who chose the apt venue for the conference-New Mexico Ranch and Farm Heritage Museum that is a repository of a particular historical knowledge.  Unlike other intellectual and academic oriented conferences, the focus of this conference was more practice-based events and activities than mere exchanges of theoretical and ideological scholarships that are often tinged with ego and pseudo-intellectualism.
Bhavesh Kumar, Hyderabad, India