Photographing the Past, Public Production

Author(s): Ralph Solecki

Year: 1952


The agreement between the National Park Service and the Smithsonian Institution in 1945, which committed the latter agency to the scientific responsibility for archeological investigations in the Missouri River Basin, touched off the greatest series of integrated archeological investigations over a wide area that this country has ever seen. The archeologist worked with the rushing waters of each new Missouri River Basin reservoir virtually at its heels. If the work was to be done, it must be done quickly; thus, revolutionary techniques and new ideas in excavation were tried and many have proven successful. Yesterday, power earth-moving equipment cleared the earth overburden cheaper and quicker than the man with the shovel, and, today, the airplane is coming into its own as a tool of the archeologist in the Missouri Basin.

Although individual supervising archeologists have occasionally used light airplanes for photographing particular sites from the air, no over-all coordinated archeological survey of this type had ever been attempted in the United States prior to the summer of 1952, when a special aerial mission was authorized by the Smithsonian Institution to photograph archeological sites and pertinent related features in the Basin of the Missouri River.

The justification for the aerial photographic mission, flown during the summer of 1952, was the tremendous size of the salvage job. Last year American Antiquity, journal of the Society for American Archeology, reported that there were at least 56 archeological field surveys and excavations under way during 1951. In 1952, 13 expeditions, or roughly one-third of the total of the archeological field projects in the whole of the United States last year, were operative in the reservoirs of the Missouri River Basin Project. Of those18 expeditions, 9 were parties of the Smithsonian Institution, working in cooperation with the National Park Service, the Corps of Engineers, and the Bureau of Reclamation; and 9 were non-Federal institutions.

Cite this Record

Photographing the Past, Public Production. Ralph Solecki. 1952 ( tDAR id: 394096) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8JS9SJV

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: -109.512; min lat: 38.617 ; max long: -90; max lat: 48.4 ;


General Note: Multiple tDAR resources were created in the past by the National Archaeological Database. All useful and important information has been combined into this current resource.

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