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Commemoration in the Wake of Catastrophe: A Historical Archaeology Investigation of Southern California's St. Francis Dam Disaster and its Victims

Author(s): Ann Stansell

Year: 2017

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Summary

The commemoration of disasters and their victims is a product of cultural, economic, political, and social forces in human society. Southern California's largely forgotten St. Francis Dam Disaster of 1928 provides an excellent opportunity to study this complex process of commemoration, engaging memory within different frames of reference. Previous scholarship related to the disaster has been focused within the fields of civil engineering and geology, with the singular goal of determining the cause of the dams collapse; little, if any attention has been given to the 400 victims or how they have been memorialized. Evaluating how and why this catastrophe has been forgotten on a state and national level, but tenuously remembered within the flood zone, allows for consideration of the diversity of commemorative processes in the construction of memory and heritage related to major catastrophes and can help reveal the spatial and temporal scales of memorialization efforts. This investigation synthesizes archival research, Internet resources, and archaeological survey data to discern how the disaster and its victims have been commemorated through state monuments, community memorials, grave markers, museum exhibits, and memorabilia and the legacy of their memory.


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Cite this Record

Commemoration in the Wake of Catastrophe: A Historical Archaeology Investigation of Southern California's St. Francis Dam Disaster and its Victims. Ann Stansell. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431923)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -125.464; min lat: 32.101 ; max long: -114.214; max lat: 42.033 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17413

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America