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Learning from Lewisburg
An essay on how a small and historic Pennsylvania college town adapts to the 21st Century — structured as a walking tour & virtual tour
Ben Marsh / Department of Geography
Bucknell University / marsh@bucknell.edu
Printer version at Lewisburg_tour.pdf /
Web version at http://www.facstaff.bucknell.edu/marsh/lewisburg_tour/

Every landscape carries memory of the past from which it emerged. Every human landscape projects the aspirations of the inhabitants. Lewisburg is a small town with a strong and explicit -- if partly invented -- sense of history.

A walk through Lewisburg helps us see how this place, like many other places, is constructing an autobiography -- an "autogeography" -- from the resources that history has given it, and a bit more.

 
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Premises: 

 

1.

Culture is symbolic … even the functional parts of it.  Symbols communicate to ourselves (“This is a nail & I need a hammer.") or to others.

2.

Cultural landscape is the set of cultural elements in the public realm that we encounter as we navigate the world.

3.

Cultural landscape, as a symbol system, carries messages about the intentions of the actors on the landscape, some of which we over-hear, some of which are directed at us, some of which are only semi-consciously conveyed.  This sub-study is of symbol systems, values, and rhetoric.

4.

As a long-lived cultural system, the cultural landscape bears the record of successive stages of economic, physical, social forces.  This sub-study is of community evolution,

5.

As a spatial system, the cultural landscape retains the record of process, action, change, impact, and adaptation.

Themes:

 

1.

Lewisburg happens to have existed over a remarkable time period that bridged the transition from pre-industrial circumstances that would be familiar to the Romans, all the way to a information-intense, highly inequitable, post-industrial economy, that we acquire from the Santa Clara valley.

2.

Small towns in Pennsylvania adapted to rich resources but difficult transport. 

3.

The river made the town, but the town has never been at-ease with the river.

4.

The university located near the town to derive benefits from a controlled relationship; the town is now highly adapted to the indirect benefits it can derive from the university, which now dominate the character and economy of the town.

5.

The marks on the landscape reveal the progression of different uses that the people made of (the same) physical world.

6.

Symbolic content of the cultural landscape reveals 200 years of evolving, enlarging, and more global worldviews of the residents. 

< Previous/ 0 Main/ 1 Campus/ 2 Connections/ 3 Susquehanna/ 4 Preindustial town/
5 Read a house
/ 6 Deindustrializing/ 7 Downtown/ 8 Lower town/ 9 Highway/ 10 Past & future / Next>

Last updated December 27, 2008