(Original post date: April 26, 2010)

We had a great time in Boone last weekend for Part I of the two-part Blue Ridge Parkway 75th Anniversary symposium, “Imagining the Blue Ridge Parkway for the 21st Century: History, Scenery, Conservation and Community”.  Although it was a small gathering, it was really valuable to me to be in a group of people who been intimately involved in working on, for, or with the Parkway. This group included presentations by a number of scholars who have done intensive and serious research about everything from toxic residues in soils at the Moses Cone Estate to regional tourism development to mapping of scenic views and areas of potential landslides using very sophisticated GIS and aerial photography techniques. I was pleased to see a rough cut of an in-progress documentary that is probably the most complicated and complex presentation I’ve ever seen in film form of the Parkway’s history.  I was especially proud to have my UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries colleagues Natasha Smith and Elise Warshavsky there to help me discuss our “Driving Through Time” digital Parkway project, now gently launched in a beta version. Although it will be many months before the full archives begin to come online, we were able to give the audience a taste of the project by demonstrating a bit of the effect of the georeferenced historical maps that will enable visitors to envision how the Parkway changed the lands through which it came. Finally, it was inspiring to see on display at the symposium much of the excellent Parkway work being carried on by many departments at Appalachian State University, our host for the weekend. Brought together in recent years under the able leadership of Parkway-University liaison, Prof. Neva Specht, ASU students and faculty are doing impressive work across the disciplines in what seems to us a way that exemplifies the best of what a publicly engaged university ought to be doing.