Saturday, May 15, 2010

Travel Day 3 - Southwest Into New Mexico

Another long day in the car driving the back roads of Colorado and New Mexico. I stopped in a few small towns to shoot pictures of their courthouses.

Out here, many of the counties were established in the late 1800s or early 1900s. Most of the courthouses I've seen in the past few days were built between 1910 and 1940. In many cases, the building that serves as a community's courthouse today is the second or sometimes third courthouse for the particular county.

Sadly, some of the buildings built in the 1950s or later are low rectangular buildings with less character than most elementary school buildings. Clearly, these were built to be functional and economical. In my mind, they totally miss the point of a courthouse being a central figure in the community; a place in which the pride of the community is manifested in a beautiful, interesting, well-maintained building.

In some communities, the building says, 'We're proud of our home and we're glad we live and work here. We gather at this central place in our town for meetings, music, and difficult decisions." In other communities, the building seems to say, "We're poor, and tired and running out of patience. We needed a building and we built the cheapest thing we could to fulfill the need." Kind of sad.

I haven’t uploaded pictures for a couple days, partly because the internet at the motels I'm staying in has been spotty and slow. If you're interested in checking out some of my courthouse pictures (and other images that contain "a sense of place") follow this link: or paste it into your web browser. This will lead to a collection of more than 200 images I've posted to Google Earth.

Tomorrow, I have about a 2 hour drive to Albuquerque where I will wait at the airport for the WSU students to arrive on two separate flights. Once they're safely on the ground, we'll begin a four hour drive to the Navajo Nation and to Diné College where we'll get settled in our residence hall rooms and get ready for our first class day tomorrow.

Keep checking this blog for updates throughout our two-week field work for the 2010 Navajo Oral History project.

-- Tom Grier, professor of Mass Communication

Winona State University

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