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Carleton, Macalester College Professors Receive Joint Historical Society Grant

February 27, 2012

Northfield, Minn.––George Vrtis, assistant professor of environmental studies and history at Carleton College, along with professor Chris Wells of Macalester College, have received a grant from the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) for $102,522.

The partnership grant, one of the two largest awarded by the MHS in this grant round, will substantially advance the state of scholarship on Minnesota’s under-studied environmental history.

The centerpiece of the project will be a conference on the environmental history of Minnesota to be held at the Minnesota History Center in June 2012. As project directors, Vrtis and Wells will convene 20 or more top environmental-studies scholars at the conference, where they will present and critique new research on the state’s environmental history to an audience of historians and other scholars, students from Minnesota colleges and universities, MHS staff, National Park Service staff, and others interested in the topic. Some of this scholarship will be grounded in the MHS’s own archival materials.

Following the conference, Vrtis and Wells will solicit 15 or more essays from the conference presenters, and from a small number of other experts, for inclusion in a new book on the environmental history of Minnesota. Vrtis and Wells will edit this volume, contribute a jointly authored introduction to the volume and an essay focused on the Twin Cities, and they will also seek a publisher for the finished work. The final publication promises to be the first major study of Minnesota's environmental history.

By explaining how economic, social, political and natural forces have combined to shape the state’s environmental history, Vrtis and Wells hope the book will help Minnesotans and others better grasp the interconnections between their everyday lives and the rapid and dramatic transformations of ecosystems, both near and far. “In the end,” Vrtis said, “We aim to produce a book that will appeal to scholars in a variety of fields, to teachers of Minnesota history, and to environmental policymakers in the state.  We also hope that the book will spur further interest in Minnesota’s environmental past among scholars, college and high school students, and the general public.”