Environmental Diagnostics at Fort Union National Monument, Part 1

None of us wants to think about the kind of triage we will likely face in the years ahead. But as preservationists, it is incumbent on us to reckon with climate change bravely, because no one is better suited than we are to help people memorialize the places we lose — and save the places we can. That’s incredibly important work, and we must rise to the challenge. -Stephanie Meeks, National Trust for Historic Preservation

I was in Jackson Hole, WY last summer working with the Penn Praxis team on restoring log cabins at the Bar BC dude ranch when our professor, Frank Matero, mentioned to me that prolonged intensive rains at Fort Union, NM claimed another of the adobe structures in Fort Union that had catastrophically and spontaneously collapsed. It was obvious that the series of incidents was climate related, but it was not sufficient to leave it at that; patterns as catastrophic as the one at Fort Union demand more detailed investigation. So, this question became the topic for an independent study.

The objective of this investigation is to outline a methodology using computational simulation methods to correlate select climatological factors with the ongoing and accelerating deterioration of the fabric at the Fort Union National Monument site with the end goal to outline areas of at higher risk of deterioration due to these climatological factors.

What was abundantly clear after investigating the environmental factors on the site is that the patterns of deterioration are consistent with the predominant environmental forces present–albeit, not the most obvious–and that the collapse or significant deterioration of a structure inherently jeopardizes at least one, if not more, other structures in the compound. The argument then is to save or replace as much as possible not just to the benefit and interpretive value of a single structure but to the longevity and protection of the collection of structures that act as a system.

A small team will be following up this topic onsite this summer to perform a battery of diagnostics of the ruins and to put forth a comprehensive, detailed plan to address them in the long term.
Download the Paper Here

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