His­to­rian Jon Hun­ner lec­tures on the Na­tional Parks an­niver­sary

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When Jon Hun­ner talks about the his­tory that is em­bed­ded in sites all around the United States, he draws from broad ex­pe­ri­ence. Since May, he has driven ap­prox­i­mately 20,000 miles to visit more than one hun­dred Na­tional Park Ser­vice sites and mu­se­ums. “I go to a park, and I talk to the rangers at the vis­i­tor cen­ter and take notes. I look at the ex­hibit and the doc­u­men­tary film. Then I go out and wan­der around,” Hun­ner said re­cently. “If it’s a big place, like a bat­tle­field park, I’ll pop my bi­cy­cle out of the trunk and ride it.”

The his­to­rian de­tails some of his ex­pe­ri­ences in a slide-il­lus­trated lecture, “Cel­e­brat­ing the Na­tional Parks: A Cen­ten­nial Birth­day Jour­ney,” on the evening of Mon­day, Dec. 12.

Hun­ner earned his doc­toral de­gree from the Uni­ver­sity of New Mex­ico and has been teach­ing in the his­tory de­part­ment at New Mex­ico State Uni­ver­sity since 1995. His pre­vi­ous books in­clude The Me­silla Val­ley: An Oa­sis in the Desert (New Mex­ico Cen­ten­nial His­tory Se­ries) and J. Robert Op­pen­heimer, The Cold War, and The Atomic West (The Ok­la­homa Western Bi­ogra­phies). “This is my pas­sion,” he said about his road trips this year. “I’m on a sab­bat­i­cal now, but I’ve been work­ing on this since 2012. I’m writ­ing a his­tory of the United States from places where his­tory ac­tu­ally hap­pened.” In the mean­time, he has been blog­ging. You can fol­low his jour­neys at www.driven­by­his­tory.blogspot.com.

The first leg of his ex­pe­di­tion was to Kansas and back, tak­ing in the Santa Fe Na­tional His­toric Trail and Bent’s Old Fort and Fort Larned na­tional his­toric sites. Next he trav­eled north and west, in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Golden Spike Na­tional His­toric Site in Utah; Idaho’s Minidoka, site of a World War II Ja­panese in­tern­ment camp; the Oregon Trail, the Lewis and Clark Trail and Fort Van­cou­ver in Wash­ing­ton state; the San Fran­cisco Mar­itime Na­tional His­tor­i­cal Park; Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front Na­tional His­tor­i­cal Park in Rich­mond, Cal­i­for­nia; and oth­ers. On the third leg, Hun­ner vis­ited sites in­clud­ing Washita Bat­tle­field in Ok­la­homa, where Custer’s cav­alry killed Cheyenne peace chief Black Ket­tle, along with the Gate­way Arch and the Jef­fer­son Na­tional Ex­pan­sion Me­mo­rial in St. Louis, Missouri.

He also has ex­plored the Wright Broth­ers at the Avi­a­tion Her­itage Na­tional His­tor­i­cal Park in Day­ton, Ohio; the Women’s Rights Na­tional His­tor­i­cal Park at Seneca Falls, New York; and na­tional mil­i­tary parks such as Get­tys­burg (Pennsylvania), An­ti­etam (Maryland), Pea Ridge (Arkansas), and Shiloh (Ten­nessee). He in­cluded what he calls “sites of con­science” — among them, In­dian mas­sacre and civil-rights sites and the Flight 93 Na­tional Me­mo­rial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the pas­sen­gers and crew of a hi­jacked jet­liner forced ter­ror­ists to crash on 9/11.

Hun­ner’s lecture, pre­sented by South­west Sem­i­nars, is at Ho­tel Santa Fe, 1501 Paseo de Per­alta, at 6 p.m. on Dec. 12. Ad­mis­sion is $12 at the door. Call 505-466-2775 for more in­for­ma­tion. — Paul Wei­de­man

Kay Mor­ri­son (left) and Mar­ian Wynn, who welded pipes on Lib­erty ships built dur­ing World War II, at the Rosie the Riveter his­tor­i­cal park; right, Jon Hun­ner, photo Greg Mays

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