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May 10, 2021 at 2:36 pm

Buckley Receives Baker Award to Examine How National Geographic Society Helped Grow America’s National Parks

Dr. Geoffrey Buckley, portrait

Dr. Geoffrey Buckley

Dr. Geoffrey Buckley, professor of Geography, was one of five Ohio University faculty receiving John C. Baker Fund awards for research, scholarship and creative work during spring semester 2021.

Endowed in 1961 by a gift of more than $612,000 from 1926 College of Arts & Sciences graduate Edwin L. Kennedy and his wife, Ruth, a 1930 graduate of the College of Education, The John C. Baker Fund was established to support faculty improvement and research efforts. Up to $12,000 is available for each award.

Buckley received $7,770 for his project Silent Partner: The National Geographic Society and America’s National Parks.

“Since its inception in 1916, the National Park Service has cultivated a close working relationship with the National Geographic Society. To ensure the future of the park service, its first director, Stephen Tyng Mather, took steps to encourage tourism and aggressively market the handful of national parks that existed at the time. He also sought to expand the system,” says Buckley.

Buckley collected correspondence from the National Geographic Society Library and Archives in Washington, D.C., that indicates that Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor—long-time editor of National Geographic Magazine and president of the society from 1920 to 1954—played a key role in advancing Mather’s vision for the national parks.

“In addition to promoting the national parks in the pages of the popular National Geographic, Grosvenor and his allies participated actively in the expansion of the system. To date, little is known about the critical role the National Geographic Society played in building America’s network of national parks,” Buckley says.

Buckley’s next step is to conduct research at several National Park Service archives during a faculty fellowship leave scheduled for fall 2021 and spring 2022. He is looking for additional information to complement the data already collected at the National Geographic Society that might show just how closely these two powerful organizations cooperated, focusing specifically on the land acquisition strategies and practices that led to the creation of several western parks.

“Using an environmental justice lens, this research also will cast light on how these strategies and practices were developed, how they were adapted to different locations and situations, how they were modified and refined over time, and the degree to which current land use conflicts can be traced to these early land transfers. For this study I will focus specifically on the development of the NPS-NGS alliance and the creation of Carlsbad Caverns National Park,” Buckley says.

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