About the SWI
Boulders from a gravel-pit excavation dumped at the end of a driveway in western MA. What do you think will happen next?
MISSION, FOCUS, PURPOSE, AND PEOPLE
- The MISSSION is to promote the appreciation, investigation, and conservation of historic stone walls, and to education about them.
- The FOCUS is on the cultural, habitat, and aesthetic resources provided by historic walls of New England. They are the closest thing the region has to classical ruins.
- The CONTENTS of this website are listed on the tabs above,
- The PEOPLE are an informal regional coalition of property owners, local historians, conservationists, officers of federal and state agencies, historical and archaeological societies, cultural resource managers, museums, land trusts, architects, scientists, teachers, and individuals.
To contact the SWI, Link to Contacts.
Administratively, the SWI is part of the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History, which is part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Connecticut. There is no physical presence or budget. Rather, it is an internet site hosted by the NEAG School of Education and managed as time allows from the coordinator's laptop as part of his contribution to the university's scholarly engagement. Though coordinated by Professor Robert M. Thorson, the content of this web site represents the collective work of many individuals.
Though supported by a state museum of natural history, the SWI is emphatically regional. Past SWI programs have taken place in all six New England states. Regular visitors to the site and those who have requested programs are heavily concentrated in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York east of the Hudson River and Long Island. [See Maps]. The SWI seeks coordination with similar projects in other states.
The national significance of stone walls has been highlighted by the National Trust for Historical Preservation in Washington D.C, which publishes, Preservation, its national magazine. Stories by the Associated Press and NPR have also featured the initiative. .
Though hard to believe, bricks, asphalt, and other road materials are common in some stone walls. Their presence in walls demonstrates that land use history is long and complex.
The SWI was co-founded by Robert Thorson and Kristine Thorson during the summer of 2002 to coincide with publication of Stone by Stone: The Magnificent History In New England Stone Walls , which recommended a more scientific approach toward understanding them, argued for their greater protection as a cultural and ecological resources, and encouraged readers to respond and share with each other. Since its founding, thousands of individuals contacted the SWI by phone, letter or email. Thousands more heard Professor Thorson give Programs at community gatherings, annual meetings, schools, and conventions. Thousands, perhaps even millions, more have read articles and reviews in newspapers and magazines, seen him on television, or heard him on NPR radio affiliates, or seen the documentary Passages of Time, which chronicled the effort. This ten year "active phase." is now largely complete.
Because there has never been a budget, it took three full years for the SWI to get out an email neswletter to its members; meaning those who felt empowered to advocate more strongly for the conservation of what is increasingly being recognized as a cultural and ecological commons. Along the way, and at the request of members came publication of Exploring Stone Walls: A Field Guide to New England's Stone Walls in 2005. This book was written to provide answers to thousands of questions asked of Professor Thorson by stone wall enthusiasts. Its purpose was: (1) to lay the groundwork for a science of stone walls; (2) to provide a language for describing and classifying walls for the purpose of inventory and management, and (3) to stimulate the New England culture-tourism economy.
To strengthen its public outreach and archival efforts, the SWI merged with the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History in the spring of 2005, operating out of the former Office of the State Archaeologist. The SWI also established a mutual commitment with the TNE Project (Teachers for a New Era) at the University of Connecticut, funded by the Carnegie Institution of New York. More recently, the SWI has been working with the University of Connecticut Foundation.
After about ten years, the SWI moved past it's active outreach phase, which mainly involved correspondence, school programs, and speaking engagements, and funded privately (and at a loss) through talk honoraria. Due to the lack of resources, the list-serve went active. The coordinator cut back on accepting speaking invitations. For the latest, interested parties are advised to check the news section of the SWI for intermittent updates.