At the Dickson Mounds Museum, resident anthropologist Alan Harn, who has been researching the history of Native Americans in the area for over 50 years, treated us to a wonderful tour. Not only was he uniquely qualified to comment on practically every topic in the museum, but as someone who grew up only a few miles away from the sites he excavated, he was able to weave a fascinating story for us about what it means to be connected to one specific place.
A true raconteur, Alan fascinated us with stories of the people that had lived in the area – all the way from pre-European contact right up to his own life history. He also let us take a look “behind the scenes” at where he does his research, as well as into the museum’s extensive collections of artifacts in storage.
We also stopped by the Oak Hill Cemetery, setting of poet Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology. The collection of poems provides fictionalized histories for persons entombed in the cemetery.
Each “Oakie” picked a favorite poem to read in front of the respective gravestone that served as Masters’ inspiration. Though more somber than Alan’s vivacious stories, the experience was yet another way of understanding how people respond to place.