World Heritage Day: Celebrating History that Sticks

In honor of World Heritage Day, Communication Associate Michael Swearingen sat down with two of our employees to talk about their favorite heritage sites and 106 Group project work.

Wright Brothers Memorial: Chris Evans, Director of Media and Design

First in flight photo of Wright Brothers
What is your favorite heritage site and why?

My favorite heritage site is the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kitty Hawk, NC. It’s my favorite both because of my love of tinkering and sheer engineering but also because of trial and error. You know you try something 194 times… you try slightly different things. Finally magic happens. To stand in those places and smell the air…. It was just, it’s just amazing.

Kitty Hawk is on an island that is moving. The wind moves the sand and it’s right on the ocean—breeze is everywhere. You’re maybe a couple hundred yards away from where it used to be, but it’s the same landscape and it’s mostly a natural landscape. But when you’re in the park, they built this monument and they put concrete there and it’s pretty clearly “this is the spot.” When I first look at the site on screen or photos or whatever, I say to myself, “this isn’t going to move me.” But as soon as you get there you’re just knocked over by just how few number of years we went from “we turned a bicycle into an airplane” to “we are on the moon.” Humans did that…that’s infectious.

What is your favorite aspect of 106 Group project work?

[106 Group is] place based. And so that’s our angle and that makes so much sense. Every place has a story and that’s why each place is special. So we really pull those out. Some of the stories are everywhere. For instance CCC camps, a nationally worthy story. So many places tell the exact same story. We go there and they say “I want to tell this story.” It’s like, “great, we can do that in one paragraph. Tell me why it’s unique here.” And then clients go “hmmmmm?” and then they say that the place is the first type of brick work that was used in this state or this is the biggest x, y, or z they got built. Now we’re talking about what’s special about here, even though it’s a national story, on a national level, it’s not unique. What’s that magic kernel? Because then that’s where the passion flows. It’s like, “now we’ve got something, now we got some sizzle.”

Wright Borothers National Monument, towering stone obilesk pointing towards the sky
Wright Brothers National Monument

Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis: Kate Hunt, Bioarchaeologist

Kate Hunt in Egypt outside stairs to a tomb
What is your favorite heritage site and why?

My favorite heritage site is Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis in Luxor, Egypt. The UNESCO World Heritage site is a combination of the ancient city as well as the necropolis even though they’re on opposite sides of the river. On the city side, you have the Temples of Karnak and Luxor as well as the Avenue of the Sphinxes which connects the two temples, and also connects them with the Nile, which was a holy river. The avenue of Sphinxes is where royalty (some were regarded as gods) would be able to walk to these locations. Only gods, priests, and royalty could walk through the avenue of these sphinxes to these very holy places. Really cool.

Most people associate the Theban Necropolis with the Valley of the Kings, but the Valley of the Kings is actually only one segment. There are a couple of different valleys including the Valley of the Queens and the Valley of the Monkeys. This secret and holy place was used to bury the dead, whether they were royalty or upper-class elites of society. It’s just a very powerful place. It feels really interesting when you’re down in these valleys because they’ve been carved by millions of years of flooding and rainfall, and hidden in all of the resulting nooks and crannies are hundreds of tombs of people who lived thousands of years ago. So it’s a pretty neat feeling.

What is your favorite aspect of 106 Group project work?

When it comes to heritage sites, I really like [106 Group’s] dedication to communication with our community and with the tribal communities. I think that’s incredibly important and it hasn’t been done enough in history.106 Group makes a very special, persistent, and intentional effort to make sure that the community and tribes are involved in the projects that we work on, and I think that is integral to preserving and interpreting our heritage sites. I love that we’re dedicated, in archaeology, to the integrity of the archaeological work that we do. We don’t cut corners. We make sure that we’re doing the most that we can, and the best job that we can for any project we happen to be working on. And I think that’s really important.