I'm in the process of testing a hypothesis on the heritage process, visibility, and remembering in the Mesabi Range. I believe that there is a much higher percentage of historic mines that are still visible on the landscape compared to the ghost plants, and this is one of the reasons why the mining pits have tended to dominate the contemporary heritage discourse of the Lake Superior Iron District, even though their environmental footprint may have been less impactful than the invisible ghost plants.
To test this assumption, I've been surveying aerial imagery of the Mesabi Range to see how many former mines and their waste piles are visible on the landscape, as well as their associated ghost plants. In doing so, I've become amazed by how many water bodies are dotted across the post-industrial landscape - granted this is the land of 10,000 lakes - and thought this would be a good time to post a rhetorical question that I continue to dwell on - How do you interpret a mine that has become a lake?
John Baeten is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Spatial Analysis of Environmental Change in the Department of Geography at Indiana University. He holds a PhD in Industrial Heritage and Archaeology from Michigan Technological University. His research aims to connect historical process to current environmental challenges, and to contextualize the environmental legacies of industrialization as meaningful cultural heritage.