History Live and Online
New Website an Invitation to Engage
When the new Fort Sumner Historic Site/Bosque Redondo Memorial website went live earlier this year, it was only partially complete.
That was the intention. “It’s a project designed for partnership,” says site manager Aaron Roth, “to give people a sense of the history, yes, but also, to give them an opportunity to contribute in some way.”
Much like the Bosque Redondo Memorial, which celebrated the grand opening of its new exhibition, Bosque Redondo: A Place of Suffering, A Place of Survival, over Memorial Day weekend, the website introduces viewers to the history behind the Fort Sumner Historic Site. Elements from exhibition mockups were repurposed with the same font and texts on the website, giving far-flung visitors a visual and content based slice of the in-person exhibition. A timeline begins the year the historic site was opened and describes the long road to today’s Bosque Redondo Memorial.
“In 1968,” says Roth, “over 3,000 people gathered in this open field [where the site now stands] to talk about Fort Sumner.” They discussed the atrocities that occurred there during the forced march of Diné (Navajo) and N’de (Mescalero Apache) peoples to the reservation at Bosque Redondo from 1863–1868. “From that point through the website viewers can contribute to the website in other important ways, including oral histories from descendants of people held at Bosque Redondo.
What most excites Roth and other Bosque Redondo historians about the new website is its interactive option. This enables website visitors, including eager amateur historians, to dig through archives of more than 13,000 documents and directly contribute to the project via transcription. “You can actually transcribe documents for the site and learn as you go along,” Roth says.
Website viewers can contribute to the website in other important ways, including oral histories from descendants of people held at Bosque Redondo. Ideally, they will take advantage of the site’s opportunity to respond to the materials provided and comment personally on their unique experiences and histories. A committee from New Mexico Historic Sites and the tribal communities represented on the site will review transcriptions and histories as they come in.
Roth says the new website’s interactivity means that the exhibition at Bosque Redondo Memorial, and its complementary online presence, will never quite be complete. In fact, he is confident that the site’s story will live and grow far beyond his tenure at Fort Sumner.
Citing the Native communities and private donors whose partnerships and funding made the exhibition possible, Roth says, “This is the kind of insurance that says we will continue to collaborate for the future.”
Fort Sumner Historic Site/Bosque Redondo Memorial website:
To support the New Mexico Historic Sites, contact Yvonne Montoya at 505.216.1592 or Yvonne@museumfoundation.org.
This article and image are from Member News Summer 2022. Screenshot from Fort Sumner Historic Site/Bosque Redondo website. Image courtesy New Mexico Historic Sites.