Saturday Speaker: Arrested Decay: How Ghost Towns Romanticize the History of Mining

December 9, 2017
11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
Chemical Heritage Foundation
315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
United States

Darin Hayton surveys the preservation of abandoned mining towns, which endure in limbo between heyday and decay.

Ghost towns give us a chance to travel back in time and experience the rowdy, boom-and-bust era of the Wild West. Dirt streets, ramshackle buildings, sagebrush, and rusting equipment evoke images of gunfighters and prospectors, gambling men and saloon girls, and, above all, mining. It is no accident that many ghost towns and certainly the most famous ones are former mining camps, places like Bodie, California; Virginia City, Nevada; or Tombstone, Arizona, which thrive in our imagination as much more than they are in reality. For decades such mining camps were ignored or derided as failures. Then in the last 50 years or so they became protected, preserved, and celebrated as an important part of our heritage. But we never experience ghost towns as they were in their heyday or as they would be today if left to the forces of nature. Instead, we encounter them in a carefully planned, often constructed, and constantly maintained state of arrested decay. I want to explore why we work so hard to preserve and commemorate ghost towns and their legacy of mining.

About the Speaker 

Darin Hayton is a historian of science whose research focuses on the ways science and scientific knowledge are deployed in politics. His first book, The Crown and the Cosmos, traces the ways Emperor Maximilian I relied on astrology and expert astrologers to advance his political program at the Holy Roman Court. Hayton is now working on a study of the astronomical sciences in 14th-century Constantinople. He is pathologically irreverent and, at least in his own mind, one of the funniest academics around (not that there is much competition). He is currently chair of the history department at Haverford College.

About the Saturday Speaker Series

Dive into fascinating stories of science with our Saturday speaker series!

Every month a speaker will offer a short talk on an intriguing scientific topic, followed by a Q&A or discussion over complimentary tea and coffee. Afterward, feel free to mingle with other guests and the speaker, or spend time visiting the Museum at the Institute.

Admission is free, and no reservations are necessary.