The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 might seem irrelevant in modern-day Ohio, but it led to advances in landscape architecture that are studied to this day.
“Managing the Mississippi: From Magma to Mud,” opening on Wednesday at the Banvard Gallery inside the Knowlton School of Architecture, takes a look into flood-control infrastructure. It focuses on how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have become arguably the most influential landscape designers in the history of the country, said Matthew Seibert, a lecturer in landscape architecture and exhibit organizer. Kristi Cheramie, associate professor in landscape architecture, and Brad Steinmetz, an assistant professor in theatre, also helped organize the exhibit.
The flood was the largest river flood in the history of the country, taking hundreds of lives and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, Seibert said. Afterward, the Army Corps of Engineers began work on flood-control construction around the Mississippi River.
“The scale and extent to which some of their flood-control projects are developed are unprecedented in their ability and in their construction and mission to control nature,” Seibert said. “It’s almost like a declaration of war on nature.”
The idea for the exhibition arose after another record-breaking flood of the Mississippi in 2011, which the Army Corps of Engineers also responded to. Seibert began planning the exhibit at that time as a graduate student Louisiana. He and Cheramie both researched the history of flood-control infrastructure and how it changed the landscape and lives of those living in the Mississippi Valley.
One of the pieces in the exhibit is a large topographic model of the Lower Mississippi Valley. A projector faces down onto the model, projecting video animations that explore the environment before, during and after the Great Flood of 1927. Landscape architecture students, who are currently taking Seibert’s advanced media seminar, constructed the topographic model. Another projection supplements the model with historical footage and maps of the region in different stages of the development of flood-control construction.
The rest of the exhibit is focused on archival research done by Seibert and Cheramie. Panels of transparent fabric printed with archival photographs line the exhibit. These include images of flood victims stranded on rooftops and areas so badly flooded that they look like open ocean.
“There is a real story there, and what (the exhibit) is able to do is fill in the holes in order to tell a complete story,” Steinmetz said.
The exhibit will remain open from Wednesday to Dec. 9. Hours for the Banvard Gallery, which is located on the first floor of Knowlton Hall, are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Admission is free.