Second Annual Gateway History Conference: Call for Participants

Brad Wiles's picture
Call for Papers
December 19, 2015
Iowa, United States
Subject Fields: 
American History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Environmental History / Studies, Immigration & Migration History / Studies, Local History

‘Cannot Tame That Lawless Stream’

A Conference on the Environmental History of the Upper Mississippi River in the Iowa-Illinois Gateway Area, 1673-Present


The Sawmill Museum and the Clinton Public Library invite panel and presentation submissions for the Second Annual Gateway History Conference on April 23, 2016. The conference will explore the environmental history of the Upper Mississippi River and its ever-changing influence on the Gateway Area of Iowa and Illinois.


How we experience the river today - its direction, its quality, the forms of life it supports - is a cumulative result of human manipulation that dates to the last Ice Age. While Native civilizations long sought and achieved a more balanced approach to life along the Upper Mississippi, the accelerated pace of European and American settlement has resulted in what amounts to an ongoing experiment to bend an intractable force of nature to each subsequent generation’s will. What role have our attempts to ‘tame’ the Upper Mississippi River played in the development of the Gateway Area from the earliest settlers to present day? Residents continue to orient ourselves, our culture, our economies, and our heritage around the river, but in doing so we have repeatedly threatened its viability through environmental mismanagement. Amongst the backdrop of the largest, manmade portion of the Upper Mississippi, this conference seeks to investigate the changing ecology of the river and its inhabitants through the lens of modern history.


For the purpose of this conference, the Gateway Area will be roughly defined as the region in and around Clinton County, Iowa and Whiteside County, Illinois, but proposals relating more generally to the Upper Mississippi River region - from Lake Itasca, Minnesota to St. Louis, Missouri - are also welcome. The conference organizers seek individual and panel session proposals addressing various aspects of Upper Mississippi River history but with a focus on environmental or ecological history. All presentations should be based on original research or creative work and participants from all academic, professional, and disciplinary backgrounds are encouraged to submit proposals. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:


  • Native Peoples and the River

  • Early American Settlements and the River

  • Transportation and Navigation Along the River

  • Upper Mississippi River-based Economies

  • Upper Mississippi River Culture and Art

  • The Rise of Industrial Agriculture in the Gateway along the Upper Mississippi

  • Historic Cross-River Rivalries and Competition

  • Historical River Personalities and Curiosities in the Gateway

  • Environmental Policies and the Upper Mississippi River

  • Taming the Mighty River

  • Historic Floods and Other Disasters

  • Changes in the Fauna and Flora of the River

  • Ghost River Towns and Past River Based Industries

  • Ecological Imperialism, Settler Colonialism, and the Exploitation of Nature

  • The Upper Mississippi as Frontier and Border


The conference will take place on Saturday April 23, 2015 at the newly remodeled Eagle Point Park, overlooking Lake Clinton on the Mississippi River from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., followed by a film screening from 3:30-5:00 p.m. Submissions will be accepted until Sunday December 6, 2015, with those selected for participation receiving notification by December 19, 2015. The final program and conference format will be announced by January 8, 2016. There is no registration fee for conference presenters, however all participants are responsible for their own travel and accommodations costs. Proposals will be accepted via email only and should be sent to For questions about the conference or sponsorship inquiries please contact Brad Wiles at the Clinton Public Library at 563-242-9115.

Contact Info: 

Brad Wiles, Clinton Public Library, 563-242-9115