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Surveying in Colonial America: The Point of Beginning

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Thursday, July 8, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1K0114
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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Join the Ohio-based team of photographer Dan Patterson and American historian Clinton Terry as they use historically accurate contemporary photos that restage the work of Virginia's first surveyor, George Washington, and his team to provide an interpretive look at the art and science of surveying in the 18th century. The depictions provide insights into surveying as a primary means of building the nation and how early America, particularly the region from the east to the Ohio River Valley, was initially divided and documented.

They bring to life the processes Washington employed 260 years ago on expeditions for the Department of the Geographer to the Army, American and French soldiers whose work in the field supported the Continental forces. Through the lens of Patterson’s camera and Terry’s narrative, see what Washington saw as he learned his trade, explored the vast American wilderness, and occasionally laid personal claim to great expanses of land.

Terry examines both the profession and the methods of land measurement and surveying in British colonial North America—techniques that did not substantially change until the invention of GPS technology 200 years later. He details the various tools of the trade early surveyors used and how the accuracy of their efforts has proven to be very close to modern measurements.

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