Nicholas Lowe, Chair and Associate Professor of the Department of Historic Preservation at SAIC, will be presenting his paper “Tracing What Remains: Looking for James Wilkins’ Grand Moving Mirror of The Overland Trail” at the 28th International Panorama Council Conference, taking place in Atlanta, GA on September 26-27, 2019.
In 1849 little known artist James Wilkins traveled the Overland Trail from St Louis Missouri to Hang Town (now Placerville in present day California) to record and collect landscape details as studies from which he produced a scroll panorama, The Grand Moving Mirror of the Overland Trail. The panorama has long since disappeared but a journal and 50 watercolor drawings survive alongside 13 paintings and an assortment of archival ephemera. Inspired to retrace his journey in the Fall of 2017, I chose to travel the same route as a method of inquiry recording the experience in watercolor, photography and video. To gain an understanding of the contemporary resonances of this panorama as an historical document this essay reflects on the residues of Wilkins’s journey, alongside contemporary observations from the same landscapes.