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Seeing Underground

Eric Nystrom

Publication Year: 2014

Nystrom examines the development of mining maps and models as a means for engineers and geologists to visualize the underground world. The development of these visual models was a major factor in the industrialization of mining in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Nystrom’s many examples avoid a narrow regional focus and draw widely from important mining areas, including Pennsylvania anthracite, Nevada silver, and both Michigan and Montana copper. Nystrom argues that the growing use of and dependence on the visual culture of maps and models helped solidify mining engineers and geologists as a key professional class in American mining, shaping their expertise and enhancing their authority over underground spaces and labor.

Published by: University of Nevada Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

I hadn’t planned to study mining history, but the first time I saw an underground map, I was thunderstruck. The vivid colors, the tangle of angular lines, and the lack of background decoration suggested free jazz or abstract art, not an engineering document. I couldn’t figure out what it...

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pp. 1-14

In the summer of 2002 the world’s attention was riveted to a field in southwestern Pennsylvania. On July 24, 2002, nine bituminous coal miners were trapped underground in the Quecreek Mine by a flood of water that was released when the workers unexpectedly broke into an abandoned...

Part I: Mine Maps

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Chapter 1: Underground Mine Maps

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pp. 17-52

Maps are powerful because they allow us to learn or know about places that might be far from our present experience, but in a way that relates the unknown to other places on the earth. They organize and represent space visually. However, most people don’t need a map of their hometown in...

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Chapter 2: Anthracite Mapping and Eckley Coxe

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pp. 53-84

This chapter moves from the broad focus of the previous chapter to examine the visual culture of mining in one particularly important sector of the nineteenth century mining industry, the anthracite coal fields of eastern Pennsylvania. As shown in chapter 1, after the mid-1800s mapping...

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Chapter 3: New Maps, the Butte System, and Geologists Ascendant

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pp. 85-110

Butte, Montana, has been called the “richest hill on earth” for the remarkable concentration of minerals in its rocks. These minerals underpinned a mining town of remarkable longevity, culture, and labor activism. Though the mines have largely disappeared and a massive open pit with a toxic...

Part II: Mine Models

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Chapter 4: Modeling the Underground in Three Dimensions

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pp. 113-148

The two-dimensional maps described in the previous chapters were the most common visual representations associated with the mining industry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Though these maps were important and could be beautiful, the most spectacular elements...

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Chapter 5: Models and the Legal Landscape of Underground Mining

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pp. 149-191

Visitors to the W. M. Keck Geology Museum, housed in the Mackay School of Mines building on the campus of the University of Nevada–Reno, are confronted with a bewildering array of interesting stuff. Long cases full of mineral specimens, both common and rare, form the heart of the museum’s...

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Chapter 6: Mine Models for Education and the Public

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pp. 192-220

The visual power of mine models made them perfect vehicles for teaching. Such models helped mining engineers convey, in a visual way, the spaces and technologies of industrial mining that they helped to create. Although mine models varied widely in their content and form, all helped engineers...

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pp. 221-228

This study ends about 1920. By then the mining engineering profession had undergone tremendous change in the United States, in lockstep with the industrialization of mining. Particularly with the advent of mass mining, engineers had made themselves an essential part of any mining operation...


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pp. 229-270


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pp. 271-290


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pp. 291-306

E-ISBN-13: 9780874179330
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874179323

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 42 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 877908064
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Seeing Underground

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Mines and mineral resources -- United States -- History.
  • Geological mapping -- United States -- History.
  • Mine maps -- United States -- History.
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