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D.C. Jackson, associate professor of history and chair of the American Studies program at Lafayette, appears in an episode of the acclaimed five-part PBS series Building Big.

Hosted by award-winning author-illustrator David Macaulay, Building Big is a miniseries on megastructures, exploring the history behind some of the world’s greatest feats of engineering – bridges, domes, skyscrapers, dams, and tunnels – and the ingenuity of the engineers, architects, and builders who designed and built them.

Jackson is featured in the episode on dams, which discusses structures that range from Hoover Dam on the Colorado River to Aswan High Dam on the Nile, which holds back a lake the size of England. The one-hour program is available on video by itself or in a boxed set of all five shows in the series. Videos and a companion book can be ordered at the Building Big Web site,

“The program looks at these dams and balances the tension between celebrating these big structures and realizing their environmental costs,” says Jackson, who is senior historian for the History of Federal Dams project, funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the National Parks Service.

“The Aswan Dam was built in the 1950s and provides hydroelectric power for a large part of Egypt,” he says. “An enormous section of land was flooded for that dam. The meant removing the culture, which included ancient statues that had to be relocated.”

In addition to appearing on the program, Jackson served as a consultant, reviewing the script for the episode and sharing ideas on how to achieve the producer’s goal. “About 12 engineers and historians spent the day working with producer Judith Dawn Hallet and host David Macauley,” Jackson says. “I was interviewed on-camera, reviewed some cuts of films, and offered some input on the script.”

Jackson’s areas of interest and expertise include the history of dams and water-resource development He is the author of Great American Bridges and Dams, published in 1998 by John Wiley, and Building the Ultimate Dam: John S. Eastwood and the Control of Water in the West, published in 1995 by the University Press of Kansas, which was selected as an Outstanding Academic Book for 1996 by CHOICE, the official publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries. He is also editor of Dams, the fourth volume in the Studies in the History of Civil Engineering series published in England by Ashgate/Variorum Press.

In 1994 he received the Western History Association’s Ray A. Billington Award for the best article on the history of the American West for “Engineering in the Progressive Era: A New Look at Frederick Haynes Newell and the U.S. Reclamation Service,” published in Technology and Culture.

His current projects include a book/manuscript on “Damming Hetch Hetchy: John R. Freeman and the Expansion of San Francisco’s Water Supply into Yosemite National Park.”

He has served as a consultant and investigator on a variety of dam projects, including preparing historical documentation for the Salt Rivers Dam Project, Phoenix, Ariz.; doing a historic bridge inventory of Rhode Island; researching the history of the upper Provo River in Utah; and assessing the historical significance of Bonneville Dam for the National Historical Landmark nomination by the Portland District, Army Corps of Engineers.

A member of the Lafayette faculty since 1989, he was the recipient of Lafayette College’s Thomas and Lura Forrest Jones Lecture Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Teaching in 1996, and the Student Government Superior Teaching Award in 1991. He holds master’s and doctoral degrees in American Studies from the University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Swarthmore College.

Building Big is a production of the WGBH Science Unit and Production Group, Inc., of Washington, D.C., and is presented on PBS by WGBH Boston. Major funding for the series is provided by the National Science Foundation.

Categorized in: Academic News