Members of the Carolinas Chapter of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, the Greensboro Historical Society and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro were treated to two presentations by Gary Moulton, editor of the Lewis & Clark Journals.
Professor Moulton's presentation at the Greensboro Historical Museum focused on his experience as editor. I came away from his presentation with the sense that to complete this project is virtually on the same level of difficulty that the Corps of Discovery had in traveling up and over the Rockies to the Pacific and back.
Lewis & Clark and their fellow journal writers wrote their observations down about a multitude of topics, from mapping, to floral and fauna, to the cultural life of native tribes. To edit their writings required someone who could exhibit the same focused discipline to see the project through to its end, and the same ability to draw upon the expertise of people in far ranging fields of science, history and linguistics to make certain the journals were accurately edited.
The Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition are an American treasure. Of course, we all believe that. But if the wise people who make these kinds of decisions had chosen someone whose temperament was less humble, less collaborative, less willing to learn, then the outcome of this most difficult venture would be less than satisfying.
Gary Moulton's other presentation was on the editing and publishing history of the journals. It was not his purpose to make this point, but I came away with an increased appreciation for what he has done. The manner in which the journals have been treated over the past two hundred years is not all together commendable. Yet, now we have the best possible edition of the journals. And future generations will be able to delve deeper into this grand story and find the hidden gems that help to explain not only who we are as Americans, but the world that Lewis & Clark was introduced as they journeyed West.
We all owe Gary Moulton our thanks.