Tesla: Interpreting an Invisible Landscape

Purpose of the Study: The intent of this thesis is to demonstrate that industrial landscapes and other “invisible,” or historically undervalued, landscapes have interpretive potential. The overall goals in this study are to contribute to the academic literature of industrial landscapes, to provide methods by which these landscapes can be interpreted to the public, and to aid California State Parks in meeting their management goals for interpretation. This thesis will be provided to California State Parks to be utilized prior to their implementation of an interpretive program at the Tesla addition to Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area, a California State Park. Methods: A literature review of interpretation methods and cultural landscape studies was conducted to identify how other similar landscapes are assessed and interpreted to the public. In addition, historical research was done on the town of Tesla and the coal mines that were situated in the area, as well as on coal mining in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, company towns, and labor relations. Findings: While there is ample information on industrial landscapes, there are far fewer examples on how these landscapes can be practically interpreted. This thesis identifies three potential “invisible landscapes” that can interpreted for the public by California State Parks and provides means by which these invisible landscapes may be made “visible” to the visiting public. As a site of working class history, Tesla may be distinctly valuable as a tool for Parks to reach out to communities typically underserved by Parks in California. The interpretation of Tesla’s landscapes will meet Parks management goals for protecting the resources, protecting and inspiring the visitor, and promoting the agency. Conclusions: The cultural landscape of Tesla is complex and its history may not be readily apparent on the physical landscape. However, its complicated history provides ample opportunities for Parks to reach out to a variety of constituencies, including those typically underserved by the park system. Through this collaboration, Parks will be able to meet its management goals for interpretation, while presenting a diverse history that may appeal to a variety of users.