From Books to Films: The Stories of the Susquehanna Valley

screen still from the SSV film “The Coopers and Conservation at the Headwaters of the Susquehanna”

The Bucknell University Press Stories of the Susquehanna Valley series, edited by Katherine Faull and Alfred Siewers, has inspired a series of documentary projects funded by Bucknell, with one film produced by WVIA and several others produced by Bucknell students.  The book series itself seeks to develop interdisciplinary and multimedia approaches to the concept of region, place, and ethics in environmental studies. As Faull explains, “The Stories of the Susquehanna Book Series with the Bucknell University Press provides a traditional print format for scholarly research that focuses on the interconnectedness of people and place in the Susquehanna Watershed.”  While including a range of disciplines, from sciences and social sciences to literature and philosophy, the Stories of the Susquehanna Valley book series articulates narratives of an eco-region that played a formative, if often hidden, role in the early American republic, and which today provides potential models for more environmentally sustainable approaches to human community.  The editors of the series are also involved in the Stories of the Susquehanna Valley series of documentary projects.  According to Faull, “Where the documentary projects, both those that are student-produced and the WVIA-Bucknell collaborative undertakings, explore these stories in a public-facing genre, the book series attracts scholarship of the highest caliber on the Susquehanna that further informs and deepens the subject matter of the video productions.”

Faull was involved in the production of a film in the series entitled Peoples of the Susquehanna, which examines the history, culture, and traditions of the Native Americans of the river watershed.  The trailer can be viewed on or the full film watched here with a WVIA Passport membership.  According to Siewers, “The recent WVIA-TV hour-length documentary Peoples of the Susquehanna was based on the first book in the [Bucknell University Press] series [Native Americans in the Susquehanna River Valley, Past and Present by David J. Minderhout] and connects with an upcoming volume.”  He explains, “The half-hour documentaries Utopian Dreams and Coopers and Conservation are likewise related to a planned volume.” Three of the documentaries are student-produced under Siewers’ guidance and are entitled Utopian Dreams, The Coopers and Conservation at the Headwaters of the Susquehanna, and The Churches of Coal Country.  The first in the series, Utopian Dreams, focuses on two 18th-century river communities and their diverging visions of society, and can be viewed for free on  The second film, The Coopers and Conservation at the Headwaters of the Susquehanna, examines the literary and conservation legacy of 19th-century authors James Fenimore Cooper and his daughter, Susan Fenimore Cooper. Key figures in American nature writing, the Coopers and their work helped to establish an early ethic of environmental stewardship at the Susquehanna River’s headwaters in Cooperstown, NY. This film has just been recently finished and is scheduled to broadcast on Thursday, May 31st at 8pm with encores on Friday, June 1st at 2pm and Sunday, June 3rd at 1pmThe Churches of Coal Country, the third in the student-produced series, is currently under production and will examine Slavic immigrant communities in Mount Carmel, PA.  It will cover similar themes found in another book from the series called Coal Dust on Your Feet: The Rise, Decline, and Restoration of an Anthracite Mining Town by Janet MacGaffey.

As Siewers explains, “Books and documentaries are two methods of exploring the region and highlighting its cultures in our series.”  Both Siewers and Faull are dedicated to highlighting the historical and cultural significance of the Susquehanna corridor.  According to Siewers, the book and documentary projects are focused on “developing digital story maps and other materials related to the rich landscape layers of culture and natural history in what some geologists consider to be America’s oldest river watershed.”  From books to films, the Stories of the Susquehanna Valley projects convey themes of interconnectedness across communities along the river and celebrate the shared environment through creative and informational perspectives.

Update: The Coopers and Conservation at the Headwaters of the Susquehanna can now be viewed online for free here.