The Militarized Arboretum

Gabi Kirk, Bobby Moeller, Javier Arbona, UC Davis

The production of an alternative walking tour guide of a commonly forgotten aspect of UC Davis history. This project reflects on the occupation of Putah Creek, a local landmark, as a militarized occupation.

“The Militarized Arboretum – A Walking History of UC Davis” aims to defamiliarize the campus landscape by examining a radically divergent institutional context in our school’s history: when the U.S. Army Western Signal Corps School commandeered campus to serve as a base during World War II. How does examining the history of UC Davis as military base blur the borders between ‘wartime’ and ‘peacetime,’ ‘domestic’ and ‘foreign,’ and ‘historical’ and contemporary ‘leisurely’ sites? What is Putah Creek and its watershed’s importance to natural/human history in this place, and what stories of violence along the creek have been buried? We use speculative placemaking methods (archival research, walking tours, and visual/written production)to join the campus and community conversation on how to commemorate past violences for a more diverse and equitable future. We address themes of global U.S. empire, settler colonialism in California, student protest, and police militarization.