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A Place in the Land

Carriage Trails. Credit: Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park

The film, A Place in the Land, is shown daily in the museum's visitor center as an introduction to the Billings Farm & Museum and the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. Produced by The Woodstock Foundation, Inc., the National Park Service and the American Memory projects of the Library of Congress were advisers to the Foundation in the film's production. The film received an Academy Award nomination in the documentary film category.

A Place in the Land examines the history of conservation stewardship in America as it is reflected in this property and through the work of George Perkins Marsh, Frederick Billings, and Laurance S. Rockefeller, successive residents of the estate.

The property includes the Billings Farm, an operating dairy farm developed in 1871 that became a model farm, and 555-acre Mount Tom which was deforested, and later reforested as a tree plantation. These improvements were undertaken in the late 19th century by Vermont native Frederick Billings. Billings' values were influenced in part by George Perkins Marsh's book Man and Nature, which was first published in 1864 and became the fountainhead of ecological thought. Marsh grew up on this property and his early thinking about deforestation and erosion were shaped in part by his experience in Woodstock.

The late Laurance and Mary Rockefeller had been stewards of the property for many decades. Mrs. Rockefeller was Frederick Billings' granddaughter and Mr. Rockefeller had a significant career as a conservationist in his own right. Through his personal contributions and efforts in the Grand Tetons, the U. S. Virgin Islands, Woodstock, and other places, he had furthered the development both of parks and visitor amenities through private philanthropy. He encouraged public action, helping to define a new focus for land conservation by emphasizing the importance of access for people.

The film was directed by the late Charles Guggenheim, a Washington, D.C. film maker who achieved an international reputation in documentary film making. Described by The Saturday Review's film critic, Hollis Alpert, as "probably the most accomplished maker of documentary films in the country,"

Charles Guggenheim. Credit: Guggenheim Productions

Guggenheim won top awards in every international film competition. He received the George Foster Peabody Award in broadcasting, eleven Academy Award nominations, and four Academy Awards: "RFK Remembered," a film biography of Robert F. Kennedy; "Nine from Little Rock," which chronicled the Arkansas school integration crisis and the changes wrought in subsequent years; "The Johnstown Flood," a film commemorating the 100th anniversary of the disaster; and "A Time for Justice," the story of the Civil Rights movement.