The D’Arcy McNickle Interpretive Garden

The D’Arcy McNickle Interpretive Garden, a temporary exhibit located within the Carolina Community Garden, began as part of an Undergraduate Research Consultant Team project funded by the Office of Undergraduate Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that lasted from January 2020 to May 2021.

The garden and interpretive posters were inspired by writings found in the diary of D’Arcy McNickle (1904-1977), one of the twentieth-century’s most important American Indian writers, intellectuals, and political actors.

The diary, which is housed in The Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois, has often been overlooked as a source because McNickle devoted so many pages to gardening and other everyday activities.

Our team, however, sought and found profound insights in these otherwise mundane entries–insights that we explored in the context of interpretive posters entitled “More Than A Garden,” “Mapping An Experiential World,” “Hearing D’Arcy McNickle’s Experiential World,”  and “A World Beyond Imagination.” These posters consider McNickle’s gardening and diary entries, generally, through the lens of place-making, decolonial mapping, sound, and the resurgence of Native plant- and foodways.

Our work on the garden began after we transcribed a large portion of his diary devoted to the early 1940s during the spring 2020 semester. We then compiled a list of the edibles and flowers and reached out to the North Carolina Botanical Garden about the possibility of planting a garden. The Carolina Community Garden generously offered us space, and we proceeded to define and design our interpretive posters, prepare and plant the garden, and build and install the signage during the fall 2020 semester. The initial planting included Chinese cabbage, turnips, onions, pansies, lettuce, Swiss chard, peas, and sweet potatoes. The video at the top of this page provides a window into the garden’s creation and its growth from the fall of 2020 through the spring of 2021.

We recognized from the outset that the physical garden exhibit would necessarily be temporary, and we wanted to find a way for it to live on and to be accessible to a wider audience. These convictions led to the creation of a virtual tour of The D’Arcy McNickle Interpretive Garden entitled “Experiencing The Garden.”

The first iteration of the virtual tour, which was built around the posters created by the URCT, was launched with the help of students enrolled in Dr. Cobb’s class Digital Native America (AMST 341) during the spring 2022 semester. They were assisted by URCT alumnus Mackenzie Collura-Repp. We invite you to click the link above to take the tour!

The D’Arcy McNickle Interpretive Garden temporary exhibit would not have been possible without the support of Claire Lorch and Joanna Massey Lelekacs at the Carolina Community Garden and North Carolina Botanical Garden.