Iowa State University historian Riney-Kehrberg included in next Ken Burns film ‘The Dust Bowl’

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Pamela Riney-Kehrberg

AMES, Iowa – An Iowa State University historian and expert on the 1930s dust bowl is featured in filmmaker Ken Burns’ newest documentary airing on public television Nov. 18 and 19.

Pamela Riney-Kehrberg, professor and chair of history, will talk about what has been called the "worst man-made ecological disaster in American history" in the epic "The Dust Bowl." The two-part, four-hour PBS program will be shown Sunday, Nov. 18, and Monday, Nov. 19, 7-9 p.m. CST each day. The film is an oral history and a historical look at the period of fierce dust storms in the southern U.S. plains caused by severe drought and poor farming methods.

The Department of History is an academic unit in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Iowa State University.

The film’s writer and producer, Dayton Duncan, interviewed Riney-Kehrberg, an agricultural and rural historian, three years ago in Oklahoma City.

"They did about three hours of filming with me in a historic home," she recalled. "Following that, I helped edit the film’s script for content, and attended the viewing of the rough-cut two years ago."

Riney-Kehrberg has assisted the producers to ensure historical accuracy in several areas. "My job has been to provide historical content, evaluate the content provided by other individuals and assess the historical appropriateness of the visual images used to illustrate content."

A member of the Iowa State faculty since 2000, Riney-Kehrberg has two books on the dust bowl. She authored Rooted in Dust: Surviving Drought and Depression in Southwestern Kansas (University Press of Kansas, 1994) and was editor of Waiting on the Bounty: The Dust Bowl Diary of Mary Knackstedt Dyck (University of Iowa Press, 1999). She also served as historical consultant on the 1998 Steward-Gazit Productions film, "Surviving the Dust Bowl."

The new film includes memories of several elderly survivors of the dust bowl, which affected some 100 million acres in Oklahoma, Texas and other states. Giant clouds of dust forced many people from their homes, especially in 1934 and 1936.

"The Dust Bowl was one of the longest sustained environmental crises that this country has ever experienced," Riney-Kehrberg said, "and the generation that remembers it is nearly gone. This is probably the last opportunity to produce a dust bowl documentary and have individuals who actually experienced the drought and dust storms speak."

Riney-Kehrberg doesn’t know how much she will be seen in the film. "I really don’t know how much I’ll be on camera. I’ve seen the rough cut, but have no idea how the final cut shaped up."

Ken Burns has created several epic films documenting American history including "Baseball," "The Civil War," "Lewis & Clark" and "The War."


About Liberal Arts and Sciences The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is a world-class learning and research community. Iowa State’s most academically diverse college, LAS educates students to become global citizens, providing rigorous academic programs in the sciences, humanities and social sciences within a supportive personalized learning environment. College faculty design new materials, unravel biological structures, care for the environment, and explore social and behavioral issues. From fundamental research to technology transfer and artistic expression, the college supports people in Iowa and around the world.

NEWS RELEASE College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Iowa State University

Contacts: Pamela Riney-Kehrberg, History, (515) 294-7286, Steve Jones, Liberal Arts and Sciences Communications, (515) 294-0461,