Monday, June 7, 2010

Speeding Violations, Museum Services, and Thoughts - GETT

"An explanation must be furnished at once to the commission"

Some things never change. My supervisor, Ranger Levins, found a box of speeding violations down in the archives recently. We were able to take moment to look at a couple of them - primarily out of sheer curiosity. The explanations aren't much different than you'd get today on a traffic stop!

"I am not that kind of a person to violate rules"

As of now, they are just eight years short of being one hundred years old. I find something about the notion of a 100-year-old speeding ticket to be incredibly funny.

Spinning wheels!
As I mentioned earlier, we found these down in the archives. Museum Services/the archives (or "The Dungeon" as it is fondly called here) is where the park houses its massive collection of artifacts not currently on display.


In this climate-controlled, seismically-monitored room are endless rows of cabinets and drawers marked with labels that say things like "DRUMS", "COATS", and racks upon racks of artifacts such as these muskets.

Penn State intern Kristen Campbell, hard at work cataloging ramrods.

Presently, the interns and staff are cataloging these artifacts - which is an important task not only for the sake of taking stock, but making sure that the provenance of the particular relic being cataloged is maintained.

The provenance, or (to oversimplify) history of an item is important to establish and maintain because these seemingly random, cast-off remnants of the battle are all evidence of who was where, doing what at what time. Much like forensic evidence at a crime scene, even minor details such as their orientation in relation to other items found in the same "cache" are vital bits of information that can be understood by a trained individual - and then disseminated to the public and thus provide a greater understanding of the battle.

It then becomes our job as Protection Rangers to make sure that these resources are (for a lack of a better term) protected. Though I am told that Gettysburg, on the whole, is fairly well-cleaned of artifacts - it is still important to remain proactive against relic hunters and the like for the simple fact that it's impossible to know what might be out there on the field. Relic hunting is particularly devastating not only because it is is the theft of a park's resources, but it denies that resource and the knowledge it might be able to impart to the public. Typically, these stolen relics simply get shuffled about and sold as tokens without history or significance beyond "Civil War musket". As an anthropology major, I find this to be particularly disturbing, if not sad.

Ranger Ryan Levins, observing the battlefield from atop the 44th New York monument. (Believe it or not, this is actually a candid shot.)

On a random personal note, I am thrilled to think that some day I too will be able to gaze, hawklike, over the edge of some precipice in order to survey America's most beautiful, significant places.

Granted, I can do this now or any time I want, but who am I but a goofy intern with a camera? Once I finish the ProRanger program and get out of FLETC, it will be official. To me, that makes all the difference in the world. I think it feels really good to have life goals.

It's one thing to do well in college and know that you will graduate with good grades. That, in itself is fantastic, but does little to secure your future, especially in the present economy. So it's another thing entirely to know that you've got an incredible career waiting for you if you just work for it. I guess I'm having a grateful/"OMGLOLO I AM PSYCHED!1!!~" moment right now - but that's OK. Sometimes it's good to take a step back at the risk of possibly seeming corny.

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