Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Antietam National Battlefield - Week 5

This week, we spent the week working with the Interpretation division of the park. Prior to working with Interpretation, Jim and I were both very nervous. Interpretation meant that we would have to interact with park visitors, giving directions, answering questions about the Civil War, and in general doing something that neither of us had ever experienced before. This was the division that we were both most fearful of. The Interpretation staff welcomed us bright and early Monday morning and within the first hour we were working the front desk with a few of the volunteers and an Interp Ranger. After helping our first visitor, we quickly realized that it wasn't as bad as we thought it would be! If we didn't know the answer to a question, visitors would understand as we would grab one of the Interp Rangers who has been there significantly longer or one of the volunteers who were both significantly more knowledgeable about the battle than either of us. Throughout the week, we got the opportunity to attend Ranger led caravan tours throughout the park. It was another way to see the park and gain knowledge of what occurred on the battlefield. Our first tour we did, due to road paving, we were asked to assist with parking the vehicles and aiding people across the street. While it seemed like a minor job, it is doing things such as that throughout the park that are extremely important to keeping visitors happy and able to see the entire park. The Ranger led tours demonstrated a way that history should be taught - engaging and as one of the Rangers put it "History should not be taught in atwo dimensional manner, history happened in three dimensions and that is how it should be presented"(Ranger Manny). The knowledge that was shared during those tours really stuck with Jim and I. We found that by the end of the week we were able to answer a multitude of questions and that we had more confidence working behind the Visitor Center's counter. Also during our time at Interp we were able to help set up an exhibit featuring Abraham Lincoln. It was nice to see the behind the scenes version of what must go on to set up an exhibit. This was a really good introduction for us to a museum-like feel. Throughout our time at Interp, we were constantly reminded how each division must interact. Although we are planning on going into Law Enforcement, the LE Officers must have knowledge of the park and battle because individuals see a uniform and will ask questions. Now, we have no problem walking into the Visitors Center and helping people or just popping behind the desk if it looks busy. While we both have so much more to learn about the battle, it was a great way to learn about the battlefield. Another opportunity that we had as we worked with Interp was to spend a day with the Education Division. We were both hoping to get a chance to dress up, but unfortunately there were no clothes that would fit us. Hopefully we will get another chance to do that, though. We both did get to participate in the educational programs. I got to work with a group of ROTC kids along with a volunteer giving the "flag program." It was a lot of fun to work with the kids, even though they did act like teenagers on a hot day at times. I didn't have much knowledge of the flag program, but the volunteer and I were able to work through it together and we learned quite a bit! Jim helped the education coordinator do the Cemetery Program for a group of teachers. Unfortunately, the bugs were extremely active and the teachers chose to cut the program short. We both, though, found the experience to be a lot of fun and would have loved to have more time with the education division. Although we started out our week with Interpretation with quite a few worries, by the end we found that there was nothing to worry about. We really enjoyed our time with them! We are looking forward to our next week at the park!

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