Sunday, June 12, 2011

FOMC Interpretation and Living History Week 4

Hey everyone! I have been working with interpretation the last two weeks and its been incredible! All the employees are so friendly and welcoming. While I worked with interpretation, I have learned an amazing amount of history about Fort Mchenry and its significance. I am so grateful to be provided the opportunity through this ProRanger internship to experience each division of the park service. If I had not done been given this opportunity I would not have been able to listen to the amazing, heart wrenching, patriotic speeches of the gifted interpretation staff, and the historical sentiment behind Fort Mchenry would not have been imprinted on my heart like it is. I believe it would be an excellent idea to provide everyone with the opportunity to experience each division of the park service at the park they are located at, because it allows the individual to learn and appreciate every square inch of the park and the way it is run.

During my stay with interpretation, I worked in the Visitor Center at the front desk and welcomed visitors to Fort Mchenry, explained what we had to offer and answered any questions they had. I also handed out several Junior Ranger Badges to young children who were inspired to be park rangers. I spent most of my time up in the fort helping visitors, making sure the rules of the fort were being followed, assisting with the flag change and flag talks, and helping with special events. At the end of interpretation I was even given the opportunity to do the flag change on my own! I talked to a huge group of visitors and explained why we change the flag here at Fort Mchenry, that we are under presidential order to fly the flag 24/7, what it needed when you fly a flag at night, and why the flag we fly had 15 stars and 15 stripes. Working up at the Fort has also allowed me to listen to the Volunteers and interpreters tell visitors all the history of the War of 1812, the Battle of Baltimore, the birth of our National Anthem, and the history of the flag.

I learned that contact with visitors is an extremely important aspect of an interpreter’s daily routine. Interpreters, as well as any National Park Service employee, play a crucial role to the experience each visitor receives. Here at Fort Mchenry, the employees understand that our patriotic visitors travel far and wide from all aspects of the globe just to witness the birthplace of The Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem; therefore the employees pull to the interest of visitors and do all they can to ensure the visitors receive the most out of their trip to this inspiring national monument and national shrine. Interpreters dress in both their gray and green ranger uniform and in living history attire in order to ensure visitors receive the entire experience Fort Mchenry has to offer about the Battle of Baltimore. Contact with visitors in the two different uniforms sets a different tone to the experience the visitors take in.

Dressed in the everyday gray and green Ranger uniform provides the much more formal and friendly welcoming into the Fort. The tone this uniform radiates is more on the authoritative side. Visitors go to the Ranger for help, directions, and specific questions they have regarding the history of the fort. Living history is much more stimulating to visitors, and these employees are more readily approached. At first glance, these individuals are more captivating and exciting to visitors of all ages. Children more readily approach these employees and the cameras begin flashing right from the start. People float towards the living history characters simply because just their presence brings a sense of wonder and excitement to the fort. Living history characters provide visitors, in their eyes, a more “real” perspective of the history of Fort Mchenry and that time period. The importance of living history is the in depth feelings and sense of attachment to the fort it provides each individual visitor.

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