Wednesday, June 20, 2012

COLO Week 4: Last Week with Interpretation

My last week working with Interpretation at the Yorktown Visitor Center really started off with a bang. Sunday the YVC hosted a day long Royal Artillery demonstration out on the battlefield. I never knew anything about black powder or the historic weapons program before this day. The artillery soldiers used a 6 pound  bronze cannon, which means that the original cannon ball that was used for this gun weighed roughly 6 pounds. Instead of using a destructive cannon ball, charges made of 12 ounces of  cannon grade black powder carefully wrapped in tin foil were used as ammunition. Erik and I were fortunate to be able to construct the charges for the cannon. There is so much detail that goes into making a charge for a cannon. First the black powder has to be safely stored in a locked and well ventilated shelter which must be located a far distance from any occupied building. After gathering all the black powder needed, it had to be safely transported to the area where we would create the charges. To make a charge, I filled a hand rolled tube of tin foil with the 12 ounces of powder. Then I put in a thin disc of foil to create a barrier to keep the powder stuck in the one end of the tube. After twisting the tube above the disc, I then filled the empty end of the tube with a tin foil ball and closed off the tube completely. The charge is then completed and would be put into the cannon with the black powder end first.  Black Powder Safety Officers must be present at the park in order to have a historic weapons program and to make sure all protocol is met.  The artillery rounds could only be fired once every ten minutes. The reason being that the tube of the cannon has to be free of any debris that could still be lit and cause an early ignition. The soldiers firing the cannon had to be dressed in the appropriate historic garments which are made of natural fibers. Synthetic material is more likely to melt onto a person's skin if caught on fire. After all charges were made and all safety measures put into place, it was time for some fun! I had to stand out in the battlefield as range guard. My job was to make sure no visitors walked in the line of fire while the demonstration was taking place. Fortunately I had no problems except for one deer who did not want to listen, but he made it out with no injuries. The artillery soldiers went through the motions of the firing process. They cleaned out the barrel with a damp sponge, then safely inserted the charge with a ramrod, inserted the priming wire, aimed the cannon, and then ignited!  All of the demonstrations were successful and the crowd of visitors seemed very impressed. I was impressed as well!

Later on that week, Erik and I went to Historic Jamestown to explore the site's resources and the experience visitors gain from them. We went on a ranger guided tour and listened to the stories of the first permanent English settlers and their hardships at Jamestown. Even though the land seems beautiful, it was a terrible place for settlers to live and almost all of them died during their first winter. Luckily, the settlement made a recovery and began to flourish with their new crop of tobacco. Historic Jamestown is now one big archaeological site that is constantly finding new discoveries. Contracted archaeologists found the remnants of the old James Fort that once stood firm on the island. They also found the remains of the first church that John Rolfe and Pocahontas were married in.  The oldest surviving structure is the old brick church tower that was erected in 1690. It stands in front of the newly erected church building, built in 1907.


The island also had its own museum on location called the Voorhees Archaearium which was built over top of the remains of the last Jamestown State House. There are windows throughout the floor of the museum to show the old remnants of the State House. The archaearium also housed the skeletal remains that are believed to be of Capt. Bartholomew Gosnold. Both the dig sites and the Voorhees Archaearium are actually owned by a private institution known as Preservation Virginia. The National Park Service owns the rest of Jamestown Island, which is about 1,500 acres. The Visitor Center, the New Towne area, the Glasshouse, and the tour roads are all a part of the NPS. We walked to the Glasshouse where I spent a lot of money buying different glass pieces for my family. They were all so beautifully made on site by the live glassblowers.  After visiting Historic Jamestown, Erik and I went to the privately owned museum called Jamestown Settlement. This museum is located just off the island and has different living history sites outside as well as a large museum inside. The museum held a variety of artifacts along with different interpretive media options. The living history was also a great visual experience but I did not enjoy it as much as Historic Jamestown since it was all just recreations and not the right location.


               Tall ship recreation                                         James Fort recreation

Overall I really enjoyed working with the Interpretation division of Colonial National Historic Park. The cultural resources of Yorktown and Jamestown are what make them unlike any other place in the nation. They have to be preserved and displayed for visitors to have a real appreciation of these important sites. I feel as the whole Interpretative staff feels very passionately about their job and what they do, which I think is something a true good employee needs to have. The feeling was also very contagious, as I wanted to tell everyone about the history of Yorktown and Jamestown after I was done. It is important to be proud of where you work, and there is no better place than the first permanent English settlement in America and the site of the American and French victory of the last battle in the American Revolutionary War!
My favorite trail at Jamestown Island

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