Thursday, August 13, 2015

Farewell Colonial NHP

My final two weeks at Colonial National Historic Park could not have gone better.  I spent them with the protection division, which meant I got to go out on patrol almost every shift.  I met with Deputy Superintendent Steve Williams and Superintendent Kym Hall, which was wonderful of them to squeeze me in their busy schedules.  I also got to work on traffic stop scenarios as well as proper handcuffing.  One of the last days I did a mock driving course with the acting Chief Ranger (only one cone was harmed in the process).

The whole experience at COLO was wonderful, everyone I worked with was eager to share their experience about working in the park service and other agencies.  Each division I worked with was willing to work with me, showing me how their division keeps the park functioning.

I cannot thank everyone I worked with enough for their patience, and willingness to take time out of their busy schedules to work with me.  I learned so much about the Park Service and hearing about different peoples careers and details helped me (slightly) figure out where I want to go with my career.            

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Nautical Gnar in Boston

This week I had the opportunity to get out on the water! I spent one day with the Boston Harbor Islands crew, partaking in what they call “Discovery Day.” Towards the end of my time here in Boston, I was able to hop on board Boston National Historical Park Protection Division’s boat, Water Buffalo. We rode around the different islands, talking about what the nautical future the division might have.

The Boston Harbor Islands bring different groups of children from the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club out onto different islands. Each group of children experiences three different islands throughout the span of a week. This allows the kids to see sights they may not otherwise see as well as engage in different learning activities with one another.

The day that I went out, we went to George’s Island. This is the home of Fort Warren where the structure still stands from when it was decommissioned in 1947. It served as a prison for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War as well as a defense for Boston during World War II. We explored the dark tunnel that day in addition to play different 19th century games like grace. Grace is played by tossing a ring using two sticks, seemingly simple and yet extremely fun.

Boston Light
When we took the Water Buffalo out on the water, we rode around George’s Island. It was interesting to see the island from that perspective after having been on it a few days previously. We also saw Spectacle Island which is more of a beach scene. My favorite part was seeing Boston Light, the sight of the first lighthouse to be built in the United States (pictured left). 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Large Amounts of Goat Bones

Last week I finished up my second week with the Cultural Resource Management division, as well as my 40-hour conservation project. For my project I assisted the CRM staff in taking inventory of the park's many resources.

The first week was largely spent getting familiarized with the different branches of the division. I learned about the parks library and photo collection, one of the few in the NPS, curated by one of only a few head librarians working in the agency. I got to visit the park's archaeology lab and see where relics are cleaned, sorted, reconstructed, labeled, and stored. The museum branch allowed me to tag along as they presented a meticulously reconstructed navigation tool to the private investor that helped fund it. The amount of detail and time taken to restore this object was incredible and plain to see and it was very cool to get to see the final product, which will hopefully be displayed in the near future.

The actual inventory-taking brought me all over the park and allowed me to interact with dozens of different types of artifacts that the park possessed. I traveled around with curator as we counted and cataloged items in the Bishop White House, Ben Franklin's Print Shop, the Declaration House, Old City Tavern, and more. I also got to clean and sort artifacts in the archaeology lab, handle the park's extensive records collection, and help fellow intern Joanna in her cataloging of the items in second bank. In addition, I got to see the park's collection storage areas, containing everything from vases to ship masts to busts of Julius Caesar. The collection also contains, as I ascertained firsthand, hundreds and hundreds of goat bones, along with clam shells and other animal bones, which are kept (in case you are wondering) in order to facilitate future research into the eating habits and food locations of people in the 18th and 19th centuries. I ran into small facts, and strange items, like these all over in my time with CRM. It was impressive to see the sheer amount of items the park possessed and know that I still only saw a fraction, everyone in the division was very knowledgeable and able to answer any of my questions and helped to make my time very enlightening and fun.

Last week at Independence!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Administration and Motivation: My Week at Antietam

Money has an enormous impact on many things, and last week I learned that the National Park Service is no exception. I had the privilege to travel from my place in Monocacy National Battlefield to Sharpsburg, Maryland, home of Antietam National Battlefield. Being our sister park, we share an Administrative staff with Antietam. Administration was the division where I had the least amount of knowledge before spending time with these amazing workers and people. I was lucky enough to follow around Kathy, our Administrative Officer, and Corey, our Budget Analyst.
Totally candid! Corey let me look over his
shoulder as he shared his knowledge.
The administration is mostly behind the scenes, but very involved when problems arise. I learned that our administration is so important because they have so many responsibilities that have a direct impact on many people. One of their duties is dealing with employee's money. They oversee and review the payroll, deal with the different kinds of leave time, and even work with the hiring of the best qualified individuals. They use so many different programs, and the most challenging part of my week was trying to comprehend all of the acronyms. My dad always tells me to never use an acronym if I can't tell you what it stands for, so I tried my best. We used FPPS (Federal Personnel Payroll System), PAR (Personnel Action Request), iQMIS (Internet Quarters Management Information System), SMIO (Safety Management Information System), and the be-all and end-all of programs, FBMS (Financial Business Management System). Yes, it is a lot to remember, but it is crucial to have so many procedures involved to ensure that money is being used in the best and most appropriate way. Corey shared with me that "FBMS has created so much accountability for what we do because everyone can see it, and everyone is involved." 

Aside from dealing with employee's money, they also deal with the park's money and property reports. These people have a stressful role and do a great job. I was thankful that in the middle of the week, they gave me the opportunity to follow former Temple ProRanger Jay Copper. 
Temple ProRangers of the past and the present.
Jay and I in front of the Visitor Center at Antietam National Battlefield. 
I want to thank Law Enforcement Officer Jay Copper for allowing me to tag along with him for a whole day. It is inspirational to see someone who was in my shoes a few years ago, now succeeding as a full-time Ranger. He answered every question that I asked (and there were many) and gave me advice that I will remember as I go forward. This experience served as motivation to continue on and make the most of my remaining time at Monocacy. Again, thank you Jay and the rest of the staff at Antietam for having me this past week. 

Only one week left!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Black Heritage Trail, John Brown, and Interpretation Appreciation

I spent some time at the Boston African American Historical Site this week. It was here that I had a chance to experience the John Brown tour and the Black Heritage Trail. Both of which were new for all that I have encountered this summer. As my time here begins to wind down, I feel as though I will be attempting to condense everything I possibly can into the remaining days of Boston National Historical Park.
The John Brown tour provided a piece of history that was left out of my history classes in high school. I am not sure if the debate has ever been settled as to whether John Brown should be remembered as a martyr of freedom or as a terrorist pursuing revolution. This tour provided information that allowed visitors to stand at the end of the tour, contemplating John Brown's aggressive abolitionist activities as one of the arguably most important casual factors of the Civil War. I highly recommend this tour to anyone visiting Boston next summer (unfortunately, this tour is not on the site's daily agenda.)

The Black Heritage Trail began at the Shaw Memorial. This memorial shows Robert Gould Shaw, leader of the first documented African American volunteer regiment (Massachusetts 54th regiment), and his men. The memorial serves as a reminder of the heavy cost that came to these men in South Carolina. This regiment led the attack on Fort Wagner. Although they suffered many casualties, including the death of Shaw, this event demonstrated the courage of these men.

Hayden House
My favorite stop on the tour included the Lewis and Harriet Hayden House (pictured right). Lewis Hayden had come to Boston in 1846 where his house served as a safe house for self-emancipated African Americans between the years of 1850-1860. I found the story of William and Ellen Craft to be very fascinating. They traveled by train is disguise. Ellen was of lighter complexion and dressed as a male while William played the role of her servant. During their time, this was on a level of danger beyond my imagination. When they were in the Hayden house, William had been in the basement when individuals searching for escaped slaves knocked on the Hayden’s door. The story goes that Hayden kept a barrel of gun powder by the door while holding a candle in one hand and a rifle in the other. He warned the unwanted visitors that he would drop the candle in the barrel, causing a devastating eruption, if they stepped through the door’s threshold. His dedication was truly astounding.

This story is told today to serve as a reminder of just one of the very many stories of the American people during the harsh times of the Civil War era. This story along with the stories of the American Revolution provide visitors the ability to hear the history that fit into the puzzle, forming what America is today. Cultural preservation remains to be an imperative role of the Boston African American Historical Site along with the Boston National Historical Park Rangers like Ranger Savage (pictured left), instilling inspiring stories into the minds of young and old.

The Interpretative Rangers here in Boston continue to prove the importance of the visitor's experience along with telling the American stories from the past. I have learned the importance of volunteers who also come into a lot of contact with the visitors when I attended a workshop that involved working with volunteers in National Parks. I had the pleasure of meeting Park Ranger Emily Prigot (pictured right) at this work shop who did a fantastic job bringing up excellent points related to volunteer communication and coordination. There are many veins that keep the Park Service alive and I am getting to experience the flow in which they all share. My time here in Boston is coming to a close, but I look forward to the very many opportunities that are waiting for me here before I leave.

Stay tuned!