Thursday, July 28, 2016

Week 8 (Resources Division) - Two Sides of the Same Coin

Downed tree means it's time to get out on foot
For week 8 I had a mix of both natural and cultural resources. As I spent my first week with the resources division doing natural resources work I was scheduled to have the full second week with cultural resources but my services were requested for Monday. If you saw my previous resources post you would know I spent some time helping Dorothy Geyer complete part of her marsh bird survey. Monday we were finishing up the last two sites for this survey in addition to doing a plant diversity survey. Instead of kayaking out this time I had the pleasure of getting to trek out into the marsh by foot to get to the survey point. Many people are horrified by the idea of walking (and sinking) out into the marsh to then stand out in the middle of it for about a quarter hour. However, I thoroughly enjoyed it as I’ve never had the chance to do something quite like this, and it was a great workout as my boots quickly got covered in mud and filled with water. 

In the middle of the marsh
Once we managed to get to a survey spot we completed the bird survey procedure of 5-minutes of quiet, 5-minutes of listening, and then running through various calls. For the plant survey we made estimates of the percent cover of various types of marsh and marsh related features (such as open water, paths made by animals, and fallen trees). We then identified all plant species we could find and made an estimate of percent cover of invasive species. Lastly, we measured the angle of the horizon from the cardinal directions using a clinometer which was a first for me. Then all we had to was attempt to follow the trail we had made on the way out and not sink in the mud on our way back to dry land. 

A small storage shed I stumbled upon when hunting for cannons
I spent the rest of the week with Melanie, COLO’s conservator and collection curator. We have three main storage facilities throughout the park that house various bits and pieces of our total collection. As it is hurricane season there have been various meetings recently to review our hurricane plan which of course involves moving artifacts off of the very vulnerable Jamestowne Island. We are also in the process of moving as much of the collection as possible off the island permanently and condensing it into the two storage facilities in Yorktown. This is a huge process and I was able to help Melanie with a little bit of the condensing and moving of the collection.

Our collection of rifles and muskets
I also got to go on a cannon hunt. On the Yorktown side of the park we have around 40 to 50 cannons placed around at various spots for visitors to view. These cannons, whether they be reproduction or original, are all cataloged and thus we need to know where they’re at. However, cannons are constantly being moved around as some come in for repairs and others go out to take their spot. So armed with a map and a very old mini-van I set out with our 15 year-old volunteer Owen to track down as many cannons as I could. And I have to say we were pretty successful. After a long day of trudging through the heat and grass we found that every cannon that wasn’t in its designated spot was either found somewhere else or in the maintenance yard awaiting repairs. Due to the cycle of repairs the cannons will get scattered around again, but, at least for a just a little while, we now have a general idea where they all are and whether they’re supposed to be there or not.  

The world of curatorial and conservative work is very fascinating but also very complex. I can't image being the one in charge of keeping records of the thousands upon thousands of historical documents and artifacts we have in our collection. Being a historical park this is definitely one of the more important tasks going on within the park but probably one of the least recognized. Our collection contains items dating back from the early 1600's to within a few decades and showcases both the events that make this area historically significant and the history of this National Historical Park itself. 

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