Monday, June 19, 2017

A Great First Week

After a wonderful and exciting introduction to the park on my first day, I was lucky enough to spend my first week at Gettysburg National Military Park with the Interpretation division. I started off the week with a classroom-based orientation program with the park's other interns. We learned a brief history of the National Park Service and received an overview of the battle and town of Gettysburg. There are quite a few other interns here for the summer with interpretation and the cultural resource management divisions, but no one else has a summer program quite like mine. While they will be spending their summers with their respective division, I will be rotating through the different park divisions every week to find out how the park functions on a day to day basis and how its various branches interact and work together. This first week was a great learning experience for me. I have been interested in the Civil War since I was little, but my knowledge of the battle was very general. To get acquainted with the park and visitor's center we first explored the visitor center's museum, and watched its film. I also got to check out the cyclorama, a massive, 300 foot long, panoramic oil painting of the battle now housed in a specially constructed room in the visitors center.
Orientation with the Interpretation Division

Later, we visited Eisenhower National Historic Site, the retirement home of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Here we were given a small walking tour and house tour, and I got to see Eisenhower's country home. Eisenhower had many important figures and dignitaries visit his home, and the home's furniture collection was a story in its own right, even if it gave me flashbacks of my grandparents' house. While this might not seem to have much to do with the Battle of Gettysburg, Eisenhower's farms border the battlefield, and the now historic site is managed by the same administration as Gettysburg NMP.
Touring Eisenhower NHS
Throughout the week, I also learned more and more about how interpretative programs are run at Gettysburg NMP and in the National Park Service as a whole. My ProRanger program classes at Temple had already introduced the idea of interpretation to me by way of Freeman Tilden. Here at Gettysburg I was able to apply some of that knowledge when I learned about the National Park Service's system for creating programs through universal concepts, themes, and research. I went on several tours with experienced interpretative rangers and learned some of the many intricacies and tricks they use for their programs. I also learned more about what it takes to put those programs together while visiting the park's archives.
Exploring the Park's archival records
I learned a great deal in my first week here about interpretation, and the park as a whole! There's so much that I still need to learn about the battlefield, but my time with the interp division is really showing me what needs to be protected in the park, and why.

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