Monthly Archives: March 2014

Internship Journal: Week Ten

This week has been a productive and exciting week. I was happy to receive an email from the two women who attended my tour of the battlefield last Sunday. These two visitors had a great time and sent a complimentary email to my supervisors. In part it read, “If Kyle is an indicator of the future of the NPS, it is in good hands.” It is always nice to see that your interpretative methods have paid off and visitors have enjoyed their experience.

Also, during my time at the park, I found out that I will be conducting some special programming come this June. The Little Bighorn Association is a conglomerate of George Custer aficionados. This group of people, from across the country travel to Custer associated sites each year for three days. This year, they are traveling to the Shenandoah Valley from June 13th-June 15th. The group will be visiting our park on June 13th for a tour of the battlefield focusing specifically on George Custer’s role. The park’s Chief of Interpretation asked if I would do some of these tours, and I said of course. I will be giving two three hour tours of the battlefield with an emphasis on Custer. Custer did not have a huge role during the battle, but nevertheless he and his Wolverines were here. So, I will have to brush up on my knowledge of George Custer at Cedar Creek to prepare for these two tours.

On Saturday, June 15th, the group will also be holding a seminar, with various speakers lecturing on the War in the Valley in 1864. These include the Civil War Trust’s Gary Adelman, and now myself. I will be giving about a 45 minute lecture on Custer’s role at Cedar Creek and the aftermath. I have emailed the man who leads the group for some more specifics on the lecture. I have never given a lecture before. This will be a learning experience for me, but, I am excited for this great opportunity.

During my time this week, I also completed a rough draft of my outline for my program on July 24th. It is not complete yet. There are some questions I need to answer and double check, as well as to include my stops and transitions to each stop. This will become easier once I visit the battlefield on April 14th. Also, to incorporate some of my skills learned in my history methods class (HIST 395) I included an annotated bibliography as well.

Unfortunately, the weather this weekend has inhibited outdoor programs. I did not have anyone attend my program on Saturday. But, I was able to get on the Park’s Facebook page and experiment with digital interpretation.  One of the most effective ways to reach visitors outside the area is through social media, especially Facebook. During the years the interpretative staff as experimented in ways to engage the public in dialogue, get information out regarding upcoming programs and events and even try to crowd source information.  We are always trying to keep up and try something new. So, that is what I decided to do. Seeing the success of an image on the Manassas National Battlefield Facebook’s page, they inserted a Civil War era picture into a modern picture. To emulate their success I experimented with two photographs and historic images.

The first image is that of the Lockwood House at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. This was Sheridan’s headquarters in August 1864 before his fall campaign.

The Lockwood House with historical sketch

The Lockwood House with historical sketch

I found a picture of it on my phone after visiting there last year. Then I found the same house sketched out by James Taylor through the Library of Congress website. Not knowing how to meld the pictures, I fooled around in Powerpoint. I added the modern picture, then the historic picture. Cropped the historic picture and softened its edges and attempted to place the picture over the modern picture from the same perspective. And it worked! The next day, Saturday, I decided to do the same thing with a modern picture of Belle Grove Plantation a historic picture of veterans visiting in 1883.

Modern day picture of Belle Grove with a 1883 photograph overlapping

Modern day picture of Belle Grove with a 1883 photograph overlapping

It was a hugely successful post. We received over 80 likes (which is a lot for our page) and numerous comments. Hopefully in the future, I will be able to continue this by inserting old images on the current landscapes. Check out our park’s page here.

I also have been experimenting in ways to promote our programs through images on our park page. Using the model seen on Gettysburg National Military Park Facebooks’s page, I built this. Hopefully come summer we can use this model to promote special and everyday programs.

Sample online program promotion image

Sample online program promotion image

This has been an exciting and busy week. It has really gotten me fired up for the upcoming summer season and all the special events and programs we have scheduled.

Hours this week: 16

Total hours completed:  100

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Internship Journal: Week Nine

Massanutten Mountain from Belle Grove

Massanutten Mountain from Belle Grove

After a nice spring break in Florida, I returned to school this week. Also, I returned to my job at Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park. Now until the end of the semester, I will be working Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I will be conducting research for park use, research and preparation for my Kernstown program, assisting visitors and conducting regular interpretative programs.

I gave my first tour of the season today. Two older women attended my 2-hour driving tour of the Cedar Creek battlefield. It was great to dust off the interpretative cobwebs and get back into the grove. After the tour, I got really excited for the upcoming spring, summer and fall seasons with all the special opportunites I have interpreting coming up. As I was leading my tour, I was attempting to think about how I convey my knowledge of the battle in a clear, thematic and chronological order. Having given tours of the battlefield now for three years, my knowledge base is getting a lot bigger. And there is no way I can convey all of my knowledge to a tour group in 2 hours. (They probably would not want to hear all the information either). So, the the real question is, what do you chose to say? And, how do you say it? This is a tricky balancing act between the contextual and the specific or big ideas and minute details. A good mix of these, I think helps create an effective interpretative outcome for the visitors. You could talk all about one regiment during the battle, but then the bigger picture can be lost and vice versa. Getting to my point, thinking forward to my Second Kernstown program, I am attempting to figure out that balance now. The balance between the particular and the bigger ideas and events.

Belle Grove Plantation, owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Belle Grove Plantation, owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Sign promoting my driving tour of the battlefield

Sign promoting my driving tour of the battlefield

What sparked this was that I began to type out my detailed outline for my Kernstown program, and put on paper my research. This will consist of my interpretative theme, as well as guide of my stops and what material will be covered at each stop. I have a tendency to put too much information on my outlines, putting details everywhere. But, this helps me remember the details and make sure I have the details in case a visitor inquires. In addition to starting my outline, I have decided to produce an annotated bibliography for my program. Building off my skills being learned in HIST 395, I want to apply them to the real world. By producing one, I figure my supervisor can see where all my research has came from, as well as to serve as a finding aid for future park rangers after my time is done. So, I have also been working on this portion of my research.

My desk covered in research materials

My desk covered in research materials

I confirmed my site visit to the Kernstown Battlefield itself. Eric Campbell (NPS) and Gary Crawford (KBA) and I will all be visiting the site on Monday, April 14th. This will really help be decide my tour stops and what should be covered in each. Overall, this was a great weekend. It was a pleasure to get back into interpretation and start putting down my research in the form of an outline and annotated bibliography.

Hours Completed this week: 16

Total Hours: 84

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Internship Journal: Week Eight

New Market State Historical Park's Hall of Valor

New Market State Historical Park’s Hall of Valor

This week I spent some time talking with my supervisor, Eric Campbell about my upcoming program. We chatted about some problems I have been running into during my research.  Primarily, my search for a good map on the Battle of Second Kernstown. I brought this to his attention, and he suggested I check the work of famed cartographer, Jeddiah Hotchkiss. I told Eric that I checked his work earlier with no avail. However, he was adamant that Hotchkiss had produced a map. So, after about 15 minutes of us scouring his work through the Library of Congress, we came to the conclusion that he did not have a map of the battle. However, I then checked the Official Atlas of the Civil War that accompanied the Official Records. The only map I could find was labeled to come from Hotchkiss’s notes in his journal.

Sketches of Second Kernstown

Sketches of Second Kernstown

Another thing we discussed was how in depth this program should be. Recently, I have found myself entrenched with details of regimental movements and the fine points of the battle. But, after talking to Eric, I was reassured about what my job is going to be. He clarified that I only have 90 minutes to get across the causes, the battle itself and its consequences. Therefore, I will not have the time to go into the nitty gritty of the action. Rather, my program should be an overview battlefield tour with the emphasis placed on certain aspects of the battle rather than details on the whole battle. Also, I have to take into consideration that visitors will have to walk from each stop, taking time away from the program logistically. Overall, Eric made me feel more confident and comfortable in the material and organization of my research so far.

Lastly, I was fortunate to attend a sesquicentennial conference today.  The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation hosts annual sesquicentennial conferences commemorating the Civil War in the Valley. The first of two this year was held in New Market, at the Hall of Valor. The speakers were a diverse group contacting my supervisor Eric Campbell and my former professor (who was the head of the conference) Jonathan Noyalas. The theme of the conference was “War Returns the Valley.” Therefore, the speakers focused on the spring and summer Valley campaigns before Philip Sheridan arrived in August. Topics  included, David Hunter’s role in the lower valley and effects on the civilians, Early’s Raid to Washington D.C. and Hunter’s Lynchburg Campaign. The latter was conducted by author Scott Patchan. After the conference, I was able to talk to him briefly about sources regarding Second Kernstown and bounced some ideas off him concerning the role of Union commander George Crook. All in all it was a fun filled day.

Jonathan Noyalas speaking at the conference

Jonathan Noyalas speaking at the conference

Author Scott Patchan speaks about Hunter's raid

Author Scott Patchan speaks about Hunter’s raid

 

Ranger Eric Campbell speaking to the crowd

Ranger Eric Campbell speaking to the crowd

Panel discussion following all of the speakers

Panel discussion following all of the speakers

Next week I will be on spring break visiting my folks in Florida, so, inherently not so much work will be done regarding my research. However, starting March 21st, I will start my regular duties at the park as a ranger. I will be working Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for the rest of my semester. I will be giving programs, as well as finishing up my program for July 24th.

Hours completed this week: 10

Total hours: 68

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