Monthly Archives: April 2014

Internship Journal: Week Fourteen

This weekend I completed my required hours for my undergraduate internship. I will still continue to work at the park for the foreseeable future, as long as I am a student. But, I want to use this time to reflect on some I accomplishments and skills I have learned in this four month period of my spring semester.

First, I completed my research and outline for the 150th Anniversary Tour of Second Kernstown. This tour will be given on July 24th, exactly 150 years following the battle in 1864. I will lead visitors on a 90 minute interpretative hike and program through the battlefield, interpreting the battle and its consequences. During my internship, I conducted detailed research regarding the battle itself. There is not a standalone monograph on the battle, therefore I had to consult a plethora of sources. I pulled information from campaign histories, scholarly articles, newspapers, memoirs, official records and biographies to name a few. I applied my skills I learned from History 395 in consulting certain research databases, source analysis and compilation of sources. After my research was completed, I composed an outline for my program that stated my theme, had my tour stops and transitions. Following my outline I wrote an annotated bibliography. I did this for two reasons. One, so my supervisor can see the sources that I consulted in my research. Secondly, I did this for future rangers here at the park. If someone is going to do research on the Battle of Second Kernstown, they can consult this bibliography and use it as a jumping off point for further research.

I also met with the President of the Kernstown Battlefield Association, Gary Crawford numerous times. Initially, the first meeting was to discuss logistics, timing and to plan for the event. More recently, he brought me out to the battlefield itself and gave me detailed and in depth tour of Second Kernstown. This confirmed some of my research and made me more comfortable regarding my interpretation on the battle.

Looking south from Pritchard's Hill. Notice the stone wall in the trees, this is where the main Union line engaged the Confederate forces

Looking south from Pritchard’s Hill. Notice the stone wall in the trees, this is where the main Union line engaged the Confederate forces

In conclusion, after I did all the research and outline, I wrote an interpretative essay for Cedar Creek and Belle Grove NHP’s website. It was challenging because I had to be succinct and yet at the same time detailed in my writing. Once completed and proofread, I accessed the park’s website via CMS and uploaded the page myself. This was a great experience learning how to use web designing software and the intricacies that withholds as well. You can find the essay here.

Secondly, during my internship I was able to contribute to the park’s social media presence. I crafted Facebook posts and engaged with visitors virtually. One of the more successful posts was a modern picture I edited to have a historical image overlay it. This garnered numerous “likes” and shares. I enjoyed experimenting with images this way and hope to make some more headway with this during the summer.

Modern day picture of Belle Grove with a 1883 photograph overlapping

Modern day picture of Belle Grove with a 1883 photograph overlapping

One of the most fulfilling parts of being at the park is giving interpretative programs. I absolutely love this. Meeting visitors from across the country and educating them on the park’s resources is amazingly fulfilling. It is also rewarding when visitors comment to your supervisors about your effectiveness. In the last month my supervisor has received emails from visitors on my programs. One visitor remarked in part, “the enthusiasm of this highly knowledgeable guy who told the story of the battle in such a compelling way, that we felt transported back to the time of the battle.  It was fantastic! If Kyle is an indicator of the future of the NPS, it is in good hands.”

Besides conducting programs, I thoroughly enjoy interacting with visitors at our Visitor Contact Station. You never know what stories people will bring with them through that door. This weekend, a couple for Pittsburgh was visiting the park. Come to find out, their great-great grandfather had a house on the battlefield and were looking for it. Using a historical map produced by Jedediah Hotchkiss, I was able to show the couple where the house was on the battlefield. Unfortunately, the property is outside of the park’s boundaries. Since the majority of research material at the park is on its resources (inside park boundaries) I did not have a surplus of information. But, I was able to give them information on how to access the maps via Library of Congress and directions to where the site would be today. Unfortunately, I think that the property was located where the Carmeuse Limestone Quarry is today.

Hotchkiss map of Cedar Creek showing visitor's old family homestead known as Belle View

Hotchkiss map of Cedar Creek showing visitor’s old family homestead known as Belle View

Moving forward, I think I have learned numerous skills from History 395 I can apply here at my position. One of them is my analysis and collection of sources. Knowing how to look at a source from different angles proves immensely helpful, especially when dealing with soldier’s memoirs and autobiographies. I hope to continue to post regularly as the summer months are coming upon us. I have numerous interpretative projects in the works and look forward to sharing them.

Hours completed this week: 8

Total hours completed: 160

Leave a comment

Filed under General Thoughts

Internship Journal: Week Thirteen

On Monday, April 14th I visited the Kernstown Battlefield with Gary Crawford for a site visit and orientation. During this time, Gary (the President of the Kernstown Battlefield Association) took me on a tour of the battlefield. He first brought me to the peak of Pritchard’s Hill. There you get a commanding view of the battlefield and could easily see all of the distinguishable land features used during the battle. He pointed out where and how the Confederate attack deployed and developed as well as the roadways used. Following this, he brought me into the Visitor Center and showed me their exhibits and continued to talk to me about the battle. We talked about my program on July 24th, and decided my first stop will be outside their Visitor Center, then I will lead visitors to the top of Prithcard’s Hill, then to the stone wall where Col. James Mulligan was shot and conclude the tour in front of the Pritchard-Grim House. Gary’s insight proved highly insightful to me gaining a better understanding of the battle. Now that I have walked the battlefield, my confidence level regarding the battle has gone up.

Looking east from Pritchard's Hill. This is where the Confederate flank attack began

Looking east from Pritchard’s Hill. This is where the Confederate flank attack began

Looking south from Pritchard's Hill. Notice the stone wall in the trees, this is where the main Union line engaged the Confederate forces

Looking south from Pritchard’s Hill. Notice the stone wall in the trees, this is where the main Union line engaged the Confederate forces

At the park this last weekend, we started to use our new Junior Ranger program. The Junior Ranger program is a NPS wide program used to engage children and educate them on the park’s resources. Activity booklets are given to children and they are required to fill out a certain amount of activites in order for them to become a Junior Ranger. These activities range from crossword puzzles, battlefield quests (find landmarks on the battlefield), ask a Ranger, etc. When they are complete a Ranger will go over their answers and then swear them in as a Junior Ranger. Our park just completed our beta version of our booklet. Therefore, this weekend we tested this out with children coming to the park. We asked them to comment on the activities, look for mistakes and, tell us any suggestions they may have. On Saturday four children came in and were ecstatic about the program. They spent about an hour going through the exhibits here the Visitor Contact Station before they completed the booklet. They caught a couple mistakes in the word search and gave great comments regarding the activities. We plan to have a professionally printed version of the Junior Ranger booklet in the coming weeks.

We also had a busy weekend with great visitors traveling to our park. On Saturday, we had over 30 people visit our Visitor Contact Station alone! (This is a lot for such a new and small park). The range of visitors was nice to see. We had everyone from your typical “Civil War Buffs” to families and even descendants of men who fought here at the battle. I always love meeting descendants of soldiers when I am at the park. They often will know what regiment he fought in and whether he survived or not. Then, I get to pull out numerous maps in an attempt to orient folks to where that certain regiment was during the battle. Sometimes folks want to know the exact spot where someone died. This is almost impossible. Rather, I point to the brigade, or even regimental level and guide them to where they were in the battle at certain times. This allows people to travel through the battlefield and trace the steps of their ancestors.

Myself with four new Cedar Creek and Belle Grove Junior Rangers

Myself with four new Cedar Creek and Belle Grove Junior Rangers

Pritchard-Grim House

Pritchard-Grim House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, during my time here this weekend I put the final touches on my Kernstown program. I added transitions to my outline as well as inserted the various stops during my tour. I also completed my interpretative essay for our park’s website. In conjunction to completing this, I had the opportunity to work on the website and add it myself. The NPS uses a system known as CMS for building and editing web pages. When it works, CMS is highly user friendly, but it is prone to crash. What I did first is went in and first created a new page. The page contatined the title (The Second Battle of Kernstown), the text to my essay and an image. Once that was formatted properly, I had to add the page to park’s list of pages. Once that was completed, I needed put the new page under the “places” heading on our sidebar. This is when it got a little confusing. Trying to link pages to other pages got a little complicated, but after some trial and error I figured it out. Finally, after the page was loaded, I needed to create a link from our History and Culture home page to the essay itself. This was easy as all I had to do was edit that page and add a link from another part of our website to that page. Click here to view my essay.

Screen used to link pages together in CMS

Screen used to link pages together in CMS

 

Hours Completed this week: 20

Total Hours Completed: 152

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under General Thoughts

Internship Journal: Week Twelve

This past weekend has been a busy one here at the park. I had a meeting with Eric to go over my outline for my program in July. He gave me some useful suggestions. Also, I have been researching and preparing other programs for the upcoming season, such as, “The Civil War in 1864: In a Box”. This program will use ropes, benches and props to create the Shenandoah Valley on the lawn in front of visitors. Then, in 30 minutes I will interpret the Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley in 1864 from New Market to Cedar Creek. This is going to be  a tricky program as we interpreters have a small window of only 30 minutes to present this wealth of information.

I am excited because tomorrow at 10:00 am I will be conducting a site visit of the Kernstown Battlefield. The Kernstown Battlefield Association’s president, Gary Crawford is going to walk me through the battlefield to help me get orientated to the landscape. I am hoping that this will help clarify some of the final details I have had in my mind about the battle. Also, I have been working on writing a piece for the parks website about the battle itself. You can see a sample of this regrading the Battle of First Kernstown here. When completed, this short interpretative essay will be posted to the parks website for people to learn about the battle. Along these same lines, I am assisting the park in writing and developing some site bulletins. Site bulletins are small interpretative brochures visitors can pick up at various visitor centers in the park system. We are expanding on the inventory we have at the park. So, in the coming weeks I will be responsible for writing a short site bulletin covering the Battle of Cedar Creek. By writing this short essay and working on these site bulletins, I hope to fine tune my interpretative writing skills.

At this point, I am also starting to think about the logistics of my program in July. What images do I want to use? Do I want to hand out maps of the battle to visitors? What map would I use? Where will my stops be? How long will each stop be? Some people may see these as trivial, however, these details are what can make or break a program. By ironing out these small details now, it will enable me to confidently move from stop to stop and not have these thoughts in the back of my head. I do not have answers for these questions yet. I am hoping that I can bounce some of these ideas off of Gary Crawford tomorrow as he is so familiar with the landscape.

Hours completed this week: 16

Total hours completed: 132

Leave a comment

Filed under General Thoughts

Internship Journal: Week Eleven

After some fruitful effort and researching, I was able to find a map showing the action during the Second Battle of Kernstown. This has helped me clarify some of my questions regarding the battle and make some of the movements clearer to me in my head. I really enjoy this map, however I do not think I will use during my program in July. I want to hand out maps to visitors so they understand the flow of battle, but I still think that this one is too confusing for the everyday visitor.

Map depicting the Second Battle of Kernstown

Map depicting the Second Battle of Kernstown

Also, as I have completed a rough draft of my outline, I am moving to the final phase of my research. I am starting to write a short piece about the battle for Cedar Creek and Belle Grove’s NHP website. This is a skill all in its own. Now that I have all the information about the battle in front of me, I need to synthesize it into a compact and succinct document. This type of writing, known as interpretative writing is a completely different monster than writing research papers. The writing needs to be short, to the point, powerful and of course get the history across. Most people would be familiar with this type of writing when they see historical markers, waysides or interpretative exhibits. So, I am working on putting all of this research down on paper and ready to post to our park’s website.

I also found out this week that come this summer I will be conducting a brand new History at Sunset. I will be conducting two of these special programs this summer. First, I will be doing my Heater House program in July. This was such a well received program by the public, that we are going to repeat it. Also, I will be conducting a program on George Custer’s Role during the Battle of Cedar Creek. Since I will be doing lots of this research for the LBHA group in June, it only makes sense to transfer this to a special event. Also, George Custer is a name that people reconginze the second they see it. Whether they like him, or find him the devil, they still recognize the name. Hopefully this will get locals and other visitors to the site to hear a little about his role here at Cedar Creek. The date for this has not been decided but will be sometime in July or August.

In the coming months I am going to have lots of research to complete for park programs. These include finishing up my Second Kernstown program, George Custer at Cedar Creek, the role of Signal Knob during Sheridan’s 1864 Campaign and preparing a stationary program on the Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley in 1864. I will be using my new found research and anylaitical skills from HIST 395 during these next summer month.

feel so grateful that I am able to have this great opportunity to be apart of these special events as a student. Cedar Creek and Belle Grove NHP is a small park and does not have the visitation of an Antietam or Gettysburg. But, this means that I get to be involved in the development of the interpretative program here on a level unconceivable at these other parks. I am learning so much through my job here, that I do not think I could learn anywhere else.

Hours completed this week: 16

Total hours: 116

Leave a comment

Filed under General Thoughts