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Work Smarter Not Harder: Secondary Research

Work Smarter Not Harder: Secondary Research

By Alysha Page


After going through the Probate Records and the newspaper articles at the Library of Congress I decided that perhaps it was time to go back to the secondary sources. It was time to work smarter, not harder, and go back to the bibliographies and indexes of already compiled works of the Black military regiments. The text that I am still going through is The Black Regulars 1866- 1898 by William A Dobak and Thomas D. Phillips. Even though the text is outside of the scope of my project it did have a great deal of record groups that may be helpful for the Klondike Gold Rush Company L project.

 

I am not trained as a military historian so navigating a subject built around the military has a bit of a learning curve. Reaching out to my colleagues with expertise in African American military history and utilizing secondary sources was the best way to figure out where else to search for useful information.

 

Descriptive Book of Noncommissioned Officers, Fort Missoula, 1902.

These conversations and secondary sources yielded a great deal of possible information within the U.S. Regular Army Mobile Unit and Adjutant General’s Office. One of the most interesting, and I hope useful, resources are the Descriptive Books. They detail the soldier’s birthplace, enlistment, various assignments, physical attributes, injuries, transfers, etc. I hope to utilize these books to better understand how these Black men were classified and described by their white counterparts, also I am being optimistic that perhaps these books will give me some leads on their personal life and background.

 

Reaching out to fellow researchers and using the hundreds of secondary sources available to us is a wonderful way to freshen up your research if you get stuck. Remember work smarter not harder. Use all tools available to you.

 

Stateside Adjustments

Stateside Adjustments

by: Alysha Page

Obligatory tourist photo next to a telephone booth in London, UK.

After the “Women’s Spring Conference: Feminism, Nationalism, and Civil Disobedience” at University of Central Lancashire it was time to readjust to office work in Washington, D.C.. For the last two weeks the name of the game is organization and secondary source research. Unfortunately, folks, that doesn’t make for a very lively blog posting. I thought it may be useful to talk about the way I try and organize a long term project.

Firstly, perhaps the most important when working with a team is to request a clear definition of the project goals. This will be your “North Star” throughout the long process of researching and writing. Often research and sources will lead us down multiple paths, the project goals or guidelines should remain visible so that they can point your way to a successful final project. If you don’t know the goals of your project seek clarification.

In the office at the DOI. I decided to sport my ACE gear.

Secondly, it is imperative to have the proper stationary and research tools that you need. Oh, it seems like a joke now… just wait until you are deep into a source and realize you don’t have your favorite pen, notebooks, sticky notes, computer access, etc. . Creating an atmosphere for a successful project includes making sure that you have all the tools you need to complete your work. Even something as simple as a not having a notebook or binder to keep your research can inhibit the flow of a project. So, make your nearest stationary shop your best friend.

Going through General Records of the Department of the Navy 1804-1983 at NARA.

Thirdly, try and create a strong secondary source foundation before diving into primary source material. The more you know about the time period you are researching the better adept you will be at pinpointing what archival material you need to search through. This will cut back a bit on the random fruitless searches.

Lastly, and certainly, not least find the best environment to do research (that is if it isn’t archival research). I have found some nice places around the Department of the Interior (DOI) to study, like the library, other than staying in the office. Changing study locations can really break up the work week and keep things interesting during the secondary research portion of your project.

Going to the Interior Library is a nice way to break up a day in the office.

I wish I could write a more interesting post, but research work and organization is not the most glamorous but it is vital to a successful project.

Spinning Your Wheels: Changing your Research Plan

Spinning Your Wheels: Changing your Research Plan

By Alysha Page


After a couple of months of research it became very clear to me that going through the War Department records was not yielding any new information. Essentially, I felt that I was spinning my wheels in the mud. I went through records of the District of the Columbia, District of the Lynn Canal, Camp Dyea, and Camp Skagway. I thought that perhaps going through correspondence from all of the districts connected to Camp Skagway might give me a fuller image of what happened in Skagway or perhaps even hear a voice other than Captain H.W. Hovey, Commanding Officer of the 24th Infantry, but it unfortunately turned out just to be the same correspondence (letters and telegrams) recorded by multiple districts. Turns out, the War Department is very through and repetitive. It was time to refresh my research area.

 

My first stop was looking through the probate records of Alaska. Probate records are complied after the death of an individual and relate to how the court has decided to distribute the deceased estate to their heirs or the state. I knew that the likelihood of soldiers from Company L, 24th Infantry still residing in Alaska was slim after 1902 and even slimmer was that these African American men would have owned property in that area in the early twentieth century. Given all the issues that Black men faced in the United States at that time, and even more specific in the military. This search ended up being fruitless.

 

After searching the probate records I branched out into “Chronicling America,” the newspapers compiled by the Library of Congress.  With all the records and correspondence about disciplinary actions taken against these African American soldiers in Skagway, Alaska I wanted to get a better understanding of how they were received by African American newspapers and other newspapers throughout the United States.

Newspaper detailing the arrival of Company L and Capt. Hovey as they make their journey Skagway, Alaska.


Public reception is important to fill in the blanks about the narrative of the African American military experience in Skagway and the U.S. The online chronicle dealt a great deal with movement of the 24
th Infantry to the Philippines and only some mention of Company L directly.

 

The Spanish American War and the War in the Philippines overshadowed the happenings of Company L, 24th Infantry. These articles do give us some wider context of African American Military reception. Our hope with this project is to illuminate an extremely neglected portion of the African American experience, patriots protecting and serving the nation. The more I research, and even search through the archives, the more it is impressed upon me the importance of the history I am writing. Company L has been neglected in the history of the 24th Infantry and it’s time to shine a light on them.

 

Meet Me, My Park, and My Rocks

Meet Me, My Park, and My Rocks

by: Mariah Walzer

Trying on my Dad’s old Park Service hat

Hello everyone and welcome to the world of archaeology at Monocacy National Battlefield! First up, a couple quick introductions. My name is Mariah Walzer, and I am the Archaeological Research and Cultural Resource Management Intern at Monocacy this summer. I graduated from Hamilton College in 2017 with my Bachelor’s in archaeology and creative writing. I love getting my hands dirty and geeking out about old things. My dad is a retired National Park Ranger, so I’m excited to be continuing the family legacy!

A display at the Visitor Center. The quote reads: “Here was a race between the two great contending forces, the state of which was the capital of the nation, its treasure and its prestige.” – Civilian Glenn Worthington

 

Second introduction: the park! Monocacy National Battlefield is located just outside of Frederick, Maryland. It’s the site of an 1864 Civil War battle and also a camping place for Union and Confederate troops in 1862 and 1863. The Battle of Monocacy is not well-known, but was quite important to the outcome of the war. In short, Confederate troops were marching towards Washington D.C., and Major General Lew Wallace, with vastly outnumbered and largely unexperienced Union troops, held them off for a day, just enough time for Union reinforcements to arrive in D.C. to protect the nation’s capital. Who knows what would have happened if the Confederate Army had not been delayed and succeeded in capturing Washington?

Map of Monocacy National Battlefield. From the Monocacy National Battlefield website.

In addition to the Civil War history, Monocacy also showcases agricultural life in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including slavery at L’Hermitage farm. Much of my work so far also involves the Native American artifacts found in the park, which date back more than 10,000 years ago. This is one of the things that I really love about archaeology: getting to discover and tell the stories of people who don’t have their own voice in history, the lesser known stories of a place.

I started my internship almost two weeks ago now, and I have been busy busy busy. The big project we’re working on right now is completing ASMIS surveys for the park. Essentially, this means going around to known archaeological sites and checking on them, making sure no one is digging or vandalizing them and looking for any artifacts that may have moved to the surface in the last year. Thankfully, the sites have all been in good condition so far, and we’ve found a few artifacts too!

View of Best Farm, also known as L’Hermitage. In 1800, this farm was home to ninety enslaved persons, the second largest population of slaves in Frederick County. Photo from the Monocacy National Battlefield Facebook page.

View of Thomas Farm from my living quarters. The building to the far right, most hidden by trees, is where I work on the days I’m in the office.

Taking notes on a projectile point we found during survey. This is the bottom of a Savannah River Point which dates somewhere between 3650 BC and 1525 BC.

When we find projectile points, I try to identify what type they belong to. Archaeologists group projectile points from a specific region by shape and size to create categories, known as types. Because we know roughly when each type of point was common, we can then use the projectile point types we find to date a site.

Another project I worked on last week was creating a display of stone tools for the Visitor Center. I identified the tools, wrote labels and little informational blurbs for them, and then used PowerPoint to design the layout of the whole display. It was fun putting my museum studies knowledge to work!

Laying out the artifacts for the display – five projectile points, a piece of groundstone broken in two, and a cupstone (a form of groundstone with a cup-shaped indentation).

I used PowerPoint to design the layout for the artifacts and accompanying text. PowerPoint is great because it allows you to make your slide fit the size of the display, so you can know exactly how much space every piece takes up.

I suppose now would be as good a time as any to go through some vocabulary that may come up:

  • Lithics – stone tools, including projectile points and groundstone
  • Projectile points – the term archaeologists use for the pointed tools that tip arrow and spear shafts, commonly known as “arrowheads”
  • Groundstone – stone that has been smoothed and shaped either for a specific purpose (like an axe or mortar and pestle) or through use (like a flour grinding stone)
  • Flake – a small piece of stone that is knocked off when making stone tools
  • Biface – a stone tool that has flakes taken off on two sides
  • Uniface – a stone tool that has flakes taken off on only one side
  • Ceramics – pottery of any kind
  • Sherd – a broken piece of pottery or glass
  • Survey – a systematic way of looking for artifacts or sites, usually on the surface; often a survey involves walking across an area in straight, parallel lines evenly spaced apart

Archaeologists use a lot of jargon, so feel free to leave me a comment if I ever use a term that you’re unfamiliar with, and I’ll be happy to define it for you!

That’s all for now!

It’s Not “Goodbye,” It’s “See You Later”!

It’s Not “Goodbye,” It’s “See You Later”!

by: Mariah Walzer

I can’t believe that it’s been ten weeks since I first saw the rolling fields of Monocacy National Battlefield. Time has flown by so fast! Unfortunately, the rain on that first day was a foretaste of things to come, weather-wise, but not even this summer of flooding can dampen my love for this park and the people I’ve met here.

Battlefields may not be known for their natural beauty, but amidst the hustle and bustle, concrete buildings and skyscrapers, of industrialized and commercialized America, I find great beauty in the corn fields and historic buildings. Monocacy NB feels like this little piece of tranquility just south of busy Frederick, Maryland. And the sunsets… oh the sunsets! Whoever decided to make the building I lived in seasonal housing definitely wanted the occupants to stick around. I could sit on my porch in the evenings and watch the sun fade into brilliant colors beyond the mountains and a historic barn. What more could you ask for?

Who would ever want to leave when the view is this stunning?

Great coworkers, you say? Well, I got lucky with those too. My mentor, Alex, and supervisor, Andrew, were always interested in my thoughts and ideas, sought to make sure I got the most out of this internship I could, and have been a great resource already in furthering my career. So many other people, both at Monocacy NB and in the National Capital Region, welcomed me into the Park Service family as well.

My parents always said that the National Park Service was full of “odd ducks.” They meant that Park Service life attracts a special type of person: people who are generally willing and excited to interact with visitors on a daily basis regardless of their formal position, to move around the country, to live and work in a variety of landscapes, and to work with people from many diverse backgrounds towards the shared goal of preserving this country’s natural and cultural resources. Not everyone is cut out for Park Service life – it’s not always as glamorous as many people think – but after this summer, I’ve decided I want to give it a try for real someday.

I came into this internship with big question marks in my life plan – I knew I liked archaeology and I loved educating people about the past, but I didn’t know what that would look like as a career. I left with a new goal: to wear the green and gray NPS uniform.  And I have a pretty good idea of how to get there!

My face says it all, but I know I’ll be back someday, and hopefully I’ll be in green and gray then!

As to my actual work, I rounded out my summer at Monocacy with my favorite activity: talking to people about archaeology! Among other small projects, I spent my last two weeks finishing up the educational presentations I’ve been writing about. In addition to putting the finishing touches on my PowerPoint slides, I also catalogued the Interpretive Division’s collection of educational Civil War artifacts. Identifying buttons and bullets was a whole new ball game for me, but I dove head first into the challenge and thoroughly enjoyed it! There’s no greater rush in archaeology than pinpointing exactly what an artifact is, where it came from, and when it was made and used.

This canteen has a stamped inscription on the neck that identifies the manufacturer and date. It was made in Philadelphia in 1864, under the new style requirements for US military canteens (the concentric rings).

What does one do when one knows next to nothing about Civil War artifacts? Raid the bookshelves, of course!

I was pretty proud of myself for identifying this time fuse that was used to delay cannon shell explosions. This one has certainly been fired.

The contents of the coffee can full of bullets laid out and initially separated by shape.

I also finally got to finish cleaning and conserving the Pennsylvania Monument (we got rained out part way through the project in June). I learned about using patina and waxes on bronze plates, which was pretty cool!

First round of cleaning the Pennsylvania Monument in June.

Painting the chemical for patination (color change) on the oxidized (greenish) areas of the bronze plaque.

A layer of hot wax is applied to protect the plaque by heating the bronze with a torch and then brushing on the wax, which melts in the heat.

I stuck around an extra day in order to give my presentation a test run. Monocacy NB hosted an Infantry Day on August 11th in which reenactors gave demonstrations of infantry firing techniques for the enjoyment and education of the public. I jumped in to talk about archaeology at Monocacy NB, trading off every other hour with the reenactors. I generally had ten to twenty people for each session, and people seemed very interested. Most people never realized that the land had been occupied for over 10,000 years! I really enjoy getting to challenge and add to people’s understanding of a place. As I’ve talked about before, archaeology’s greatest strength and purpose, in my opinion, is in telling the untold stories.

Ready for my presentation. They gave me a fancy NPS tablecloth and everything!

Presenting to a group of visitors.

The Interpretive staff was very happy with the public reception, and I was just happy to have the opportunity to geek out about the things I love. It was a perfect end to a great summer!

 

Lights, Camera, Action: Perfecting My Research Method in the National Archives, D.C.

Lights, Camera, Action: Perfecting My Research Method in the National Archives, D.C.

by: Alysha Page

Example of the Size of Registers I have been reading through. Letters Sent, District of the Columbia

Hello All! We are officially moving into the fourth (maybe fifth…? I’m in a time warp) week of research at the National Archives. One thing has become abundantly clear, slow and steady does indeed win the research race. In a mad rush to get as much information as possible before I fly off to Alaska in a few months I realized that I needed to create a more detailed research template. A way to gather information quickly whilst also not missing any important details. This way I don’t have to go back over files I’ve already looked at or retake photos. In this process, shortcuts aren’t of service to anyone. The three main areas that I revised were my research template, data entry/backing up information, and my photographing techniques.

Research Template

The Company L project is a team project which means that whatever information my fellow researcher collects I have to be able to read and understand thousands of miles away from D.C.. After taking a second look at my original research template I realized that I needed to add a much more detailed cover sheet for any data collected. With the help of the NARA Reference Service slip I expanded the Record Identification details to include the series name, volume number, and specific Inventory Entry Number for each file collected. I also realized that for each new Record there should be a general overview. This way without actually reading the file I would have a clear idea of its purpose, relationship to the project, and any important information that stood out to the researcher. Furthermore, each image collected should be attached to a separate page with detailed notes and transcription if time allows. Revising my research template has really helped to streamline the process of data collection. I am really looking forward to seeing how this new template has helped my fellow researcher.

Photographing Documents

Lighting is so important when photographing archival information. You can not use the flash on your camera because that type of exposure can damage the records and cause fading over time. So your options are either taking photographs in the dim lighting of the archives or being very diligent and making sure you reserve time to use the shooting table with LED lighting. The difference between the general lighting and the shooting table lighting is staggering. If and when at all possible I will use the scanners available at the archive, but for now with the larger letter and telegram registries the photo booth is the safest bet.

The shooting table at NARA with Letters Sent, Camp Skagway, Vol. 1

Example of photograph taken under general lighting.

Example of photograph taken under LED lighting. The difference is remarkable! Lighting can mean the difference between reading documents easily and hours of straining to transcribe.

Backing Up Data

Backup up your research! This can’t be emphasized enough. Throughout my academic career I have not had the best luck with technology, so I have learned the importance of ALWAYS backing up your data. Oh, and also having a personal relationship with the folks in the IT department. I am working with the Klondike Gold Rush NPS team all the way in Skagway, Alaska so files must be shared through multiple databases. I have made it a point to save my research on multiple platforms from the drive that connects to my team in Alaska, to flash drives, and honestly contemplating getting an external hard drive. Nothing is worse than losing all your hard work because your computer decided to act up. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

Until next time, Farewell!

Boston, It’s Been ACE

Boston, It’s Been ACE

by: Danielle Kronmiller

As I begin this final blog post, I am nearing the end of my last week as Curator’s Assistant at Boston National Historical Park. The curator and I have just officially wrapped up this year’s annual collection’s inventory; during the course of my time as a CRDIP intern, I have physically located more than one thousand items within the park’s museum collection!

What the working desk of an intern in the final days of a large collections inventory looks like – certainly no shortage of notes

The final days of the inventory process proved to be some of the most difficult, returning to specific items and objects across the lists that had previously eluded discovery. I spent an entire afternoon within archival storage looking for one item – and in the process discovered others. We reboarded the USS Cassin Young and, with the help of volunteer crew, descended multiple decks into engine rooms and tiny storage compartments. The random sample inventory selected one cataloged tool out of many within a large tool chest on display in the Navy Yard visitor’s center, and of course, it turned out to be the smallest item at the very bottom of the chest! Every item, large and small, is an important element of the story of the Charlestown Navy Yard, providing context for interpretation and resources for researchers. Effectively managing collections is truly such an important and fulfilling process; museum professionals are trusted with stewardship of the artifacts and records that tell the stories which make up our past.

The final stack of a completed collections inventory!

Though this year has been a great success, it was inevitable that we would not see every item on the inventory lists. It is an unfortunate fact that museum objects go missing from time to time, a result of damage or incomplete documentation. But that is why we undertake projects like the annual collections inventory. It is generally not the case that these objects or items are truly missing. Often, they will have been moved to a different location long ago, and the paperwork did not quite make it into the accession file. In completing this year’s inventory, I helped locate items that had not been found in previous years, improving upon their documentation each time. Year after year, successive interns will help locate even more of the items we did not see this year.

The very tiny, specific object we were required to locate, and the large, full tool chest we were required to locate it in!

The frame where Rembrandt’s stolen work once was still hangs in its gallery

Museum objects do sometimes go missing another way – theft – bringing me to the final museum visit I will have the pleasure of sharing with you. In 1990, thirteen works of art valued at a combined total of $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum here in Boston – and they have not yet been recovered. One of the most widely known museum thefts, there is a reward of $10 million offered for information leading to the recovery of these artworks, which include works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas, and Manet. Although this theft makes for a gripping and convenient blogging segue, the Gardner Museum is fascinating in so many other ways. Within the museum, there are no labels alongside the artworks, and the galleries do not feature white walls with equal spaces between each work. There is also a greenhouse and lovely, open garden courtyard at the center of the original building. The founder of the museum, Isabella Stewart

Postcard of Rembrandt’s Sea of Galilee, one of the stolen works and his only known seascape

Gardner, wanted visitors to have their own experiences with the art, a departure from the traditional museum model many people expect. The galleries feature impressive tapestries, exquisite furniture, stained glass, architectural details, paintings, and more that are arranged in a more decorative fashion; the collections furnish the spaces as a whole, as much as they are on display individually. The museum provides numbered room guides for visitors that wish to learn more about a specific piece, but it is certainly an immersive experience to take in each gallery wholly, noting how artworks complement and support each other. It is interpretative choices such as this that allow visitors a unique experience at different museums. Feeling and viewing is as much a part of visiting museums as reading and learning.

A view of another sadly empty frame in the context of the gallery and the central courtyard at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

My time as an ACE CRDIP intern has been truly incredible. I am very grateful to this program, the National Park Service, my supervisor, and all those who have helped me along this journey that has further prepared and excited me for my career in the museum world. The experiences I have had in Boston extended far beyond my expectations. Accomplishing such a task as the collections inventory has given me the confidence to undertake any large project that comes my way in the future. I have never had the opportunity to visit so many different cultural institutions with such frequency, and being able to do so in an area saturated with such history and significance is indescribable. Learning and growing in new environments provides the framework for fulfillment and innovation, and I will take my ideas and the skills I have learned on to my next venture as I continue to pursue curiosity, knowledge, and creativity through museum work, and endeavor to inspire this pursuit in others. I will be sad to move on from Boston and my time as a CRDIP intern, but it is on to the next adventure, and I have never felt more prepared.

 

Letters, Tours, Data, and Inventory

Letters, Tours, Data, and Inventory

by: Marjorie Anne Portillo

Hello all! It’s been a few weeks and I wanted to give you guys a little update on my internship here at the four National Park sites of Contra Costa County.

Eugene O’Neill Manuscript Update

As of now, I have finished scanning most of the letters. I just need to finish transcribing the letters as well as summarizing and coming up with keywords for each of them. The keywords are essential for research purposes. There are also a few greeting cards and telegrams that I need to digitize as soon as I finish working on the letters.

One thing I have noticed from these letters was just how much Carlotta Monterey O’Neill loved Eugene O’Neill. After his death, she dedicated the rest of her life to making sure her late husband got the recognition he deserved for his work—even going so far as to having “Long Day’s Journey into Night” published soon after his death despite his wishes that it not be published until 25 years after his death. This play turned out to be his most successful and critically acclaimed. And the timing of its release played a role in its success. When it came to the opening of the play in Sweden, Carlotta refused to attend. In a letter to her friend Robert Sisk, she writes, “Charming of them [to invite me] – but, of course, I couldn’t do that- all honours should go to O’Neill. I don’t believe in literary widows taking bows for their husband’s works!”

Eugene O’Neill & Tao House

On the third week of my internship, I was given the opportunity to visit and tour the Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site in Danville, CA. After reading all these letters, I was really excited to get a visual on the life the O’Neills lived. It’s the best thing about museums–you get to walk around and experience history. It’s a whole nother way of learning and you get so much more out of it compared to reading about it or looking at pictures!

This tour, in particular, was very significant because a member of the Carlson family (the family that purchased Tao House from the O’Neills) was taking the very same tour as well! During the tour, he told us little stories about the house and his experience as a little boy after the O’Neills moved out. It gave the tour a more personal touch since he and his family briefly interacted with the O’Neills.

The home was heavily influenced by Taoism. Many aspects of their home was arranged and decorated by Feng Shui principles. Their walkway, for example, is not in a straight line. The purpose of this is to ward off the bad spirits and bad energy from their home.

My favorite room was Eugene O’Neill’s study. This was the very room where he wrote his last few plays. It is pretty amazing knowing that he sat here at one point and wrote his most memorable work! The room is so secluded, that it is separated from the rest of the house by three doors. This is to ensure that his creativity is not disturbed. Just from this, you can see just how dedicated he was to his work.

I had a great experience visiting the site. The house was very beautiful and the surrounding area is so quiet and peaceful – it’s no wonder the O’Neills decided to live there!

Pretty soon, the National Park Service will be having an All-Staff Meeting here followed by a Staff Appreciation Lunch where we’ll be able to eat, hang out, and swim in the O’Neills’ pool! How fun!

Environmental Tasks in a Museum

In addition to my manuscript project, I get to assist Virginia–the Museum Technician of the four parks–with some of her everyday duties. When I went to the John Muir National Historic Site during my first week, I helped Virginia with housekeeping by removing cobwebs throughout the John Muir’s house. I also helped replace pest traps throughout the house for Integrated Pest Management (IPM for short). This is an important task because it helps the museum prevent pest damage to the collections. It also helps the staff figure out what kinds of pests are being attracted to the site and how to keep more from coming.

A few weeks later, I learned more about collecting environmental data around our collections. Virginia showed me how to collect visual light and UV data around the Rosie the Riveter Visitor Center. This task is important because it helps the staff monitor the light exposure in a room for the sole purpose of protecting the artifacts. Too much exposure to light can end up damaging a historic object and finishes. This is why you might notice that some rooms are darker than others in a museum.

Left: Light Log for RORI & the Light Monitoring Device; Right: A Temperature Logger sitting pretty in the RORI Collections Room!

Temperature and humidity can also cause damage to an artifact. Damages can include warping, cracking, mold growth, etc. This is why it is important to monitor the changes in temperature and humidity anywhere there is a historical artifact. While collecting light readings around the Rosie the Riveter Visitor Center, we also extracted data from Temperature Logger devices. What I didn’t realize was that in every exhibit case and room, there was a device sitting there collecting all the data about its surrounding environment. It’s crazy how you don’t really notice things until it’s pointed out to you! Each park site has these devices to make sure that the artifacts are safe in its environment–the Rosie the Riveter Collections Room (where I spend the majority of my time) has a few as well!

Inventory, Inventory, Inventory!

Virginia searching for an artifact

One of the other tasks I got to assist with was completing annual inventory. By completing inventory, the museum staff is able to make sure that every object in the collection is accounted for. This was a pretty fun task for me, because it gave me the opportunity to take a closer look at the collections that I don’t work with on an everyday basis. Since I primarily work with the Eugene O’Neill manuscripts, I don’t really get to look at or handle any of the other artifacts or archives that we have in the Rosie the Riveter Collections Room. It was pretty cool to see all the artifacts from the WWII era! One of the craziest things I saw was a Nazi knife that was brought home by a soldier after he returned from the war. I never thought I’d ever see that in person!

Until next time…

It’s been a great internship so far… I’ve had the opportunity to attend two big events, the Port Chicago Memorial Ceremony and, just recently, the Rosie Rally Home Front Festival. I will definitely be writing more on that next!

Frontiers

Frontiers

by: Colleen Truskey

It’s been several weeks since my last blog post, and I’ve been busy in that time. The Salem Maritime Festival was this past weekend, and just yesterday the Draken Harald Hårfagre (the world’s largest operating Viking ship) docked at Central Wharf. Allison Anholt and Jessica Plance from ACE stopped by last week on their tour of the region, as did Paloma Bolasney from NPS. A couple of times now I’ve helped Emily Murphy, Salem Maritime’s curator, with inventory (which involved crawling beneath eighteenth century bedroom furniture). I’ve also visited the Salem Farmers’ Market a number of times with my officemate and fellow CRDIP intern, Jess Analoro, and continue to explore the region on my weekends off. Too much to see, and not enough time to see it!

I’ve been just as busy at the office. Cody O’Dale (my partner in this work) and I have spoken with more people than I can count about our project. There have been plenty of conversations with folks throughout NPS (and throughout the country), of course, but we’ve also talked to folks from Fish & Wildlife, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, in addition to continued conversations with the Forest Service and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The conversations have covered everything from technical GIS applications, to the legal requirements of Section 106 and NAGPRA, to the practical needs and experiences of those who might potentially use this application. There are a number of stakeholders invested in this project, which is important to remember as Cody and I draft out our final design for the application. In addition to the technical and political challenges, however, it’s also important that we deal with the challenges presented by the medium in which we’re working — maps.

Maps are man-made, and like any man-made object they are subject to a number of distinctly human faults and limitations. A map is an interpretation of the world as we experience it–an approximation of the environment we encounter on a daily basis. Every map highlights that which its creator felt was important and omits that which was considered irrelevant. In other words, we can often learn more about ourselves from maps that we can learn about its subject places. There is no such thing as an “unbiased” map.

(Most folks are familiar with this issue as it’s framed within the debate over the use of the Mercator projection, succinctly described in this clip from “The West Wing.” You can also explore how common maps misrepresent the relative size of countries using “The True Size Of…” website.)

A map of the North American continent with country and state boundaries depicts a very particular socio-political understanding of that landscape, for example. However, we could divide the continent in any number of ways–perhaps by watershed, or by biome, or by major linguistic divisions, or by relative economic circumstances. Each of these maps would tell us something different, but there is no map that could capture all of these elements (along with others) in their entirety effectively.

The Sail Loft on Derby Wharf during the Salem Maritime Festival and the arrival of the Draken Harald Hårfagre to Central Wharf. Both events were great opportunities to explore maritime history and culture.

When it comes to indigenous peoples and maps, the conversation is only further complicated. Think of the most popular understanding of the “frontier” — a place unknown, undeveloped, and uninhabited, at least by “civilized” men. The frontier is home to uncharted wilderness, and, at least in the American imagination, the unmapped frontier is also home to “Indians.” When the frontier is replaced by territories and states, when those nascent borderlines are drawn on maps for the first time, the landscape is irrevocably transformed. The map would have you believe the land is now settled, comfortably nestled in the idealized experience of the United States of America. There is no room for sovereign indigenous nations on such a map.

In this context, the project Cody and I have been assigned represents a unique way of “rethinking” how maps are used to speak with and about indigenous peoples. By highlighting tribal areas of interest–lands that are meaningful to a community based on their historical and contemporary experiences of those places–we are, in essence, reimagining the American landscape as a “tribal” landscape.

The Public Garden in Boston. If you were to map a city like this one, what would you include? What would you exclude? How might your interpretation of the city change based on what you chose to illustrate on the map?

Of course, the final application won’t be perfect. It can’t be perfect. The conversation surrounding how land is experienced, valued, and claimed is ongoing. Our data is both incomplete and dynamic, and is presently bound to databases in a variety of formats and a number of locations. A number of technical, theoretical, and experiential challenges remain to be tackled. How and where will data be stored? What will be considered “accurate” data? How will the application be updated? How can we avoid the potential misuse or misapplication of this product? How can we best meet multiple disparate needs, ranging from the needs of tribal communities to park superintendents?

Our first go at a map that displays tribal areas of interest by county, based on data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This map represents several hundred layered interest areas, and will be used as the basis of our final application.

These are questions Cody and I’ll continue to tackle as the weeks wind down. There’s a lot to be done, but I’m confident we’ll produce a valuable application. ‘Til next post!

Boots on The Ground and Shovels in Hand!

Boots on the ground and shovels in hand!

By Alicia Gonzales

It’s your friendly neighborhood archaeologist writing in from Ohio again, with some updates on some very exciting work at Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  Inadvertent discoveries is the topic of today, so let’s get into it. Inadvertent discoveries are just that, inadvertent, unexpected and with good management often times a catalyst for innovative thought and efficient action.  Archaeological monitoring and discovery plans are guided and executed both at the Federal and State level when it comes to any ground disturbing activity (especially in areas with cultural resources and natural resources). The intent of having these strategies/plans in place are to anticipate the unexpected and ultimately reduce the potential effect on resources.  Here at CUVA I got to see and participate in these plans burst into action and protect a piece of history that was previously lost in historic documentation. The locally loved and frequently used Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, in my time here has been undergoing some much needed improvements and routine maintenance.  Improvements and routine maintenance, what could go wrong? So far the Towpath Trail has been under construction in various locations which need the love and attention, but from this writers perspective it has become a bit of a sore spot for visitors whose usual recreational activities must detour around these zones. The voice of the people have been heard, I’ve seen Park staff and partner agencies work tirelessly to address the needs of visitors while trying to complete these projects thoroughly and efficiently.

Damaged handworked sandstone block

But again, this is where inadvertent discovery comes into play.  Included in this endeavor was the replacement of four bridges, and at one of these construction sites an inadvertent discovery was…you guessed it discovered, or in this case rediscovered.  During routine excavating activity within the project guidance, an top-notch operator noticed soil change and very rectangular stone. The crew immediately stopped work per the plan and our cultural resource management team of 2: Big Bad Bill and I got to spring into action.  With Bills extensive knowledge of the geography and canal history, my familiarity with archaeological investigation it became apparent that the crew had inadvertently rediscovered the original 1825 Historic hand worked sandstone canal culvert.  What a find, what a challenge and inevitably what do we do?!  Creativity and collaboration were the answer.

Making a soil profile

The cultural resource management team, engineers, renowned regional and state archaeologist, the contract crew, maintenance division and engineers all put their heads together to find a solution. This process took a bit of time given the slow pace in which projects such as this become bureaucraztized.   However, the initial emergency archaeological investigation phase was the first step to see what exactly was in the ground and how the project as a whole could move forward.  Luckily, I got to learn and work as the right hand to a much respected archaeologist in the Ohio region. I thank him for his willingness to educate me some on old-school techniques. With the archaeological investigation phase and extent of the resource analyzed, the cross-divisional and cross agency team were able to get the rehabilitation project back on track. Much to the delight of visitors and staff alike, the Towpath trail will be up and running in the foreseeable future.

Taking measurements and making a map.

ArcGIS based Oil Spill Indigenous Mapping Project Update

ArcGIS based Oil Spill Indigenous Mapping Project Update

by: Cody O’Dale

Figure 1 – Me in Idaho

Hi, I’m Cody O’Dale and I’m currently based in the Bureau of Indian Affairs Fort Hall Agency office in Fort Hall, Idaho. I recently graduated with my masters in Geographic Information Science from Idaho State University. During the course of my study I worked with NASA DEVELOP and NASA RECOVER developing remote sensing techniques for wildfire mitigation and recovery.

Figure 2 – Me at Boott Cotton Mills in Lowell, MA

This summer I have been working with the National Park Services Tribal and Cultural Affairs -Northeast Region. In June I was given the opportunity to fly to Lowell, MA and visit the host agency and meet my partner Colleen Truskey and other stakeholders in the project.

Our internship tasked us with research, sourcing and creating spatial data, while adding new data to the ArcGIS based Oil Spill Indigenous Mapping Project following established NPS GIS guidelines. By collaborating with cultural resource specialists, tribal cultural and natural resource officers we have created and updated GIS layers for ethnographic, archaeological, and geophysical data sets for park and other reserve lands across the country.

Figure 3 – BIA Leadership Data

Rain, Rain Go Away

Rain, Rain Go Away

by: Mariah Walzer

Let’s start with the bad news. The site I was supposed to help excavate this summer is down this path:

That’s right. It’s underwater. It’s been raining for the past week, and the forecast calls for even more rain this week. But as a teacher of mine pointed out, this is all just part of being an archaeologist. Sometimes your site floods, sometimes you have to evacuate due to fires, and sometimes your site gets destroyed by ISIS (true story for one of the PhD students I met at University of Chicago). You get pretty good at rolling with the punches.

Silver lining: I did find a projectile point in the not-flooded part of the field!

Now, on to the good news: I picked up another project! Remember all those projectile points I identified from that donated collection? At the end of my last post, I had just started creating an educational presentation using the artifacts. Well, with all this indoors time, I completed one presentation on archaeology at Monocacy National Battlefield in general, and I am finishing up another on lithic technology and analysis.

(Pop quiz! What does “lithic” mean? See the end of my post for the answer.)

One of my first slides tackles some common misconceptions about archaeology, especially the infamous dinosaur comments. (No, archaeologists do not study dinosaurs.)

I really enjoyed this project, because archaeology education is one of my passions. History can seem boring and feel very distant from us, if not taught well. Archaeology has a special opportunity to bring history to life because of its focus on artifacts, tangible pieces of the past.

Here’s a quick story to illustrate. On my first field school, we visited Kettle Falls, Washington, which used to be a major salmon fishery before the Grand Coulee Dam permanently flooded the Falls and stopped the salmon from swimming up river. On the bluff above the river, there is a very large sharpening stone that was moved to preserve it shortly before the dam became operational. I ran my fingers along the many grooves in that rock. It was amazing to think that my hands could touch the same rock that other people touched potentially thousands of years ago. It was a very powerful moment for me. I always think about that stone when I consider the power of artifacts to make a connection between the past and the present.

The sharpening stone at Kettle Falls

Grooves worn into the stone from years and years of indigenous people sharpening their spears and other tools here.

Looking through other CRDIP-ers’ posts, I noticed a theme echoing around: telling untold stories. I also emphasize this theme in my presentation, because I believe it is one of the most important goals of archaeology. Written history is only part of the story, set down by those with the means and ability to write. It often ignores the voices of the illiterate, the “losers,” and those who live(d) in cultures focused on oral tradition. Archaeology gives us opportunities to give those people a voice, retroactively at least.

At Monocacy NB, excavations in 2010 – 2012 sought to learn about a group of people that we know little about: enslaved persons in Maryland. The area currently known as Best Farm was called L’Hermitage from 1794 to 1827, when it was owned by the Vincendières, French plantation owner refugees from Saint Domingue (now Haiti). The Vincendières were the second largest slaveholders in Frederick, Maryland, with somewhere between 50 and 90 enslaved persons at their maximum. Survey in 2004 discovered the approximate location of slave quarters that were mentioned in historical documents. The 2010-2012 excavations sought to learn about the structure of the houses and the organization of the village, as well as uncover any artifacts related to the slaves’ lives. Six nearly identical structures were found and many artifacts. This project offered the chance to tell another of the many stories that played out on park land. After all, the Civil War was only four years and the Battle of Monocacy one day, yet people have been living in this area for over 10,000 years.

Photo from Monocacy NB’s exhibit on the L’Hermitage Slave Village. Artifacts such as coins, pottery and glass pieces, pipe stems, and the handle of a pair of scissors give us a glimpse into the lives of the enslaved persons at L’Hermitage.

 

3D reconstruction of the L’Hermitage Slave Village from Monocacy NB. The six slave houses (bottom right) were very uniformly placed and constructed, showcasing the heavy restrictions placed on the enslaved persons. The overseer may have lived in the white and stone house closest to the center, and the Vincendière family would have lived in the main house (the all-white building in the top left).

I gave a test run of my presentation to the Youth Conservation Corps kids working at the park this summer. Then, on one of the few sunny days we’ve had, the YCC joined us to dig some shovel test pits for a project to move a fence to better reflect its probable location at the time of the war. The high schoolers told me that they really enjoyed their Archaeology Day, so mission accomplished!

That’s me in the red ACE shirt shoveling dirt into the screen for the YCC kids to shift through!

I’m looking forward to presenting to the public at Infantry Day on August 11th! It’s hard to believe I have less than two weeks left here, though. Time flies so fast when you’re having fun!

Pop quiz answer: “Lithic” means stone. When archaeologists talk about lithic technology, or “lithics” for short, we’re referring to stone tools like projectile points and groundstone (mortar & pestle, axes, hammerstones, etc.)

Brown Paper Packages all Type Up With String: Research at the National Archives, D.C.

Stateside Adjustments

by: Alysha Page

Diving Into the Archives

My study area right before I pull records at NARA.

After a few weeks of secondary research, the next step was dive into the archival research. I knew from the beginning that there would be a scarcity of archival information when dealing with African American subjects. That reality is not negated when researching African American military personnel from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. I went in understanding that if I did find specifics about the soldiers it would be from injury reports, court marshals, census records, deployment information, and similar records. It will be a process of sussing out what research avenues are useful and which should be abandoned. My hope is to least trace the movements of Company L, 24th Infantry before arrival in Skagway, Alaska in May 1899 and after they left Skagway. To do this I started researching through one of the largest record groups of the “U.S. Continental Army from 1817-1947.” I made use of The KLGO Historic Resource Study from 1970 as my primary lead to hunting down some possible useful places to look for information regarding the Company L, 24th Infantry. This portion of historic research is very much like sleuthing, real Indiana Jones meets Sherlock Holmes (minus the misogyny and destruction of artifacts).

The first step to hunting down what could possibly yield useful information was determining what department within the War Department would have information on Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush. Even though the writer of the KLGO Historic Resource Study had a clear biased against the Black soldiers of Company L, the footnotes were an invaluable tool in pinpointing record groups. Using one of the citations I decided to search the NARA database for “The Department of the Columbia.” The Department of the Columbia includes territories of Washington, Idaho, and later the district of Alaska following the purchase of Alaska in 1867. I also have found sources from Camp Dyea where Captain Henry Hovey and the soldiers were stationed when they first arrived in Skagway in May of 1899. Also, Camp Skagway where they were stationed the majority of their time in Alaska from 1899- 1902. I later expanded my search to Fort Wrangel, the fort where 46 soldiers along with Lieutenant Isaac Jenks were stationed. That was a very fruitful search. The easy part is over, now the more difficult part of actually finding useful information began.

How I feel going through documents in the National Archives, D.C.

Going through archival material is my favorite part of being a historian. Having the chance to search in the National Archives (NARA) is best part of researching in D.C. Unfortunately, my first two weeks in the archives didn’t yield as much information as I would have hoped, but I did realize that I am at least searching in the right area! I was able to find some mention of Company L and some correspondence of Lieu. Isaac Jenks and Captain Hovey in a record of Monthly Returns from Dyea.

Being Realistic with Research Goals

As hopeful as I am about finding sources that speak directly to the experience of the soldiers of Company L, 24th Infantry at the National Archives, I am very aware of shortcomings of military documentation or Archival material as a whole. As was mentioned in a previous blog the lives of African Americans have been historically undervalued, therefore any documentation accumulated from our existence in the U.S. is deemed lacking intrinsic value. This is why Black families save their own records or created their own museums to preserve our stories. If I do find further correspondence in Record Group 393 it will most likely be from Captain Hovey and Lieut. Jenks. It would be a miracle to find any accounts from soldiers in NARA War Department Records. I do hope, however, to be able to trace soldiers movements through payroll reports, drills, and the like. This will help me better understand which soldiers stayed in Skagway, Alaska for the majority of the Company’s deployment and then later find out where they went after deployment.

Why, you ask? Well, if I can find where they went after they left Skagway I may be able to track down their families who may have saved their loved one’s stories through oral history or material culture (keepsakes, photos, letters, uniforms, etc.). From the records at NARA, it is my desire to get some idea of how soldiers were treated by their white counterparts. To gain a better understanding of the lives of Black military men in a predominately white environment. To further illuminate the two years spent in Skagway during this very little discussed part of American history. The War Department is a jumping off point for what I hope to be a very fruitful next five months in Washington, D.C.

Until next time, Farewell!

Ships, Historic Homes, and Robots – Oh my!

Ships, Historic Homes, and Robots – Oh my!

by: Danielle Kronmiller

On the navigation bridge of the USS Cassin Young

The progress of the annual collections inventory at Boston National Historical Park is sailing along quite nicely! With the final weeks of my internship in view, we have really closed in on the final items on the inventory lists. Recently, we undertook one of the most exciting, and tiring, days of inventory thus far – locating collections artifacts on board the USS Cassin Young. An impressive Fletcher-class World War II destroyer, she survived two kamikaze hits, went on to serve in the Korean War, and, after years in the US Navy’s mothball fleet, came to the Charlestown Navy Yard – where she was repaired several times during the wars – to be preserved as a floating museum. As a part of Boston National Historical Park, the USS Cassin Young represents the Navy Yard’s 20th century significance, complementing the shipyard’s earlier history represented by the USS Constitution docked just across the pier. While the main deck is always open to visitors, you can only really access the lower and upper decks by guided tour – or to take inventory of the many original artifacts on board the ship!

Myself below deck in one of the crew berthing areas, inventory list in tow

Catalog number on a reproduction mattress used to interpret the berthing areas

This includes items as large as 20 and 40-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, down to items as small as ships clocks and battle lanterns, and many things in between. The inventory also includes some reproduction items that have been placed onboard USS Cassin Young by the National Park Service for interpretative purposes, like mattresses in the berthing areas. It was incredible to explore such a storied ship in order to check off items on the inventory, but the experience was also striking in another way. Below deck, with poor ventilation and tight spaces, it gets hot very quickly. The day itself was a bit warmer, but the difference descending below the main deck was marked, and I have a feeling that Boston, even in the summer, is a bit cooler than the South Pacific! The experience really gave me a greater appreciation of the men who lived and worked on the USS Cassin Young for many months and years.

A view of the Stone Library and part of the Old House at Peace field, part of Adams National Historical Park

One of the most incredible things about working in and visiting museums is the variety – there really is something for everyone. This was really drawn into focus for me on two consecutive visits, one to Adams National Historical Park just outside of Boston in Quincy, Massachusetts, and the other to the MIT Museum. Adams National Historical Park, another NPS site, comprises of multiple locations – the birthplaces of presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, and the Old House at Peace field, the residence of four generations of the Adams family.

Inside the Stone Library

A visit to the Park begins at the Visitor’s Center, where, following an introductory film, a trolley takes you to two 17th-century farmhouses, the birthplaces of the two presidents. The group was guided through both historic buildings by an NPS ranger, where we learned about the early involvement Adams’ in shaping US history. From there, we hopped back on the trolley and visited Peace field, the residence purchased by John Adams following his rise to prominence. Again, a ranger guided us through the historic home, filled with the original belongings of four generations of the Adams family, providing interpretation and history along the way. A personal highlight was the tour’s conclusion in the Stone Library located in the garden next to the house, built by John Quincy Adams’ son Charles. There is a certain feeling of immersion when visiting and touring historic homes and buildings, and I believe this kind of guided interpretation is very successful in bringing history to life.

‘Troody’ a robotic dinosaur on display at the MIT Museum

The following day, I headed to Cambridge for a visit to the MIT Museum, a completely different, but equally as fascinating experience. Interpreting scientific and technological history and advancement is much different than recounting, for example, social and political history. Often with topics like robotics or neuroscience – as in two major exhibits at the MIT Museum – visitors will either possess specialized knowledge, or know nothing more than the basics. In this case, I certainly fall into the latter category! The MIT Museum, from my point of view, did a wonderful job at making the information comprehensible by all audiences. Interpretative texts simplified concepts enough that they were accessible individuals who are less familiar with subjects like programming or mechanical engineering, but did so in a way that was engaging. There was also a fascinating intersection between art and science present in the museum. A special exhibit featuring groundbreaking drawings of the anatomy of the brain not only focused on their scientific significance, but their artistic merit. Another gallery showcased an artist’s whimsical mechanical sculptures, both creatively intriguing and mechanically complex.

These mechanical sculptures were some of the most fascinating objects in the museum. A foot pedal on the floor makes them start moving. The contraption on the right made the wishbone ‘walk’ back and forth!

Though these two institutions are vastly different in their form and content, each preserves and presents invaluable information for the public, providing diverse and complementary lenses through which to view the world. I am very fortunate that my internship has given me the opportunity to explore so many collections in different contexts, both behind the scenes and as a visitor!

Dispatches from Washington, DC

Dispatches from Washington, DC

by: Megan Bailey

Trained as an archaeologist, I normally spend my summers engaged in some type of fieldwork, whether it’s excavating a historic site or cleaning, identifying, and processing artifacts. This summer, however, I’m spending most of my time in an office building, sitting in front of a computer. This may sound uninteresting, but to the contrary, I’ve found plenty of things to get excited about.

I’m interning in the Cultural Resources Office of Interpretation and Education at the NPS headquarters in Washington, DC (usually referred to as WASO). Having worked in a national park before, I thought I knew the ins and outs of how the NPS operated…but now that I’m at the main building, I’m learning so much about how NPS policies are crafted and enacted, how priorities are developed, and, in short, why the NPS does what it does. Because I’m a policy nerd, I love seeing this process in motion — how the laws and current administration dictate priorities, which are then crafted into policies at WASO, which are then handed down to the NPS regional offices, which oversee their execution at individual parks, sites, and monuments (admittedly, this is an oversimplified description).

So, what is my role in all this? The WASO Cultural Resources Office of Interpretation and Education is spearheading the national coordination of the 19th Amendment Centennial Commemoration, which will take place in 2020 (ratified in 1920, the 19th Amendment gave (white) women the right to vote). I am assisting with these efforts by researching the history of the 19th Amendment as well as the 15th Amendment (which gave Black men the right to vote in 1870) and connecting these histories to stories, places, and people within national parks. I will be writing a series of articles on the topic of voting rights– addressing citizenship, civic engagement, activism, and other aspects of the struggle for universal suffrage– and will publish these articles on the NPS website.

After spending MANY years in school (I earned a B.A., M.A., and PhD., all in Anthropology), I am thrilled to have the opportunity to exercise my academic skills in the “real world.” The NPS is faster-paced than academia and has different philosophies and values, so that required some adjustment on my part, but overall I am enjoying my work, where I must use the research skills I picked up in graduate school and apply them to topics that I know very little about. In addition, my research has taken me to all kinds of places — the Library of Congress and the National Archives, for example– and I am constantly amazed by the incredible historical resources we have in the U.S.

Currently, I am at the stage in the research process where I have piles of books everywhere, tons of notes strewn about my desk, and a million tabs open on my computer. In a couple of weeks I should be able to report on some of my findings, but right now I’m simply trying to organize the overwhelming amount of resources I’ve collected. This chaotic scene is not very photogenic, so instead I will focus on my office building for the visual portion of this blog post.

Dept. of the Interior Building at night, ca. 1930-1945, courtesy of the Tichnor Brothers Collection at the Boston Public Library.

Constructed between 1935 and 1936, the Main Interior Building houses the headquarters of the Department of the Interior and all of its federal agencies, such as the NPS, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The building is enormous, spanning two city blocks, and is a maze of corridors inside, housing hundreds of offices.

One of many NPS corridors.

One of my favorite things about this building is that there is art everywhere. For example, there are 26 prints of the 200+ images that the photographer and conservationist Ansel Adams produced for the Interior Mural Project of 1941. These gorgeous photographs document Interior-managed resources, such as parks and reclamation projects.

“Formations along the wall of the Big Room, near Crystal Spring Home, Carlsbad Caverns National Park,” New Mexico, by Ansel Adams, ca, 1933-1942.

Full View of Cactus and Surround Shrubs, “In Saguaro National Monument,” Arizona, by Ansel Adams, ca. 1933-1942,

View of Valley from Mountain, “Canyon de Chally” National Monument, Arizona, by Ansel Adams, ca. 1933-1942.

The DOI building also features over 40 murals painted by a variety of artists during the Great Depression as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

“Construction of the Dam” by William Gropper, 1940.

“Desert” by Nicolai Cikovsky, 1938.

“Replanting the Wasteland” by Ernest Fiene, 1938.

In addition to paintings and photographs, the building also has several marble sculptures.

“American Bison” by Boris Gilbertson, 1939.

No tour of the DOI building would be complete without a view from the rooftop. From there, one can easily see noteworthy structures and monuments such as the White House, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Washington Monument.

Hello from the East Bay!

Hello from the East Bay!

by: Marjorie Anne Portillo

Hello all! First, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself. My name is Marjorie Anne Portillo and I am the Museum Technician Intern for the National Park Service in Contra Costa County, CA. I graduated from California State University, Chico with a degree in Social Science and am now continuing my studies in Library and Information Technology. I have a great interest in working with archives and preserving cultural resources so I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to learn from the Cultural Resources team here!

What I really like about my internship here is the fact that I get to serve not one, but FOUR different National Park Sites!

These sites are:

I mainly work out of the Rosie the Riveter Headquarters office in Richmond, CA but there are times where I will be visiting the other three parks as well. It’s kind of funny… because I was born and raised in the Bay Area and was never aware that these awesome National Park sites were out here – it’s such a shame, really! But thankfully from this position, I now know – and for the next few weeks, I will get to learn more and more about each site as each day goes by!

Of Lost Conversations

During my first week, I had the opportunity to familiarize myself with two sites: Rosie the Riveter/WWII NHP and John Muir NHS. I was able to walk around a bit and check out a few of the exhibits at each site. I even learned how to complete a few housekeeping and environmental duties in John Muir’s house! But more on that later – because there is one experience in particular that I would really like to share with you all.

While at Rosie the Riveter, I attended one of the very popular programs held there: ”Of Lost Conversations” led by Ranger Betty Soskin. Betty Soskin, at 96–almost 97, is the oldest Ranger in the National Park Service. She spoke to us about her life during World War II in the East Bay. She explained that she was not a Rosie and made it very clear that not every woman’s experience in WWII was similar to the “Rosie Story”. As an African American woman, she had quite a different perspective and shared her personal experience as a file clerk in an all-black union hall during WWII.

Contrary to popular belief, there actually were women that had already entered the workforce way before WWII. Some African American women (like Soskin’s great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother) have been working ever since slavery. According to Soskin, it was pretty much impossible for a black family to support themselves with just one income. The Rosie Story was, in her words, “a white woman’s story.” However, she did not want to discredit the Rosie Story because that was their truth. And there were in fact some African American Rosies. But she wanted to emphasize how important it was that she shared her story because “what gets remembered is a function of who’s in the room doing the remembering.”
This statement really made an impact on me because this reminded me exactly why I wanted to enter the field of archiving and preserving cultural resources.

When it comes to history, we tend to learn about important (and more popular) events and movements that have been told and retold for years. But when it comes to people in the minority, who gets to speak for them–especially if some are no longer around to tell their story? This is where artifacts and manuscripts come into play. We can look into these cultural resources and interpret them to tell us the story of what occured during their time. And by creating exhibits in museums and displaying them to the public, we are able to enable society to do the remembering for them.

Attending Betty Soskin’s program was a very eye-opening experience for me. It honestly was the perfect way to start my internship. And I totally suggest you attend one of them if you are ever in the area!

Introduction to the EUON Manuscript Project

Now, let’s talk about my internship project! My main project for this internship is the digitization and transcription of manuscripts from the Eugene O’Neill NHS Museum collection. For those that are not aware of who exactly Eugene O’Neill is, here is a brief introduction — Eugene O’Neill is a famed playwright that is considered the “father of modern American Drama”. He was awarded four Pulitzer Prizes and is the only American playwright to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. He and his wife, Carlotta, lived in Danville, CA from 1937 to 1944. The house they lived in, called Tao House, is now the focal point of the Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site. More information can be found here.

Many of these manuscripts consist of letters that have been written or sent to either Eugene O’Neill himself or the people that surrounded him like his wife Carlotta or his driver/friend Herbert Freeman. Through these letters, we are be able to get more insight on the life Eugene O’Neill lived. I have started digitizing and transcribing a few of these letters and I must say that these letters have been quite interesting to read! It does require a bit of detective work since I’m an outsider look into their private lives. There are names and nicknames I am unfamiliar with and I often find myself trying to conduct some research to piece together who and what each letter is about. Each letter, to me, is a small piece to the bigger puzzle of Eugene O’Neill’s life and I am really looking forward to reading the rest of these letters! I will definitely keep you all posted as I go. To be given the opportunity to handle these letters and play a role in the preservation of Eugene O’Neill’s life is truly a dream come true.

Eugene O’Neill (right) pictured with his wife, Carlotta (left) – Image Courtesy of Eugene O’Neill NHS.

Museum Technician Duties

In addition to working on the EUON manuscripts, I have also been assisting the Cultural Resources staff with various tasks. During my first two weeks I have assisted Virginia, the Museum Technician for the four parks, with tasks such as IPMs (Integrated Pest Management), inventory, various housekeeping duties, and environmental readings. I will talk more about this in my next blog post!

Two weeks have definitely flown by and I am enjoying every single minute of it. I am learning something new each day I come in. The Cultural Resources staff here–Isabel, Ann, Virginia, and Paul–have all been very helpful and I definitely don’t see myself wanting to spend my summer with anybody else!

Checking Parks Off My NPS Bucket List!

Checking Parks Off My NPS Bucket List!

by: Mariah Walzer

In case you missed it, Independence Day was about two weeks ago. One of the perks of working for the federal government is getting federal holidays off. Between that and my regular work schedule, I ended up with a five-day weekend to do as I pleased. So I packed my bag and headed off to North Carolina to visit family.

Well, being a National Park nerd, I couldn’t resist visiting a few parks along my way. I joked that instead of trying to get out of the office for vacation, I just transfer locations! During this North Carolina trip, I stopped at Petersburg National Battlefield and Fredericksburg National Battlefield, both in Virginia.

Reenactors drilling before an artillery demonstration at Petersburg National Battlefield.

Petersburg National Battlefield preserves sites associated with the longest siege in American warfare. Union troops under General Ulysses S. Grant laid siege to the town of Petersburg from June 15, 1864 to April 2, 1865, just six days before Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House, ending the Civil War.

A replica of the “Dictator” – the giant of all cannons that could fire a 225 lb. shell up to 2 miles. This humungous cannon was used during the seige of Petersburg, but it really wasn’t all that militarily effective.

It simply isn’t allowed to visit a battlefield without taking an abundance of cannon pictures.

The park is divided into three main areas. I only toured the Eastern Front, which includes several earthwork defenses, a recreation of a siege encampment, and the Crater. Aside from its fame as the longest siege, the Crater is perhaps Petersburg’s most defining feature. The Battle of the Crater occurred when Union troops dug a tunnel under the Confederate line and exploded it early in the morning. Despite the initial devastation, poor leadership and communication lead to a staggering loss for the Union as their troops were caught in the same crater they had created.

A reconstructed model of a seige encampment defenses at Petersburg.

Today, the Crater is somewhat filled in with dirt and grass, but it is still easy to see how much damage was done.

The entrance to the tunnel Union troops dug to plant the explosives underneath the Confederate line.

I made a very quick stop at Fredericksburg National Battlefield, which also consists of several sections – actually four separate battlefields and the “Stonewall” Jackson Shrine. In my visit, I only explored the Sunken Road and the cemetery at the Fredericksburg Battlefield.

The Sunken Road – The Confederate Army chose this position to fight from due to the cover provided by the dip in the ground and the stone wall (reconstructed on the left). Despite multiple assaults, the Union Army never made it within 50 yards of the wall.

In addition to the battlefields I explored on this trip, I also visited Antietam National Battlefield, Gettysburg National Military Park, and Valley Forge National Historical Park during other weekends. I even spent some time at Manassas National Battlefield’s museum when I helped with shovel tests in the park a few weeks ago. Eight parks down; four hundred nine to go!

A line of cannons and the State of New York monument at Antietam National Battlefield.

The Dunkard Church was heavily contested during the Battle of Antietam. Ironically, the Dunkers were a Protestant sect well-known for their pacifism. The original church collapsed during a storm in 1921; the current building was reconstructed using as much original material as possible for the 100th anniversary of the battle in 1962.

The Cyclorama is a massive, circular oil painting by Paul Dominique Philippoteaux that artistically depicts the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

The United States Flag in 1861 – The stars for the eleven states of the Confederacy were never removed because the Union never recognized the right of these states to secede.

The view from Little Round Top is one of the most iconic views at Gettysburg. Holding this high ground was a top priority for General Meade and his Union troops.

Visiting Valley Forge National Historic Park – my first Revolutionary War park of the summer!

Inside Washington’s Headquarters at Valley Forge.

Now, despite all the fun, I promise I did actually do some work these past two weeks. We continued our ASMIS surveys to check on the known sites in the park. I also focused on identifying the projectile points and other stone tools from a collection donated to the park. These lithic artifacts have no provenience (meaning we don’t know where exactly they came from), so they will be used as educational aides instead of going to the Museum Resource Center with the rest of Monocacy’s artifacts. I am just beginning work on creating that educational presentation.

So many projectile points to identify!

This particular tool is cool because each edge exhibits a different flaking technique. One edge is unifacial, meaning flaked only on one side; the longest edge is bifacial, meaning flaked on both sides; and the bottom edge has shallow surface flakes and a rough but relatively straight edge. The bottom edge may have been a tool itself or possibly where the tool was hafted on to a piece of wood.

One of the things that can make identifying projectile points difficult is that the blades are often resharpened over and over again, making them smaller and sometimes changing their shape altogether.

Time to get back to work for me!

Sweetgrass

Sweetgrass

by: Colleen Truskey

Greetings from Salem, Massachusetts! My name is Colleen Truskey, and this summer I will be joining ACE’s Cultural Resources Diversity Internship Program (CRDIP).

Prior to this internship I had never been to New England. I was raised in Roanoke, Virginia and later attended William & Mary, located on the opposite side of the state. After I graduated in May of 2017, I spent a year working dual fellowships with the National Audubon Society and my alma mater’s Center for Geospatial Analysis. Now that I have joined ACE, I will be working for the Northeast Regional Office of the National Park Service as a GIS (geographic information systems) intern.

This makes my situation somewhat unique. Unlike many of my fellow interns, I am not working on a project for any one specific park. Rather, I have been assigned to create a GIS that depicts NPS units throughout the Northeast Region and how tribal areas of interest interact with those lands. The resulting application, likely an interactive web-based map, will be used to better inform both tribal and park leadership of key contacts on either side. My partner on this project is Cody O’Dale, a fellow CRDIP intern based out of Idaho.

Cody O’Dale and I at Boott Cotton Mills in Lowell, MA for our preliminary “kick-off” in late June.

The Custom House (left) and the Hawkes House of Salem Maritime National Historic Site. Salem Maritime NHS was gracious enough to offer me office space for the duration of my internship. Thanks, Salem Maritime!

I have been working now for two weeks, long enough to get a better sense of what my days will actually look like. There have been plenty of meetings, and many hours spent familiarizing myself with relevant materials from other federal offices—the Forest Service, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Federal Communications Commission, among others. With few exceptions, most offices are obligated by law to consult with tribal communities on projects that have the potential to impact tribal land, so it is no surprise that there are a number of extant lists and applications out there intended to help make the process easier. Unfortunately, none of these products exactly meet the needs of the Northeast Region; hence the work Cody and I have been assigned.

This is a technical internship, so I will be spending the vast majority of my time in front of a computer working with specific software programs that will allow me to organize and visualize data on public and tribal lands. Fortunately, my supervisor, Dr. David Goldstein (head of Tribal and Cultural Affairs for the Northeast Region), has several trips planned so I can see what consultative work actually looks like at parks. The first trip was last weekend, when we drove up to Acadia National Park.

First designated as such in 1919, Acadia is the oldest National Park this side of the Mississippi River. The park is made up of several islands and peninsulas off of the coast of Maine, home to striking coastal views. Think seawater rhythmically drumming against a plateau of ancient eroded stone; slender blue irises and wild roses bursting forth in abundance from the crags; pine, fir, and birch growing straight and tall over it all. We were not there to tour the sights, however, but rather to attend a daylong meeting between park representatives and tribal members where the topic of discussion was sweetgrass.

Some of the scenery on Schoodic Point, within Acadia National Park.

Some of the scenery on Schoodic Point, within Acadia National Park.

Sweetgrass is not a “flashy” plant. It is a fairly common grass, actually, that grows predominantly in and around marshes and wetlands in northern Europe and North America. Historically, a number of indigenous communities gathered sweetgrass, valued for its fragrance, medicinal qualities, and long leaf blades used in the creation of baskets and other household goods. As a result of increased development, environmental degradation, and fragmented landownership, contemporary gatherers have found it far more difficult to harvest the plant in a safe and sustainable way.

Hence the meeting in Acadia National Park. At the Schoodic Institute, located within Acadia near Schoodic Point, sweetgrass gatherers from the Mi’kmaq (Lnu), Maliseet (Wolastoqiyik), Passamaquoddy (Pestəmohkat), and Penobscot (Penawapskewi) nations met with researchers and park representatives to discuss harvesting sweetgrass within Acadia’s boundaries. The gatherers have been harvesting the plant within the park for a couple of years now under the auspices of local researchers, all in an effort to secure permanent harvest rights. Eventually they will need to prepare a report with their findings, draft a plan for how harvesting will be managed, and submit it to park authorities for approval, a process that could take some time.

The meeting was held largely to prepare everyone for the next steps and present the data that had been collected so far, all of which appeared to confirm what the gatherers had long been asserting—the plant grows better after being harvested. More specifically, the plant grows better after being harvested according to long-practiced indigenous methodologies. The room lit up when the results were announced; one participant declared, “science is finally catching up to us.”

Such validation has been hard-won. The National Parks, “the best idea America ever had,” did not come into being uninhabited. The “crown jewels” of the nation were carved out of indigenous homelands, crudely—and often violently—separated from the peoples who originally helped to shape these landscapes and who were in turn shaped by them. This was done to the detriment of all, including the parks themselves. Indigenous knowledge can better inform our understanding of the landscapes we now inhabit and render us better stewards of the places that define America in the popular imagine. More importantly, incorporating indigenous stories, values, and peoples is the right thing to do. Yet only recently have we begun to “catch up.”

Another view off of the coast of Schoodic Point, within Acadia National Park in Maine.

I had no direct role in the meeting at Acadia; my sole responsibility was to listen. Nevertheless, I saw a clear connection to the project I am currently working on. By making it easier for tribes and parks to “find each other,” more meetings like the one in Acadia can occur, and more historical wrongs can be righted. Horrible mistakes have been made, and the goal—at the very least—is to not make them again.

With that in mind, I am ready and anxious to continue the work. ‘Til next post!

Your Friendly Neighborhood Archaeologist

Your Friendly Neighborhood Archaeologist

by: Alicia Gonzales

It’s your friendly neighborhood archaeologist writing in from Ohio. I can’t believe it’s already the conclusion of week 3! In a nut shell my experience thus far has been nothing short of a whirlwind.

Welcome sign to Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CUVA)

CUVA is a beautiful urban park with a great diversity of cultural and natural resources. With this diversity of resources and scarcity of resources in which to address all the needs (which I feel is fairly common amongst land management agencies), inevitably I’ve seen this park attempt to meet this challenge with enthusiasm. Given the size geographically, the staff here is a relatively small and tight knit group. All the folks I have met so far, have shown me a great deal of kindness and general interest in my contributions to come. So far Bill and I (Bills my mentor here at the park, Historian, Story Teller, Planner extraordinaire, NEPA and section 106 champion and all around great guy), have hit the ground running with every new curve ball that seems to come our way. We’ve had an opportunity to survey a few properties, meet with local farmers and entrepreneurs while assessing the status of historic structures within the Historic Landscape.

Historic Lock located in CUVA

We are a team of two in the cultural resource division and although my time here is limited I hope to be as great an asset as possible. My days have varied greatly, sometimes I’m indoors crouched over a desktop computer, pouring over old maps or I’m walking up a trail in the humidity, with muddy boots.

Happy intern ensuring she has proper PPE on while working in hazardous environment

The park staff and Bill, have truly welcomed me into the fold and I am most grateful for this easy transition. As a personal goal for myself, to my new colleagues, and from the words of CUVA Superintendent, who told me to “Have some fun this summer…” I am making it my mission to do dynamic and effective work, while injecting some fun into the lives of those I come into contact here in CUVA. Cheers!

Mushrooms! Example of some natural resources

Introducing Sherlock ‘Helms’

Introducing Sherlock ‘Helms’

by: Danielle Kronmiller

My color-coded note packet containing the locations of and information on the remaining accessions inventory

Approaching the halfway point of my internship with Boston National Historical Park, the progress of the collections inventory has surpassed that mark across the three sample lists – controlled property, random sample, and accessions. All in all, by my best estimation, I have helped physically locate more than 700 items in the collections so far! The controlled property and random sample inventories are generally straightforward and are growing nearer and nearer to completion, which is a very satisfying bit of progress. The accessions portion of the inventory has proven to be the most challenging, and therefore most stimulating part of the inventory process. As it turns out, collections inventory can feel quite like detective work at times, and I am starting to feel a bit like a bonafide Sherlock ‘Helms’. Navy Yard? Ship puns?…Forgive me?

A list of over one hundred catalog numbers for an accession of battle helmets from the USS Cassin Young. Each one has to be located!

The accessions inventory, by its nature, does not always include catalog numbers for items or straightforward location information. Some accessions are only partially cataloged (sometimes not at all), very large, or stored in different locations – or even partially cataloged, very large, AND stored in different locations. This is when accession files and catalog cards, which I mentioned in my first post, become even more precious. Typically, my day as an intern consists of a continuous process of alternating between physically locating items and doing research on their location to facilitate this. Sometimes, the curator and I will check a location that is supposed to house a specific item, but the object in question is nowhere to be found. When this happens, I go back in to records and notes, further researching other possible locations; occasionally, a location will be listed incorrectly in the computer, but is accurate on the catalog card, and vice versa. All of these discrepancies are noted and corrected on the inventory lists, and it is always very satisfying to finally check off a particularly difficult accession as ‘found’! This process of continuous research and cross-reference predictably generates an impressive amount of handwritten notes, but – as my stack of notes continues to grow and my pencil continues to shorten – each successful location brings us one step closer to completing the annual inventory!

As my note pile grows, my pencil dwindles. It was nearly brand new when we started!

Looking small, but lovely, among modern skyscrapers, the Old State House was once one of the largest and most imposing buildings in Boston

Since my last post, I have made many more visits to other cultural sites around Boston. Though they all stand out, I wanted to highlight a few more that left a particular impression. First to come to mind is the Old State House, where the Declaration of Independence was first read to Bostonians in 1776 and outside of which the Boston Massacre occurred. It is now operated as a museum with well-done exhibits chronicling the early revolutionary history of this nation. However, what particularly struck me was an exhibit on the top floor that dealt with the major question that is often posed to museums and historic sites: why is this being preserved? It addressed the various things that make particular items ‘worth’ the cost and effort of conserving and interpreting them, and noted that, for many of the significant historical sites around Boston, it has often been the initiative of the community that has ensured their survival. For me, it served as an inspiring reminder of the value of the career I have chosen to pursue!

I also visited the National Park Service’s own Bunker Hill Museum and, yes, climbed the monument – all 294 stairs (worth it, but I’ll spare you the exhausted selfie!). The interpretation of the exhibits in the museum is fantastic, but I particularly enjoyed seeing items from BNHP’s collection on display, putting the work I am doing on the collections inventory into a more public context. Further on in the inventory process, I will be back at the Bunker Hill Museum, as many of the objects on display appear on the lists!

Partial view of the exhibit on the Battle of Bunker Hill on the second floor of the Bunker Hill Museum. The exhibits on the first floor focus on the monument and the history of Charlestown. The Bunker Hill Monument always makes for an impressive picture – and a great navigational point!

I want to mention one final visit before signing off for now – the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. All of my previous visits in the area had been to historical museums and sites, so I really enjoyed the fresh experience of discovering such an extensive fine arts collection. I spent an entire day making my way through the many galleries, viewing art from all over the world. The MFA has a particularly impressive collection of American art, much of it to do with Boston and its revolutionary history. This made me think about the numerous ways different museums and collections create unique experiences for visitors. Individuals can have a more personally meaningful learning experience when looking through different lenses; one person may prefer a tour of the USS Constitution, while another better appreciates a painting of the famous ship out at sea. Museums of all kinds offer such a variety of experience, and I am so grateful that I have to opportunity to explore the incredible sites and institutions of Boston.

One of the many incredible galleries at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.