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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.

Yachts and Tannins

Yachts and Tannins

by: Alexa Rose

Hi! This is Alexa again the ACE/CRDIP intern from the San Francisco Maritime Museum. For the past two weeks I have really delved into my research with the yacht “Ku’uipo”. The Baby Bird/Golden Gate class yacht “Ku’uipo” was designed to be a racing yacht based on the original Bird class design. It was originally made we think in 1937 by George Wayland, which I found the original receipt for the vessels construction. It has been hours of pouring through yachting magazines of the time, architectural folders and yachting yearbooks as seen below with me in the park’s library.

I have also been searching through all the local newspapers looking for any mention of the yacht. I was able to find many articles featuring the yacht’s racing history and all of her numerous wins (see below for some of the articles I found)! It is absolutely incredible to look through the pages of history and find an artifact I work on everyday.

I plan to continue researching this craft by going through the original architects folders more and then finally writing the history up in a final artifact report for the vessel. But, within conservation not all the work is researching in libraries. On a daily basis I can go from doing work with tanic acid to prevent rust (pictured below), putting borates in the vessel to prevent wood rot or simply trying to find the best way to photograph the vessel (also pictured below)

My day to day life is varied and full of adventure. One of my favorite parts of the week has been talking to the lead conservator about tannic acid. I thought it was really interesting that the natural tannins in trees could help prevent the natural rust. It foams and becomes black when it is ready (see below for a demonstration). This is what we use to treat all of the bolts in the Ku’uipo before it’s conservation is complete to preserve the historic fabric and provide future care for the metal.

I can not express how much joy it gives me to care for this piece of history. Every day I remember I am helping future generations be able to see and understand these artifacts. As so much of our history fades every day it is reassuring to know that I can help this artifact survive.

Where Do Artifacts Go?

Where Do Artifacts Go?

by: Mariah Walzer

These past two weeks have been a jumble of different duties and experiences, so trying to find a theme for this week’s blog post felt a little daunting. But then I realized that much of the work centered on what happens to artifacts and other objects after they are discovered.

For example, I spent a day doing my best to identify the artifacts we found during our surveys the last few weeks. As I mentioned in my previous post, identifying the types of projectile points can be very useful, because the types can suggest or confirm dates for the site. I managed to identify fairly confidently two of the projectile points (a Madison point and a Bare Island point) but the quartzite point could be any of four different types. We also found some pieces of bone that I think are turtle shell fragments, though I’m not 100% sure.

Bone fragments found during survey. The jagged edges (known as sutures, where bones will eventually fuse together) and the shallow lines across the top of the bones suggest that these may be pieces of a turtle shell.

Microscopic close-up of the suture edge of one of the bone pieces.

In archaeology, you learn to be okay with unknowns and maybes. We can’t go back in time and ask the peoples we study, so often we are just throwing out our best guesses based on the things we do know, observed behaviors of other people (called ethnography), and our own common sense. It’s kind of like trying to draw the missing piece in a puzzle – you know roughly what it should be based on the pieces around it, but you can never know exactly what it looked like. Because of this, critical thinking and a healthy amount of skepticism are essential for an archaeologist!

My notes from trying to identify this quartzite point. Its common shape and broken tip and left shoulder contribute to the difficulty in identifying this point.

This past week, I spent time at the Museum Resource Center for the Capital Region of the NPS. I learned how to clean artifacts to prepare them for study and storage. Each artifact material type – faunal, lithic, ceramic, fabric, metal, and more – has to be cleaned and cared for in the best way to preserve it. For tough materials like lithics and glass, they can be washed with water and a toothbrush. But bone and metal should not be exposed to water, so they must be dry-brushed.

Projectile points are cleaned with water and gentle toothbrush scrubbing.

After artifacts are cleaned, they are put in bags that are labelled with locational information. The bags also have holes poked in them so that changes in humidity will not hurt the artifacts.

Then I learned how to catalogue artifacts, so that we know what have, where the artifacts came from, and where we can find them in the storage facility. This is a tedious process, but it is very useful for future researchers. There are millions of artifacts stored in the Museum Research Center so knowing where to find the horseshoes from Monocacy, for example, is essential.

In addition to these artifact-centered experiences, I also helped clean a monument, attended an orientation for NPS Cultural Resources interns in Washington DC, and dug my first shovel test pits (small holes dug to determine the soil layers of an area and to check for the presence of significant archaeological sites). Every day really is a new experience here!

The Pennsylvania Monument post-cleaning. The bronze plaque near the bottom still needs to be re-waxed; the greenish areas on the horses’ backs are where the wax has come off due to sun exposure.

A shovel test pit (STP).

All the dirt from an STP is screened for artifacts. When we finish digging and documenting a test pit, the screened dirt goes back into the hole.

It’s been a great start to my summer!

It’s been a great start to my summer!

By: Jessica Analoro

Photo taken on Derby Wharf

It’s been a great start to my summer so far in Salem, Massachusetts! As a brief introduction, my name is Jessica Analoro, and I am currently an education/interpretation and public history intern at Salem Maritime National Historic Site. As I just finished the third week of this internship, there has definitely been a lot to reflect on and I have accomplished so much so far. This internship centers mainly on research, but I have also been observing school groups for education programs and workshops, meeting all of the staff at different levels at the park and have been able to visit a couple of really awesome places. What my role is for the duration of this internship is to do research on a compilation of crew lists assembled for an American merchant vessel called Friendship, which sailed from 1797-1812 on 15 international voyages.

My supervisor at the park gave me this book (amongst many others) to make me more familiar with the subject matter (and as you can see by my multi-colored sticky-notes, I have been utilizing it as my main secondary reference material, which has been especially helpful before beginning archival research).

The park currently maintains the replica of the 1797 vessel (which is actually off site at the moment as it is being repaired). The ship represents an important part of our national history, as Salem was one of the leading international trading ports in the United States by the end of the 1800s. The park currently has an education program in place that allows for students to reflect and learn about international trade and to interact with what would have been sailor’s objects at the time. However, we are hoping to put some real names and information about some of the people who were on the ship—who they were, where they came from, who their family was—in order for students to better connect to the history of the Friendship.

I have been fortunate enough to be close to several local and regional resources that will help me for commit to exciting research. I have started looking through crew lists, ship and fishing licenses, vital records and genealogical resources in order to try and pinpoint some of the names that we have. I have already visited the National Archives and Records Administration in Waltham, Massachusetts to help me get started. They were wonderful in assisting me and guiding me through some of the material. The photo to the left is a crew list from 1806 for the Friendship.

Another great local resource has been the Philips Library, a research library which is part of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem Massachusetts. After recently re-opening in a new location, the library invited park staff to visit and look at part of the collection related to the park’s history. I took advantage of this wonderful opportunity to go through the finding aids to determine if any of the family papers they maintain could be used for my research (photo below). They have been gracious enough to allow me to return to continue my research. I am hoping it will help in the process of detangling the early genealogical research—where 99% of the time, five generations of males of course have the same first and last name.

Between archival resource and program observation, I have had the awesome opportunity to work in an office building which was built in 1780.

The next several weeks will consist of more research and hopefully many more great experiences and interactions with the park staff and the outstanding historical resources the North Shore has to offer!

The Klondike Gold Rush in Washington, D.C.

The Klondike Gold Rush

By: Alysha Page

Introduction: A Medievalist turned Afro-Americanist

My first day out on assignment to view how the public interacts with National Parks. FDR Monument, Washington, D.C

First things first, I guess I should introduce myself. My name is Alysha Page, I am a current PhD student at Howard University, Washington D.C. I received both my B.A. and M.A. from Ball State University in Medieval history before obtaining my M.A. in Art History and Museum Studies from Tufts University (Yes, I am very aware I have been in school too long). I changed my area of study from the periphery of Medieval English history to the periphery of American history because the voices of so many people of color are still lost in the archives or are being silenced by the lack archival material and interest. It is my civic duty as a Black historian to give these men and women a space to speak through the records and material culture they left behind.

I am the incoming Research Historian working with the Klondike Gold Rush National Park Service with their Buffalo Soldiers 24 th Infantry, Company L project. Over the last few months I have done quite a bit of work on the Buffalo Soldiers and am excited to continue my work doing ground breaking research into one of the many groups of heroes in American history. For the next few months I will be researching in Washington, D.C. before I travel to Skagway, Alaska to work onsite with the wonderful members of NPS.

Untold Stories of American Heroes

I would also like to introduce the Buffalo Soldiers, the first all-Black Army regiment in U.S. history. The Buffalo soldiers were among the first park rangers patrolling untamed terrain and parts of the West. Following the  Civil War and the Emancipation proclamation, in 1866 Congress authorized the formation of six all Black regiments (from The United States Colored Troops) which would later be consolidated down to just four regiments (9th, 10th, 24th, & 25th). From the 1860s to the early 1890s four black regiments were stationed in the West to protect white settlers whilst also protecting themselves from the harsh realities of being Black in a nation that had not accepted or welcomed their existence. The Buffalo Soldiers were sent to harsher climates and terrains from extreme heat to extreme cold. They were paradoxically considered resilient and strong as well as lazy, undisciplined, and cowardly by their white counterparts. Even with low expectations and low funding and resources they laid the foundations for many National Parks and surpassed all expectations.

Buffalo Soldiers in Dyea prepare halibut for a fresh meal for their army unit.
Photo courtesy of the https://www.nps.gov/klgo/learn/historyculture/buffalo-soldiers.htm

History has nearly forgotten the Buffalo Soldiers and the wonderful leaders like Col. Charles Young and their service in Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, and most important for my project Skagway and Dyea Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush. The NPS is doing wonderful work to reveal and retell these stories. I will be looking at the lives and service of Company L, 24th Infantry on “the Last Frontier” in Southeast Alaska. During my time working with the Klondike Gold Rush NPS I hope to be able to help bring to life the stories and everyday lives of hundreds of soldiers and families that once called Skagway, Alaska home starting in 1899.

To find out more on the Buffalo Soldiers in Skagway, please visit https://www.nps.gov/klgo/learn/historyculture/buffalo-soldiers.htm

My American Conservation Experience Swag and the Smoked Salmon from Skagway, Alaska (yumm)

My first two weeks of my position at the Department of the Interior was very short but sweet. I was introduced to all my wonderful coworkers and future friends. Unfortunately, for my first blog post I don’t have much to share. The days and hours were spent navigating the technological hurdles of becoming a part of the team as well as the varied ways to communicate with the three institutions I must be in contact with for my position (NPS, CRDIP, ACE). The lesson learned is never remain quite when concerned or confused about the goals of your project or your role. Seek clarity and always be transparent. Your team is there to help you succeed. I also learned ends and outs of the building as well as navigating working and research in Washington D.C. while my team are thousands of miles away in Alaska. I am pleased to have such a wonderful team and I can’t wait to see how the project develops.

The lovely view of Washington, D.C. from the top of the DOI building where I’ll be working for the next few months.

One last thing before I go, I did want to note that this week (20 June-27 June) I am blessed to be able to be in Preston, UK to present at a Women’s conference. I say this to let any incoming intern know that even though we are starting new positions never be afraid to ask your team and administration to pursue other career paths and dreams. They are amazingly helpful and supportive. GO FOR IT!

Anchors Away!

Anchors Away!

Alexa Rose

Ahoy!

I am Alexa recent graduate of a B.A in Anthropology and Classical Civilizations from Arizona State University. This summer I have the privilege of interning at the San Francisco Maritime Museum.

It has been a really fun first two weeks! I got to captain two historic boats out on the San Francisco Bay! One thing that I noticed is how excited people on the shore and on other boats get when they see these beautiful old boats.

Also, the views of the city while on the water are absolutely incredible.

But, even though I get to go on these incredible sails the day to day life down on Hyde Street Pier is a bit different. Most of the boats we work on live in the collection or are being repaired at the small boats shop. It could be anything from repainting boats, repairing historic fabric or sanding the seams and old paint. It is a really different type of conservation then I am used to. Small artifacts are so easy to access what the problems to conserve are, but on such a large artifact such as a boat the problems are not as easily seen and require ample planning in order to make the boat useable again.

The only problem I have had so far is the cold! Coming from sunny Arizona I have been wearing almost four layers to stay warm, but when sailing it sometimes still is not enough. Mark Twain was right when he said “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

I think I will get used to the cold soon, at least that’s what everyone says! Honestly, it is all worth it when knowing that we are saving historic artifacts or as I like to say “saving the world conserving one rotting boat at a time”. Some highlights from the past few weeks have been watching the sea lions who live on the dock next to the small boats. They laze around everyday and sigh every time I come to clean the boats then swiftly take off into the water. They are so lazy I have nicknamed one of them “anchor”, but to his credit sometimes he does do a bit of yoga to stay fit!

One of the most inspiring parts of my internship was that I got to march with the Park Rangers from all around the Bay Area in the Pride Parade. As a person who identifies as part of the LGBT+ community the march made me feel welcomed and loved within the ranger community.

Well that is about all! Anchors away for me at the Maritime Museum and I will update all of you readers soon!

-Alexa Rose (“Captain” and Conservation Intern of the Small Boat Shop)

P.S. I think the Maritime Museum looks like a giant smiley face.

Acadia Trails: It’s a Lifestyle, NOT a Gig!

Acadia Trails: It’s a Lifestyle, NOT a Gig!


After spending the week at Acadia National Park last week, I will never look at another hiking trail the same way again.

Pathmakers

The third day of our trip was all about trails. The morning kicked off with an introduction to the history and creation of Acadia’s extensive and highly crafted system of hiking trails, led by Margie Coffin Brown, who worked at the Olmsted Center for many years before starting her current position as the Integrated Resources Manager at Minute Man NHP. While with OCLP, Margie authored a Cultural Landscape Report on the hiking trails of Acadia, called Pathmakers. I had a chance to read through some of the report over the course of our week in Acadia, and, man, it is one heck of a document! Seriously, if you ever go hiking in Acadia, I encourage you to pick up a copy (or read it here). It details the history and characteristics of every single trail in the park, so you can learn the age and design ethos behind any trail you visit.

What came next was by far my favorite part of our trip to Acadia: getting to learn about the maintenance and care of the park’s trails from Acadia’s own Trails Foreman, Gary Stellpflug! We started out with a visit to the park’s trails workshop, a fascinating place full of character and history. The walls are lined with old trail signs from the park, which we all thoroughly enjoyed gawking at.

Afterward, we hit the trails! With Gary as our guide, we hiked up the Jordan Pond Trail to see some trail maintenance work in action. Several members of the trails crew were stationed at various sections along the trail and were working to improve it by installing new stone checks, creating “Jordan Pond style header walls,” and building new causeways. The new or improved features will help prevent the trail from washing out or eroding during large storms.

Seeing how these features are constructed gave me an immense appreciation for the hard work and design that goes into them. We learned how the trails team uses hi-lines that are rigged up to the trees to carry granite boulders, many of which weigh several hundred pounds, down the mountain to the desired location. The boulders have to be drilled or hammered to the right size and shape and then wrestled into their carefully chosen place in the trail. We also saw several exposed design features that hikers don’t normally get to see when the finished trail is covered over with dirt, such as the crushed stones and retaining walls that help the trails drain water and hold their shape.

It’s intensely physical work, but it also requires a high level of skill and craftsmanship. The beautiful design of the park’s trails and attention to detail was astounding. At one point, we even watched one member of the trails team transplant moss from the surrounding forest to create a subtle border that delineates the trail from the forest, while blending seamlessly into the natural surroundings.

A member of the Acadia trails team transplants moss to create a border along the trail.

Above all,  what really came through during our time with Gary was his passion and heartfelt dedication to his work. While Gary has worked at Acadia for over 30 years now, and getting to spend every day on the park’s hiking trails is a definite perk, he was careful to convey that he doesn’t work for the National Park Service because it’s fun. “It’s not a ‘gig,’” he told us repeatedly, while holding back tears. “It’s a lifestyle.” Gary does what he does, because he cares deeply and wholeheartedly about Acadia National Park and the mission of the National Park Service. This is a common thread I have seen in everyone I have met so far who works for the National Park Service and one of the most inspiring aspects of being an intern here. I hope to someday find myself in a career that I can dedicate myself to as fully and passionately.

Thanks for showing us the way, Gary!

Until next time,

Clare

Boston, its not just a Band

Boston, its not just a Band

by: Danielle Kronmiller

When I arrived in Boston, my basic familiarity with the city was sourced from various history books and the classic rock band that takes its name. Now, nearing the end of my second week here as the Curator’s Assistant with Boston National Historical Park, I can happily report that my foremost familiarity has come from first-hand experience, and I am loving every bit of it!

View of Downtown Boston from one of the piers in
Charlestown Navy Yard, where I am living and working

Before sharing more about my experiences here so far, I think it is important that we officially meet. My name is Danielle Kronmiller, and I graduated with a Master’s in Museum and Gallery Studies from the University of St Andrews in Scotland this past December. Prior to my journey across the Atlantic, I received my Bachelor’s degree in History from Truman State University in my home state of Missouri. I have worked in a special collections library, on exhibitions, and in various behind-the-scenes and front of house capacities within museums. My primary responsibility as the ACE CRDIP Curator’s Assistant intern is assisting with the annual inventory of the Park’s museum collections of over 400,000 objects, and I couldn’t be more excited to take it on!

Dry Dock 1 at Charlestown Navy Yard

My initial introduction to the project was a tour of collections storage, housed in an appropriately historic building. The Boston National Historical Park manages and partners with properties all over Boston, including Downtown, South Boston, and – the home base of my project – the Charlestown Navy Yard. In operation from 1800 to 1974, the Charlestown Navy Yard boasts one of the nation’s first dry docks for ship repair and is the present home of the USS Constitution – the Navy’s oldest commissioned ship – and the USS Cassin Young, a World War II destroyer. Many of the Naval buildings are preserved, managed, and used by BNHP. The Park’s collections encompass much of the Navy Yard’s history, including photographs, archival materials, shipyard materials and more, as well as collections that relate to the other sites connected to the Park. It has been enlightening learning about the collections while living and working in the Charlestown Navy Yard; though they are now properly stored and preserved as museum objects rather than used as working materials, they live within their original context, giving me a stronger appreciation of the site as a once functioning shipyard for the U.S. Navy. (Check out www.nps.gov/bost for more, or I will definitely keep writing…)

The USS Constitution docked at Charlestown Navy Yard


It is important to use white cotton gloves when handling many museum objects to prevent the transfer of harmful oils and residue from your hands

Getting (gloved) hands on with the management of such an extensive and varied collection has been a wonderful learning experience so far, and we are only in the beginning stages. The purpose of the annual inventory is to ensure accountability and proper collections management here at the Park. It involves locating an extensive list of objects and records within the collections generated by the Park’s collections database, checking their condition, and updating their documentation. In some cases, the inventory lists do not already include the location information for an item, and it was up to the curator and I to determine the location. The first few days of my internship were spent cross-referencing the computer database with manual catalog information including catalog cards, accession books and accession files to develop the list of locations to check when going into the collection stores.

What is an accession in the context of museum collections? The addition of a new item to an existing collection, by loan, gift, purchase or field collection. Museum collections, and the processes for managing them, were established long before we had computers, and it is vital to maintain up to date paper files in addition to our modern databases. They provide an invaluable back up of information, and they are often extremely helpful in determining additional knowledge about collections. Following the initial creation of the location list, I went back through accession files for particular accessions and objects to find out more about them, like their catalog numbers, and what they look like – very helpful when looking for one insignia pin in a drawer of many!

After generating the inventory lists, we were able to move into the stores and begin looking for our objects, a process that, as you can imagine within a collection so large, takes some time! Referencing back to the inventory lists, the curator and I commenced with archival records, often locating individual documents within boxes of many papers. This process speaks to the immense importance of documentation within museums. Proper documentation makes access possible, whether locating an object to put on exhibition in one of the Park’s museums or visitor centers or finding a specific pamphlet to answer a researcher’s question. The things that go on behind the scenes ensure you are able to have an interesting learning experience when visiting the Park or other museums!

Using manual catalog cards and accession files to add to the inventory lists

Once we locate an object, we confirm that the information on file is correct, make updates if necessary, check its condition, and continue on in this process that will endure through the summer. Though it may sound repetitive, it is fascinating to see and handle such a variety of historical artifacts. From old photographs, to architectural drawings, to massive anchor chains, I have seen and learned much more in this first week and a half than I could have imagined – and that’s just working on the inventory!

Part of the experience of being an ACE CRDIP intern is visiting other National Park Service sites and cultural repositories in the area. One of my favorite experiences thus far has been my visit to the Boston African American National Historic Site. I visited the Museum of African American History and toured their current exhibit on Frederick Douglass who is, as I discovered, the most photographed American of the 19th century. Even more interesting was discovering the intentionality Douglass, famed orator and abolitionist, maintained in the way he was photographed. In addition to the exhibit, I received a tour of the African Meeting House, a central location of the historic African American community and abolitionists in Boston.

The Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Regiment Memorial, the starting point for the Black Heritage Trail tour

Following my visit to the museum, I took an hour and a half walking tour, guided by an NPS ranger, of the Black Heritage Trail. The trail leaves from the Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Regiment Memorial at the edge of Boston Common and traverses through the Beacon Hill neighborhood, the home of the free black community of Boston in the 19th century. This has been the most striking site visit I have made so far. The tour covered topics of abolition, equal schooling, the Underground Railroad, and more, introducing me to fascinating historical figures that, otherwise, I would never have known. The Black Heritage Trail tour highlights an incredibly important aspect of Boston’s, and the nation’s, history that is so often glanced over in textbooks and shadowed by the spotlight of more widely known historic sites in the city. Emphasizing diversity in history is fundamental – there are so many stories to tell in order to weave together the whole complicated tapestry. If ever in Boston, the Black Heritage Trail tour should be on your list.

My very thematic blogging set up

Though I could go on and on about my experiences up to now, I suppose I need to save a bit for future posts and keep this at a reasonable length! Nearing the end of two weeks in this new city, I am simultaneously feeling like a seasoned Bostonian and marveling at all I have yet to discover and experience. I am eager to continue the inventory process and delve further into the BNHP’s collections, and I cannot wait to explore more historic and cultural sites here in Boston. On top of it all, I look forward recording and sharing my experiences here, and hope that I am able to truly convey the excitement and history that surrounds me here!

Phoenix Field School Week 7: Aquatic Invasive Species Management

Project Location: Arivaca, Arizona

Project Partner: University of Arizona and US Fish and Wildlife Service

Hitch Accomplishments:  Removal of 6,988 invasive bullfrog tadpoles from critical habitat for the listed and endangered species.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018: For week seven of the 16-week Phoenix Field School program, the crew headed to southern Arizona to assist the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and research biologists from the University of Arizona (UA) with conducting vital aquatic invasive species management with the capture and removal of the invasive American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianu) to help native and endangered species, such as the endangered Chiricahua leopard frog, and the Northern mexican gartersnake flourish (species whose numbers have been drastically impacted and deteriorated due to predation from the invasive American bullfrog). On Tuesday morning, the crew met at ACYR at 7:00 a.m. and after conducting the weekly truck and trailer maintenance check, began the long drive down to Arivaca, AZ, located less than 20 miles from the US-Mexican border. After meeting with the Chris and Jace, field biologists from the UA (this week’s project sponsors), the crew dropped off the trailer at the campground located in Coronado National Forest before heading to the worksite. At the worksite – a cattle tank located 10 minutes southeast of the crew campsite- the crew conducted stretch and safety circle, led by Douglas, this week’s co-hitch leader. The crew then learned how to properly operate the seine net, as well as how to identify and handle the invasive and non native tadpoles and mosquito fish.  Chris and Jace demonstrated how to position and operate the net as well as how to move swiftly while handling the wildlife. After conducting a seine run, the crew collected the captured specimens. The mosquito fish were temporarily returned to the pond in order to reduce the number of mosquitoes present during the warmer months. Mosquito fish are also an introduced species in Arizona and are an unfortunate competitor to the endangered Gila topminnow. Both fish species appear the same and serve similar roles in the environment, however mosquito fish are cannibalistic and will ingest their young. Gila topminnow young will mistake adult mosquito fish as parents or a part of their community and end up being ingested which results in a major depletion to the native fish species population. Federal and state land agencies work together with ranchers to procure topminnow for tanks, though the process can be challenging and expensive due to its endangered status. The bullfrog tadpoles were removed from the net by the crew members and placed in five gallon buckets with water before further removal. The crew broke for lunch around 1pm before getting back to work around 1:30pm. The crew continued on working together with repeated hauls of the seine net across the tank until  5:00 p.m., removing 4007 with 14 seine net passes. The crew returned to the campsite, set up tents and the cooking area and debriefed the day. The crew enjoyed a dinner of grilled cheese and spinach orzo soup and awed at the glittery shimmer of the night sky.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018:  The Field School crew began their Wednesday workday at 8:30 am with a stretch and safety circle led by Douglas  prior to driving down to the day’s worksite (two tanks that had not yet been visited). Two passes with the seine net produced no finds (neither mosquito fish nor tadpoles) in the first tank. One pass produced no finds in the second tank. The crew decided to let the net dry out in the sun prior to returning to the larger tank from the previous day that yielded a large number of invasive tadpoles. While waiting for the net to dry, the crew took discussed the FWS Safe Harbor Agreement, as well as other initiatives that would encourage private landowners to modify or remediate parts of their property to accommodate endangered and native animals species. Once the net was dried, the crew returned to the tank from the previous day meeting  up with two BLM ACE interns, Kam and Sarah who came to join the project efforts. The crew, along with Kam and Sarah, jumped right back into project mode and began completing 11 seine passes collecting and removing 1124 invasive tadpoles before calling it a (successful) day and returning to camp for a dinner of coconut curry.

Thursday, March 8, 2018:  On Thursday morning, the crew began the workday once again at 8:30am with stretch and safety and returned to same stock tank to put in a final full day of work. The crew continued pulling tadpoles from the net and returning mosquito fish to the pond. The occasional juvenile bullfrog was scooped up and taken aside and disposed of by those who were comfortable with the task. The crew was met by BLM ACE interns and Field School Alumni, Kam and Sam around 11:00 am who assisted in the hauling of the seine net and the removal of the captured tadpoles. The crew broke for lunch around noon for thirty minutes before putting in three more hours of work, collecting and removing 1857 invasive tadpoles with 15 seine net passes. Kam and Sam assisted until they needed to leave at 2:00pm to return to the BLM. The crew continued until 3:30pm when Chris, UA Field Biologist and project sponsor declared a successful day and that the crew had already saved him and his field partner a solid month or so of labor. After saying thank yous and goodbyes, the crew headed back to camp as Chris headed back to Tucson to input the project data.  The crew settled down for the night, debriefing the project and the work week. The crew discussed different perspectives regarding invasive species management as well as the overall nature of plant and wildlife management. The crew ate a quick dinner of creamy avocado pasta, cleaned up camp, drove to a vantage point and enjoyed a beautiful sunset before returning to camp for some hot chocolate and laughs. The crew went to bed with some hot nalgenes for warmth for the chilly desert night to be ready for an early rise the next day.

Friday, March  9, 2018: On Friday morning, the Field School crew was up and at ‘em at 5:30am to break down camp, eat breakfast, pack lunch and road snacks and participate in Douglas’s education lesson on locating missing persons in the backcountry. After taking up the truck and trailer, the crew began the drive back to Phoenix, arriving at the BLM around lunch time. The crew separated to take on the various tasks of their first complete de-rig and finished up entirely by 2:30 pm. Afterwards, BLM Youth Coordinator, Lawrence and Associate District Manager, Patrick met with the students and debriefed the project and week before heading back to ACYR to complete timesheets to conclude the work week.

 

Phoenix Field School Week 6: Campground and Trails Stewardship

Grand Canyon South Rim Trail and Campground Stewardship and Maintenance

Project Location: Grand Canyon National Park

Project Partner:  National Park Service (NPS)

Hitch Accomplishments:  Collected and disposed of 61.4 lbs. of microtrash; Cleaned 174 campsites/firepits.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018:

This week, the Phoenix Field School headed northward to Grand Canyon National Park, one of the seven wonders of the natural world, to assist the National Park Service (NPS) with completing vital annual site stewardship efforts in the Park’s campground, visitor areas, and trails on the South Rim. Through completion of these projects, the Field School members directly aided the NPS with critical habitat management in high visitor use areas by removing micro-trash and litter that may endanger the health of the Park’s wildlife, such as the endangered California Condor which often mistake micro-trash as food which they cannot digest. The crew also completed routine maintenance of campground sites  by removing excess ash from fire pits at the popular Mather Ground helping keep the sites clean and enhancing the park experience for visitors. The Field School crew arrived at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon by 8:00 am on Tuesday morning after spending the night in Flagstaff Monday night to ensure an early arrival to the park for the start of the week’s project. After checking into the Park’s volunteer cabins, the crew’s homestead for the week, the students performed a stretch and safety circle, team building activity, and headed to the South Rim while waiting to meet with the project sponsor for the day’s work project. For Tuesday’s project, the crew worked around the South Rim Visitor Center and the famous Mather Point, collecting and removing 28.5 lbs of micro trash, while getting to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Grand Canyon.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018:

On Wednesday morning, the Field School crew headed to the Park’s Headquarters at 8:30 am for an hour long presentation regarding the impacts of micro-trash in the park as well as the impact of lead toxicity and bioaccumulation in wildlife due to micro-trash consumption, particularly in California condors who often end of dying of starvation or impaction as they cannot digest micro trash. Afterwards, the crew traveled to Desert View and hiked around with the NPS project sponsors learning more about the Park’s diverse resources before breaking for an early lunch. After lunch, the crew jumped into project mode and picked up micro-trash for several hours around the Desert View visitor center, parking lot and Watchtower enjoying the views of the canyon despite the cold temperature. On the way back to Park Headquarters for the close of the day, the crew stopped at Grandview Point, site of the first place on the rim to be developed for tourists, including a hotel, back in 1895, though now it is home to the trailhead of the Grandview Trail. After scouring the area for microtrash, properly disposed of the day’s collected 32.9 lbs. of micro trash.

Thursday, March 1, 2018:  

On Thursday morning, the Field School crew headed to the Park Headquarters for an hour long educational presentation on how the park is making efforts to reduce their carbon footprint (Park received over 6 million visitors in 2017!) by improving their trash disposal practices by transitioning to a single stream waste disposal system that would be sorted and processed at the park. After the presentation, the crew met with NPS Park Maintenance Staff, Dwayne and Mary, and followed them to the Mather Campground. After conducting the day’s safety circle,  the students paired up to remove limestone and excess ash from campsites and fire pits. Park visitors often throw limestone into the fire pits under the assumption that the heat may intensify or last longer or will also bury their fires with rocks thinking the flames will be extinguished. However, limestone does not hold much heat and rather will crack, crumble, and create excess matter that needs to be removed. Throughout the day’s project, the crew had the opportunity to observe several members of one of the Park’s most famous inhabitants, Rocky Mountain Elk (nonnative to Grand Canyon, introduced in the early 20th Century for game). The crew kept a safe distance from the present elk as they removed limestone and excess ash  from 174 campsite fire pits of the total of 184 sites within three of the campground’s main loops (Aspen, Fir, and Juniper). Ten sites were skipped as they were either occupied by campers or elk. By completing maintenance ad stewardship of three of the seven loops (a total of 326 campsites), the Field School crew helped save the Park’s maintenance staff nearly a week and a half of labor, helping ensure that the campground sites were maintained and safe for upcoming visitor use.

Friday, March  2, 2018:

On Friday morning, the Field School crew started the day by “breaking down camp,” conducting a thorough cleaning of the cabins generously provided by the NPS before heading over to the park’s Emergency Response Center at 9:30am. Here the crew participated in an hour long educational presentation learning about the requirements necessary to conduct search and response and how the NPS responds to medical emergencies in the park throughout the year. Also, the students were able to see and learn more about the rescue equipment used by the Park.  The students, with their WFA training, were able to be fully engaged in the tour and lessons. Additionally, the students learned more about how to begin a career with the NPS, highlighting volunteering and internships as opportunities to gain practical work experience and networking with the agency. After bidding goodbye to the Grand Canyon NP and the week’s project sponsor’s, the crew stopped by the South Rim Visitor Center to participate in an educational lesson led by Field School member, Jeff regarding animal tracking before beginning the long drive back to Phoenix for the close of the week.