Final ACE Blog and Reflection
Written By: Berit Doolittle
Hey y’all! Today is the last day as the Museum Services Assistant at the Appomattox Court House National Historic Site. I wasn’t required to wear my ACE uniform at work today, so I’m sporting my awesome new shirt that my colleague David designed. The shirt features an archival box with the words that read “Preserve, Inspire, and Protect.” It’s a cool shirt!
In the second half of my service, I was assigned this massive cataloguing project and this project is so gargantuan that I’m the third person assigned to work on this project; in my last week, I was able to complete this project! This collection came from a man who did a lot of [illegal] metal detecting around the national park grounds as well as many other surrounding regions within and around Appomattox County. A vast majority of the objects I was working with were bullets and cartridge cases, which admittedly made me nervous because the bullets are made of lead and many of the cartridge cases still contained black powder. Because there were so many identical bullets, we didn’t end up keeping all of them so I got to learn all about the NPS’ process for deaccessioning objects, which is very lengthy and frankly a little too boring even for those who enjoy nerdy museum work. For the objects that weren’t bullets such as sword, scabbard, and rifle fragments, I cut out pieces of foam for these objects to perfectly fit them inside because the foam protects the objects when in storage. This was my favorite part because it brought out my creative side which I found to be a lot of fun.
The cataloging process can take up a lot of time due to all of the information I have to include. We use a software called Rediscovery to catalogue all artifacts where we include information about object such, a detailed description, condition report, as well as using extensive nomenclature to identify the objects. In addition to this massive project, I’ve also been conducting weekly housekeeping in all the historic buildings as well as monthly environmental monitoring and integrated pest management which means replacing nasty bug traps.
Because I live on the grounds of the park, the commute to work doesn’t take all that long and during the evenings, I walk along the trails of the park. I’ve seen some extraordinarily beautiful sunset skylines here at APCO. We get lots of random thunderstorms in the late afternoons and evenings which has resulted in spectacular sunsets and rainbows. Sometimes on the trails I’d see some interesting wildlife. When the storms come through, thousands of frogs appear and make so much noise. There’s this one type of frog I see that’s smaller than my fingertips! Last week while walking on the trail, I even saw a black bear! I was really scared when I saw it, but it was also scared of me and immediately ran back into the woods.
Now that I’m wrapping up my time here at the Appomattox Court House, I can now say that I’ve had a really great time working here! I have been successful in expanding on my skills as well as acquiring some new skills along the way. One of my biggest takeaways from this position is that everything in the federal government moves at a snail’s pace and from this and my patience heavily improved as a result. I’ve also realized that the history and the collections at each of the parks are going to be very niche and strictly pertain to that park. This has been another important takeaway because I have never had much of an interest in US history, so I’d likely get bored very quickly if I choose to work for the NPS long term in the future. As a result, this position has greatly helped me reevaluate my career aspirations. Despite not finding the work particularly interesting, this doesn’t mean I didn’t like working here. I have had an incredible time and I will certainly miss it here, especially my supervisor, Ann. She’s one of the coolest and sweetest people I’ve ever met and she made our work environment feel welcoming to everyone. I will miss her greatly. I also would like to give a shout out to my ACE coordinator, Samira, who was also awesome to work with. She was always there to answer my inane questions and furthered fueled my enthusiasm for the nerdy museum work I greatly enjoy.