First Week at Great Smokeys

by: Ravi Venkataraman

I dived into my work in my first week at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Diving into my work included hours spent in front of screens and in classrooms orienting myself to the perils of the workplace–perils involving cars, computers, and bears–and to the history of the park.

This is the part where I could bore you with the intricacies of the history of the park. But I would prefer to keep this part short and sweet. The park was established in 1934, and formally inaugurated in 1940. Since then, the park has had tall tasks of managing tourist traffic (the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the country), wildlife restoration (by 1936, two-thirds of the park area had been affected by logging activity), and settlements within the park boundaries.  

My project as an intern involves the latter. My project goal is to create a story map of the history of the Elkmont area in the park. The Elkmont area is a campground and a recognized historic place. The area has been continuously settled for most of the 20th century, first by homesteaders, then loggers, and finally well-to-do vacationers who owned cabins in the area. For the past few weeks, I have been scrutinizing records, interview transcripts, and photos in order to create a cohesive history of the area for the park and the public.

At the moment, I am putting together that story map. So, my work is not exactly photogenic, unless you are interested in seeing a picture of a desk stacked high with manila folders full of records. Hopefully, in the coming weeks, I can share with you my final project.

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