It's almost history! We are winding down our two-month volunteering stint here at Stones River National Battlefield. Looking back, we didn't know exactly what we'd encounter when we said yes to assisting with the "photo digitizing project." We agreed to give 24 hours per week each and we knew that we would have electrical, water and sewer hookups. Beyond that, there was some mystery. But mystery isn't all bad. And, we could always steal away in the night if we were totally disappointed, right?
No worry! It's been a very good time. We've enjoyed having a peek inside a national battlefield. It's interesting to learn not only about the historical events behind this location, but a little of what happens day-to-day, what the people operating the park are about.
I've mentioned in past posts some of the people we've enjoyed getting to know. There are two more guys who added a special flavor to our experience. John George and Brian Dempsey are the museum curators we worked with daily. They are seasonal employees, both working towards their PhDs in public history. Under their supervision we enjoyed scanning thousands of photos, slides and negatives.
John and Jerry humored me by posing for this photo as we took a break in the visitor center lobby. John made sure we had variety when the work may have been a little tedious. And we all had some laughs, too.
This historical photo collection introduced us to many facets of the park. The subjects run the gamut: living history, visitors, historical monuments, storm damage, ceremonies and construction, to mention a few. I've posted just two of these photos that I chose randomly.The overall goal is to make the photo collection available to the public online at the national parks service site. Equally as important is to protect the originals. By saving them online and on backup DVDs, the originals can be stored away in a freezer for posterity.
As a break in our photo-digitizing project, we were recently invited to assist with the Stones River museum inventory. "Sure!" we said. Here was a chance to get another look inside the park's artifacts. Along side Brian, we learned how museum pieces are archived by documenting the exact location and condition of everything from a Civil War era thimble to cannons positioned on the battlefield. There are drawers and cabinets filled with items recovered from the scene of the battle, the town of Murfreesboro, the state of Tennessee and the Civil War era in general.
Here Brian finds one of the inventory items from the 1860s in the museum drawers. He took us, with a smile and a helping hand, on an interesting trip inside the museum archiving process.
Preserving these items continues without end in sight. Just the other day one of the rangers found on eBay a Civil War era brooch engraved with the battlefield's name, the date of the battle and the name of a widow of one of the fallen soldiers. Archeological digs turn up battlefield artifacts all the time as well. Who knows what will be donated or discovered next. The museum work was one of those mysteries we didn't realize we would have the opportunity to experience before we arrived.
It's been a unique look at a piece of America. The place and the people are both compelling. Should you pass this way on your travels, you might want to stop and let these folks share the history with you.