The time has finally arrived—when I started interning at the beginning of last semester, Heather discussed the state parks exhibit that we would be doing. Now, at long last, I have compiled my research into two panels! I went into the archives on Tuesday, July 12th, with the mindset that I was going to complete panels for both of my parks, Chimney Rock State Park and New River State Park. I am happy to say that I was successful. This task was complete with the aid of PowerPoint. While I am familiar with PowerPoint, I had never created a 2’x3’ panel using the program, so this required a small amount of learning on my part and, of course, a printer capable of printing such a large document. Not being a… technologically inclined person, I had thought this task was going to be much more difficult than it actually was. Really the only major change involved in transforming a slide into a panel is adjusting the size of the slide, which can easily be done under the “Design” tab on the PowerPoint toolbar. After the slide was set to the appropriate size (24”x36”), all that was left to do was to arrange the information and pictures on the panel in an attractive fashion. This required no additional learning on my part as this step is done no differently than if the slide was a normal size. The entire process took me a little less than 5 hours, leaving me a little time to begin proofing another volunteer’s description of Grandfather Mountain State Park.
As I have said before, this particular project is very exciting for me as I have had minimal experience thus far in helping create an exhibit. Although Heather is currently out of town, I worked closely with Sarah to ensure my panels were exactly what she was looking for since she is putting the exhibit together in Heather’s absence. Although we had touched on this before, Sarah reiterated how important it is to have a panel that is reader friendly and attractive, something that will hold the attention of a regular person. She also stressed the importance of making all of the panels (there are 10 states parks in the western region of North Carolina that will be covered) different and unique so as to keep the exhibit interesting. Most of all, this is one of the few projects that I have gotten to participate in from beginning to end, from concept to exhibit. I had the opportunity to go out into the field as a real archivist would to collect data. I was given the freedom to decide the layout and contents of the panel. From beginning to end, I was invited to participate in every step of the process that a professional archivist would. This project was undoubtedly the most involving since the beginning of my time at the WRA, and I hope to be able to participate in many more like it! I have included photos of my completed panels for your viewing pleasure. To see the 8 other panels, visit the WRA over the next few months!
Archiving isn’t just about sitting in a quiet office and sorting collections. After all, those collections have to come from somewhere. I spent the majority of Thursday June 30th, out in the field with Heather and two other volunteers. We left the archives at 9am and began our long journey to visit a couple of state parks, beginning with Stone Mountain, North Carolina. After an extensive drive and thorough discussion of politics, North Carolina’s approach to Sex Education for school-aged children (our youngest companion had a very different experience than most of the company present), the NC Cultural Resources department’s merger with the NC Natural Resources department, gluten intolerance, and Princess Diana, we arrived at Stone Mountain’s visitor’s center. We picked up some nice items for our exhibit as well as some information about the park and the Centennial celebration and proceeded to drive through the park to get some nice pictures. The two volunteers (Will and Sierra) and I took a short hike to Stone Mountain itself in order to photograph it. We also picked up a very special item—a “state park passport” for each of us. This passport lists all of the North Carolina state parks as well as a short description of each park and has a place for park officials to stamp the passport after visiting these parks. These passports are a unique feature of the Centennial Celebration (they are not available any other year) and do not simply serve as a special keepsake; patrons are encouraged to get as many stamps as possible and fill out a form of verification for the state. If patrons visit at least 10 parks and fill out the form they are entitled to receive a “prize pack.” Afterward we were on our way to get some lunch before visiting New River State Park—one of the two parks that I have personally chosen to research. Being short on time, we did not linger at New River. We again bought some ephemera for the exhibit as well as for our own personal use and continued on our way. Since the driving and visitor’s centers took longer than expected, we did not have time to visit any additional parks. Instead, we paid a short visit to Ashe County Cheese Factory and Store for some end-of-the-day goodies. After a thoroughly exhausting day in the car, we headed back home.
This experience was particularly meaningful to me as it is one of only a handful of times that I have gotten to experience what archivists do outside of the archives. With so much time spent looking at collections, one wonders how these collections and/or exhibits came to be at the archives and this time I finally had the chance to accompany Heather on an adventure to find new information for the WRA. Our main objectives for the trip was to gather some literature and ephemera from various state parks so that we may include these new items in our exhibit of state parks that will be put up soon, but Heather was also interested in checking out the exhibits at the visitor’s centers. The new merger of the two above mentioned departments means that the WRA could potentially procure some new collections and may also help these parks liven up their exhibits. As Heather said, “It’s about connections, relating our collections to others’ (organizations).” So while we were certainly on a mission to procure more park information, this was also a way for Heather to investigate this new area of her department, to see how she may help them or what items they may possibly have to include in current or future exhibits at the archives. We certainly accomplished our goals! We ended the day around 7pm with plenty of pictures, literature, ephemera, and park-specific items to include in the exhibit. As always, Heather found a way to make this trip educational, productive, fun, and unique.