Monday, December 17, 2012

Hello!  My name is Kate, and I am the most recent of the NPS intern s.  I have been here since the beginning of November, and I love it so far.
Working as an intern for the National Park Service is an education like no other.  I loved my time at university, and I learned a great deal under some of the top professors, but this internship provides a solid, practical counterpoint to university classes and multitudes of textbooks. For example, a class on North American archaeology covered prehistoric and historic ceramics briefly, providing a theoretical basis for identifying and studying ceramics, while this internship gives me the chance to sit down and go through hundreds of ceramic sherds as I identify them and record their characteristics.  Being able to see 40 or 50 different pieces of pearlware or whiteware allows me to gain an understanding of the variation that occurs within this ceramic type and become better at identifying and differentiating ceramics.  It allows me to feel the difference between lead and tin glazes and see up close how the glazes chip off in different ways.  Both are features that are difficult to understand through textbooks and Powerpoint slides.
In addition to learning the useful archaeological skills, I also have the opportunity to learn skills that would enhance my career as an archaeologist.  So far, I have had the chance to learn a bit about working with local contractors on restoration projects, handling a boat and maritime navigation, vegetation control and care of archaeological ruins, and the importance of volunteers, no matter how untrained they are.  Volunteers for the Park Service and the Friends of the Park provide the much needed manpower to help keep the plantation ruins and hiking trails clear of vegetation and provide us with enthusiastic tour guides at many of the larger plantation sites.
I have also realized that while research is an important aspect of archaeology, interaction with the public is just as important, if not more.   It feels almost as if the importance of archaeology and history is lessened if what is being discovered isn’t being taught to others.  As an intern, I work in the museum in Cinnamon Bay, where I give short talks to tourists and locals who come in to explore the museums, answer questions about the island’s history and explain the importance of the work the Park’s archaeologists undertake.  We also work with school groups of all ages, giving lectures about the island’s history, teaching skills used in excavation and analysis and giving students a starting point for becoming future archaeologists.  One of the best parts of my job is when someone comes in to the museum with questions or with no knowledge of the island’s history and leaves with a new interest or the excitement of discovery and a desire to see more of the island’s heritage.
My work here is so very different from the CRM jobs I’ve held.  Ken and Kourtney involve their interns in almost every aspect of their work.  We can be involved in report writing, analysis, and excavation and cataloguing, as well as talking to museum-goers and school groups.  Working for a CRM firm meant that I had a very defined and limited role.  I was there to walk surveys and dig the shovel tests and test pits, nothing more.  The work was necessary, but it was frustrating to work in such a limited capability and not be involved beyond excavation.  Working as an intern is such a satisfying and rewarding job.
                                         My Tent located at Cinnamon Bay.

Local High School Class at the Lab.