Interpretation Update: Resource Inventory in Hanover
By David Ruth, Assistant Superintendent and Chief of Interpretation and Cultural Resources
Without question, education is the most important aspect of our job, second only to park preservation. In recent years the National Park Service team in Richmond has worked tirelessly to develop over five miles of new trails with strong educational, or as we call them, "interpretive" messages. We have opened two new visitor centers with educational components, bringing the total park visitor facilities to five. We continue to expand our offerings of ranger tours and curriculum-based programs for school-age children. This work has strengthened our ties to the communities and also helped engender support for the new park legislation, which is described on the first page of this newsletter.
The park team strongly believes that our efforts in education cannot stop at the park boundary. Through Virginia's Civil War Trail program, we have lent our expertise to create more than 35 interpretive markers at public and private historic sites within a 40-mile radius of the park. We have educated landowners about the Civil War resources on their property so that they can be good stewards of our national heritage.
Another cooperative effort is about to be undertaken that will result in the inventory of Civil War resources in Hanover County. Members of the county's historical commission and planning staff have been handicapped by the lack of information about Civil War engagements. Wonderful inventories of historic homes exist, but none of the Civil War battlefields. To remedy the situation, Hanover County, working in partnership with the park, completed a grant proposal to the American Battlefield Protection Program for an assessment and Geographical Information System (G.I.S.) mapping of some three dozen Hanover battlefields. The request has recently been approved for $11,600. The inventory of Civil War sites in Hanover's G.I.S. system will enable instantaneous correlation between applications for zoning changes and important historical resources so that evaluations of impact can be made.
By the end of 2000, Eric Mink, one of our talented ranger/historians will begin the task of documenting the sites. The goal is to prepare a short contextual overview of the involvement of Hanover County in the Civil War, followed by individual assessments of each battlefield site. Every profile will include an historical significance section that will discuss the pre-Civil War inhabitants of the site, and give a general description of the military engagement that occurred there. An evaluation section will identify the viewsheds both into and from the site, document the current setting, and discuss the importance of original terrain to that site. A list of surviving war-time structures and features, including field fortifications will help to emphasize the present state of preservation at each study area.
One of the most important components will be the maps. All of the information will be compiled on U.S. Geological Survey quad sheets that the county will convert to G.I.S. to provide a useful overlay for planners, commissioners and supervisors. The results will also help to inform and educate the citizens of Hanover about their incredible collection of nationally significant historic resources that any county in the United States would love to call their own.