Interpretation Update: Our Seasonal Rangers
By David Ruth, Assistant Superintendent and Chief of Interpretation
Every year the National Park Service hires thousands of seasonal employees to fulfill the expectations of millions of visitors. Like our visitors, "seasonals" as they have come to be known, hail from all over the United States and the world. Some are working as a summer break from college; some are retirees; and some hope to become a permanent NPS ranger. All have a love for the National Parks and take to heart the Park Service creed: "To preserve and protect for future generations." For the 2001 season 12 rangers were hired to assist with interpretive operations at Richmond National Battlefield Park and Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site.
Most of the seasonal rangers reported to the park on June 1. First on the agenda was a week-long training session to prepare for the programs scheduled for the summer. During the week members of the permanent staff, and even some of the returning seasonals, presented programs and led discussions about subjects relating to interpretive techniques, Civil War history, and park operations. Our training objective was to go beyond simply handing out uniforms and badges to our seasonals, but to do the best job we can preparing them to meet a public who has come to expect well informed and professional communicators whenever they visit a National Park.
We are extremely proud of the men and women who comprise our seasonal staff. While several are in their rookie season, most are returning for a second, third or even sixth season. Two seasonals, Judy Anthis and Charles Spicer, have been associated with our site for more than ten years. Our newest seasonal, Kawther Elmi, was born in Somalia and has been a U.S. citizen for two years.
Our other seasonals all bring special experiences to their daily duties. Lindsay Gray has worked at other historical sites in the Richmond area, and was part of the Park's living history program back in the 1980's. Glenn Brasher is finishing his Ph.D. in history. Wendy Migdal came from Ohio last year and liked the area so much she got a teaching job in Spotsylvania County. Shelby Davis has a degree in English and is quite the Civil War enthusiast. Mike Gorman, who has been with us for several seasons, has a goal to become an expert on all things pertaining to Civil War Richmond; he has a good start on it with his web site that catalogues photos and other materials of the Civil War. John Robison is starting his second season and is also a musician with "Southern Horizon," a band that plays Civil War-era music. John does Civil War music programs at Tredegar. Ken Brown grew up in Richmond and has a great interest in the role of black troops in the war. Jeff Seal recently received his degree in Criminal Justice and Ben Cleary is a freelance writer.
During the 2001 summer season this talented seasonal staff will have ample opportunity to share their knowledge and expertise with visitors. Each day six visitor centers are in operation and twelve interpretive programs are scheduled throughout the park. Each Friday night from June 29 through August 10, a special interpretive tour will be conducted at one of our sites, and throughout the summer other anniversary programs, bus tours, and living history encampments are scheduled. Without the seasonal rangers, the summer programs would consist of little more than simply operating the visitor centers.