It has now been five weeks since I moved to Grand Teton National Park (GRTE) to begin my internship with the park’s museum. Oh boy, I am happy here. Coming off of ten inspirational months at EIU, I am so lucky to have found an internship where my museum and archives skills are valued.
My supervisor is Curator Bridgette Guild. She has been in this position for almost a year and a half, working at Yellowstone National Park with their museum for a decade before. Guild is the only full-time, year-round, employee for the museum, archives, and library collections. Additionally, she has recently taken on the duty as Tribal Liaison for the park. To say Guild has a lot on her plate is an understatement.
It also makes her my new driving force for inspiration. I want to do the best work I can, to help lessen her massive workload in anyway. Luckily, this is not the first time I have worked with a National Park Service collection (from 2011-2013, I worked at Yosemite National Park with their Archives and Museum). As a result, the collection database, Interior Collections Management System (ICMS), is very familiar to me. This has immensely cut my learning curve and I have been able to jump into many projects throughout the last five weeks. This includes conducting research requests, helping plan and install a Plein Air art exhibit, assisting with annual inventory as well as 100% inventory, and updating records in ICMS.
The special project I will be working on this summer and fall is to create a historic furnishings plan for two locations in the park, the Brinkerhoff Lodge and the Lupine Meadows area. These two locations are unique case studies because they are both areas that have federal employees and seasonal staff living in them for half of the year. How do you write a plan for collection objects that are used on a daily basis? I have tried to wrap my head around this concept for the past three months. My professional background is neither in living history nor decorative arts (though I am now so grateful for those late nights studying furniture design, thanks Dr. Reid). Luckily, there is guidance and many resources for me to utilize.
To wrap up this post, I wanted to give a little more information on GRTE’s current cultural resource status. There are 44 historic districts and 542 historic structures in this park (these maps only show a portion of those areas). That is a large amount of resources to maintain. Consequently, the park cannot support all of the cultural sites. I live at the AMK Ranch, which is a historic district in the park but managed by the University of Wyoming as a research station. The history for this district is quite unique. For more information check out the book A Tale of Dough Gods, Bear Grease, Cantaloupe, and Sucker Oil written by Kenneth L. Diem, Lenore L. Diem, and William C. Lawrence.
The Acting Director at the AMK, Harold Bergman, recognizes the significance of the original décor in buildings such as the Berol Lodge (with its hand painted curtains that are quickly deteriorating) and the Directors Cabin (many of the light fixtures have pencil tips carved at the end, representing the Berol’s, a former owner of the ranch-family business). Currently, the park has no funding to help maintain and store potential museum objects from this site. Could there be funding from the University of Wyoming or private donors? Or will this be pushed aside to fund more pressing issues such as replacing the water system and maintaining the structures?
Whatever happens, I really hope within the next few years an oral history will be conducted with the previous Director of the AMK, Hank Harlow, and his family. They were here for twenty years helping to sustain and preserve the cultural history of this site. Harlow and his wife, Mary Ann, began the lecture series that happens weekly at the AMK. This year the program was renamed in their honor to be called the Harlow Seminar Series at the AMK Ranch. Mary Ann became the librarian for the UW books that reside in the Berol Lodge. Their sons, Zack and Tyler, participated in research and maintenance projects throughout the two decades. Their legacy is the next chapter in the AMK’s history.
I hope you enjoy the beauty and history around you this summer.
View from the AMK Ranch dock