I am writing this blog in a hotel at my second conference in two weeks. I attended the “Spotlight on National Park Resources in the National Capital Region” conference last Thursday, March 13, 2014, at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. I hopped on a plane for California the next day and just now have a moment to reflect. Like a hidden roadside treasure, this conference is easy to miss unless you know about it. It is just a one-day meeting—but it is jammed pack with interesting presentations and posters relevant to resource managers, superintendents, interpreters, administrators, and academics. This meeting is held once every two years and this was my first year attending. Not only was I a first time attendee, but I was a first time presenter. Each presenter is given a strict fifteen-minute time slot so about ten minutes to talk and five minutes for questions. The organizers ask you to submit a PowerPoint in advance. You give your presentation in a cavernous auditorium to about two hundred people. I gave a short overview of my residency project.
I was not feeling very confident the day of the conference because I was still recovering from a pretty terrible sinus infection. I was extremely congested and my ears were clogged so badly that I had a difficult time hearing. I seriously considered canceling, but I did not want to miss the opportunity to share my residency project with this particular audience. I am really glad I went because my presentation went well and I received very encouraging feedback. I had great audience questions (even though I had a hard time hearing them), and several people came to talk to me after, including cultural resource interns, a seasoned contractor, a university archaeologist, and a historian from the NPS History Program. More importantly, non-cultural resource people also commented favorably indicating how well this project engages people with diverse interests.
I believe there were about fifteen presentations and they alternated between natural and cultural resources. Few were able to cross both nature and culture except maybe the vista management project on the George Washington Memorial Parkway and a forthcoming Historic Resource Study on the Potomac Gorge. The regional historian, my residency mentor, gave a great talk on the mystery of John Brown’s bell at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park that captured everyone’s attention.
Aside from the presentations, Spotlight was a great opportunity for me to connect with former colleagues at C&O Canal, catch up with my contacts at Catoctin and in the regional office, and meet new people that do not necessarily work in the region. I understand that this is mostly an NPS employee function, but I would like to see more contractors and academics involved.
But here I am in sunny Monterey, California…anxiously awaiting the start of the National Council on Public History conference. Stay tuned for a wrap up of that meeting!