Suggestions from Additional Park Units

Greetings! As evidence of some of the servicewide interest in our project, I was contacted recently by Phil Lupsiewicz of Lowell National Historical Park (LOWE) and Chuck Arning of Blackstone River Valley NHC (BLAC) — both copied in above.

In addition to sharing kudos for our project, Phil also noted a few ways the LOWE and BLAC might fit into the themes we’re working with. Here’s what he shared:

Finally, I thought you might find the story of Lowell as well as the Blackstone and even Boston NHP of interest. Lowell & Blackstone certainly deal with the pre-civil war nation, Chuck can speak more of the Blackstone Valley’s contribution also during the war. Lowell was home to Ben Butler and the 6th Mass (who were involved int he Baltimore Riots and the remains of Luther Ladd and Addision Whitney reside in a monument of honor in front of city hall). And Boston has the Navy Yard, where warships, including a number of ironclads were built.

In addition, Chuck followed up today with this insight:

Just to follow-up on Phil’s comments, the Blackstone Valley which runs from Worcester, MA in the north to Providence, RI in the south began America’s journey towards industrialization starting with Slater Mill in Pawtucket financed by Almy & Brown, the first successful water-powered cotton-spinning mill / factory in America in 1790. By the time of the Civil War, the Blackstone Valley was an industrial powerhouse that was not just textiles but machinery and tools as well. Interestingly, the Valley also housed a very radical abolitionist movement where many women learned the organizing skills that would lead to the Woman’s Rights Movement. The first National Woman’s Right’s Convention was held in Worcester, October of 1850. A few of the early planning meetings, looking for financing, for John Brown’s Raid at Harper’s Ferry were held in Worcester. 1,000 Worcester residents and another 600 from Providence used the train system to venture to Boston to protest the capture of Anthony Burns, a Freedom Seeker who had made his way out of bondage to Boston where he was working when captured by a US Marshall.

From a Civil War perspective, the radical abolitionist influence from this region had an impact on several local regiments (the 15th Mass, the 21st & the 25th), so when they met the newly self-freed enslaved in the New Bern area of North Carolina (the Burnside Expedition battles) and in Virginia in the Peninsula Campaign under McClellan, where these individual Worcester solders assisted many of these formerly enslaved African Americans to migrate to Worcester. At the same time many young female teachers came to North Carolina to start schools for those newly freed people.. There is a new book, published by the University of North Carolina Press that discusses that migration and some of the background. First Fruits of Freedom: The Migration of Former Slaves and Their Search for Equality in Worcester, MA, 1862 – 1900. It’s a good read.

I have also done some video work on this topic and related one’s including a historical music video on the famous Civil War ballad, The Vacant Chair. If I can dig up some extra copies, I’ll send out your way. However, a quicker way is to contact your local cable access station and have them download the specific episodes from our series Along the Blackstone for they are all up on PEGMedia/org, a media file transfer site. I think it is $0.99 an episode. Phil & I and the staff from both Lowell & Blackstone collaborated on one episode contrasting the industrial story of the Mill City, Lowell, with the mill villages of the Blackstone Valley. It was a lot of fun and very illuminating.

Wow! As you are learning, there is nothing as helpful to our project as park staff eager to help make connections between park units and themes. If you’re having trouble contacting a park and think LOWE or BLAC might be a good substitute, please let the class know via a comment below and we can also discuss on Friday.

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Cool Links

By popular demand, here’s a post where you can attach comments with links to class-related cool stuff you’ve found online.

Articles, sites, photos, lectures, videos, tweets, songs, podcasts, whatever — as long as you can connect it somehow to our course. Have at it!

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Additional Resources: David Larsen & Interpretation

A few weeks ago, as we first learned about the NPS approach to interpretation — complete with tangibles, intangibles, and universal concepts —  I talked about NPS master educator David Larsen and the Gun Talk program that he used to illustrate how interpretation can help visitors connect to their own understanding of a park and its resources. Subsequently, we used the text and video series from his Meaningful Interpretation and read his article Be Relevant or Become a Relic: Meeting the Public Where They Are that captured this “new” approach to interpretation in the NPS.

Although he passed away before we had a chance to chat with him via conference this quarter, many folks have begun posting segments of his past programs and talks to the web and I’ve linked to a few below.

I was lucky enough to have been in one of Dave’s first classes where he taught this new approach, and it resonated deeply with me. (Yeah, that’s me live-firing at the left, with Dave looking on behind; we didn’t spend the whole time in the classroom!) That was in ’95 or ’96, and historic site interpretation was still largely information-heavy; lots of facts and details but with little perspective or opportunity for the visitor (beyond the subject matter enthusiast) to connect on a personal level or find relevancy in what was being shared by the ranger. Dave’s work helped change that.

In this first video, be sure to watch past 7:45 when he works with the group to deconstruct his talk.

Here’s a five-part interview with Dave. Part philosophy, part introspective, part retrospective, part education tool, it provides an intimate look into the heart of the new NPS approach to interpretation.

Dave was last in Oregon this past autumn when he spoke in Bend as a panelist at the annual ANPR Ranger Rendezvous, discussing leadership in interpretation. If you’re interested in how the field of interpretation continues to move forward and professionalize, you might find this of interest:

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Contacting Parks

With your parks (almost) all selected, the next step is making the initial contacts with park personnel. The more intrepid of you may have already taken the initiative to do so, but my plan is to personally contact someone at each one of the 48 selected parks and then follow up with an introductory e-mail that reads something like this:

Greetings! [Name], it was nice to chat with you on the phone this afternoon. As I mentioned, I’m the Chief Ranger & Historian at FOVA, and I also teach history at Portland State University through an NPS partnership. This quarter, my NPS Public History Field School students are creating a podcasting plan for the NPS’ Civil War 150th Commemoration. You can view our class blog here:

As you can see from the blog, we’re combining three learning threads (NPS History/Policy, Civil War Memory/Commemoration, & Interpretation/Digital Storytelling/Podcasting) to meet our assignment of presenting the NPS’ CW 150th team with a 4-year podcasting plan (a series of 48 monthly audio podcasts over a period of four years) that ties 48 parks directly to one of the 16 interpretive themes established in the landmark NPS planning document Holding the High Ground.

[Park Name] has been selected as one of the 48 parks for this podcast series. Within the next week, [STUDENT NAME],  a student in the class (copied in above) will be in contact to help identify a compelling story or object that relates your park to the theme “causes.” For more information on this NPS theme and [STUDENT’S] approach to it, you can click here: [INSERT LINK TO STUDENT’S THEME PAGE HERE].

All of the students have done their homework, so this should not take too much staff time; we are planning and identifying stories that are suitable for future podcasts, not creating the podcasts.

We plan to have this plan completed and submitted to WASO by mid-March, and you will receive a copy, too. If you’re able to identify a particular staff member to work with us, it would be great! If not, any connection you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers, Greg

The purpose of this contact is twofold. First of all, I want to make sure to properly introduce you and your role in this NPS project. By providing introduction and context, I think we’ll have a better rate of response and involvement. Secondly, as an NPS employee I understand how busy park folks are. In my experience, I’ve had the most success connecting with colleagues in other parks by simply talking with someone prior to sending them an e-mail message — especially when it involves workload on their part.

Earlier today I began contacting parks that you’ve locked in, with a goal of at least one park contacted for each of you by class on Friday. If you have a priority park identified and you’re rarin’ to go, please add a comment below with the park name and I’ll contact folks there post-haste.

Lastly, I’m compiling a database of all of the parks and contact folks I’ve identified, and will plan on sharing it at Friday’s class.

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Establishing a target length for our podcasts

One of the more technical recommendations we’ll be making in our report is that of podcast length. How many minutes should these episodes last?

As we’ve been discussing in class, there are many examples we can consider: podcasts range anywhere from 2-3 minutes to more than 90 minutes.

In seeking to establish our suggested podcast length, we need to consider several factors.

What is the intended audience? At our session on 1/21, the class decided that we would primarily target middle grade educators and craft our podcasts to meet the corresponding national social studies standards. This tack would provide a core framework and also connect us to the myriad educators teaching the Civil War. (One of our groups is tasked with gathering these, and we’ll post them upon submission.) In addition, we reached consensus that this approach could also appeal secondarily to (or at least not exclude) families, park visitors, and others not visiting but seeking online connection. Of course, listeners will need to employ media (smartphones, MP3 players, internet-enabled devices, etc.) to access these podcast episodes. Are there other users, we need to factor in, too?

What is the purpose and context of the content? Not only are we employing the NPS themes to connect visitors to places — units of the national park system – we are also  provoking visitors to seek out more information, recognize value in/of these historic sites, and foster a sense of stewardship. Is our purpose informational, educational, interprettive, or a mix? Based on our audience, the listener will probably not be physically onsite in a particular park (right?), but being onsite would not preclude a listener — contextually — from utilizing the podcast. What are other concerns from the perspective of content purpose and context?

What is the primary means of accessing the content? How will it be available? By the very nature of a podcast, people will need to take an active step and access the content via the internet. Some may download it and others may stream it live, so file size is a concern. We want folks to be able to access the content quickly and easily. While the recording quality certainly factors into the file size, length plays a very important role, too. What role should this factor into our decision? Also, as mentioned above, there is equipment and a certain level of web savvy required to access this content.

How can we best keep our audience engaged? While our content will be provocative by design, we will need to ensure that our audience remains engaged throughout the length of each episode. We want to give them a taste, but not the whole dessert. We want to provoke them just enough that they want to connect more, or again, or in a different way. How would this factor into our proposed length?

Are there other factors that we would want to consider?

I posed this question of length to several colleagues, and received a variety of responses and links to studies. Brett Oppegaard, a colleague and adjunct professor in the Creative Media and Digital Culture Program at Washington State University-Vancouver, suggested several including this one that argues for 15 minutes or less, and this one that recommends 15-30 minutes. “And this is one that I really like, from the mobile perspective, which
has a ton of stats,” he noted.

Overall, Brett felt that “without direct research at your site, or with a similar case study, I would say start with 15-minute segments at most, and test your audience from there. … Yet I had a class in which my professor sent us a 90-minute – 2 hour podcast to supplement the regular lecture each week, and I found those quite interesting to listen to, at length, so, again, I think it depends on your situation and audience.”

Back to that audience thing, eh?

I also found this academic source which recommends that “[t]he podcast length must be related to its content and purpose. However, Cebeci and Tekdal recommend podcasts no longer than 15 minutes, because there is generally a loss of attention in listening and a decrease in comprehension after this period of time. Lee and Chan created podcasts that were structured as talkback radio style segments of 3-5 minutes. In the IMPALA project, most of the podcasts lasted ten minutes. Walch and Lafferty stated that a 10 minute podcast full of information that is quick and snappy is far more enjoyable than a 30 minute show with only 11 minutes of material. Based on a literature review, we conclude that the recommendations point to a short length: 3 to 5 minute podcasts or 10 minutes.”

In addition, our own Amy weighed in here, a portion of which I’ll quote below.

One of the top educational podcasts of 2010 was Dan Carlin’s Hard Core History, which is never less than an hour and is one man talking the entire time. Grammar Girl was third, which is about 5 to 10 minutes long, and also one person speaking. Citizen Radio is at the top of the People’s Choice podcast awards—two people talking about politics in a humorous, conversational way for over an hour.

So, do long, lecture-style podcasts work? Turns out, yes. A study of podcasts in university settings showed that students who listen to podcast in place of a lecture tested better and got better grades. To me, that indicates that a longer podcast doesn’t lose its listener halfway through. I also took a look at the CBC broadcasting study and found this:
1. most podcasters are male, under 40, well-educated.
2. podcasters prefer subscriptions—important for iTunes access
3. they prefer on-demand—so all podcasts should be available permanently after the initial broadcast.

The award-winning podcaster Buster Ratliff provides an outline for effective museum-based podcasting:
1. align the mission of the institution with the mission of each podcast
2. find good talent
3. identify the audience, including recognizing the mix of people within it
4. create an outline
5. practice the script
6. vet the podcast before broadcast

One and three are the most helpful for our purposes; numbers one and six are the most important for NPS, I’d say.

I took a look at other history podcasts here:

They vary, and it’s clear to me that NPS is doing something very different that has not been done before: telling one huge story in many parts over a long period of time. In many ways, this series is more reminiscent of a mini-series than a podcast; and it’s much bigger than a museum-based podcast, as well, since the museum is the entire country. It is both terrifying and exciting.

So, what should we set as a rough goal for the length of our podcast episodes? As I noted in class, I don’t think we need to set up something hard-and-fast (like a 22 minute sitcom on television), but we do need to recommend a target length. What are your thoughts? Please share them below and we’ll discuss in class on Friday.

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5 Resources for Civil War History on iTunes U

Have any of you explored the resources relating to the Civil War era on iTunes U? You might be surprised at the breadth, depth, and quality of the resources available — especially in relation to our work this quarter.

As you seek to connect units of the National Park Service to the NPS’ thematic framework for commemoration of the Civil War Sesquicentennial (articulated, in part, in Holding the High Ground), the lectures, talks, and other media available for free access and download via iTunes U may greatly inform your research and better help you connect visitors to compelling stories and significant places.

At iTunes U there is much content related to the Civil War, so I’ve culled five sources that you might find especially valuable to your work. (Others not enrolled in our class might also find these sources useful.)

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History has several iTunes U collections with direct relevance to almost every one of our sixteen themes. Here are a few you might find especially interesting and applicable:

Another good resource (in both audio and video podcast format) is a series of 27 lectures from historian David Blight’s course at Yale University titled Civil War & the Reconstruction Era, 1845-1877. Not only do these lectures provide a good refresher for many of the themes we’re working with, they may also connect you to additional links or source material to enhance our project.

In addition, Stanford University’s Bill Lane Center for the American West has posted lectures from four eminent historians that explore Abraham Lincoln and the American West. While part of the Lincoln Bicentennial of 2009, they still may help inform themes such as War and the Western Movement, Reconstruction, and Legacy.

The Archives of Appalachia at Eastern Tennessee State University offers in audio format, a “sampling of materials” from their extensive collection of historic recordings and oral history interviews. Today in class we touched on the value of first-hand narrative, and while these are not necessarily first-hand sources they do represent the public memory of the Civil War and the oral tradition in Appalachia.

The Auburn University Academy for Lifelong Learners has posted an eight-part lecture series on the Economics of the Civil War by Mark Thornton. While an obvious source for the Industry and Economics theme, it may also provide context for the themes of Causes, The Eve of War, Consequences, and Legacy.

Again, theses are just five sources you may find helpful. Are there others that I’ve missed or that you’d add to your top five list?

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Parks to Illustrate CW150 Themes: A Preliminary List

Great class session today, folks!

As promised, you’ll find below a compilation of the three parks that you have preliminarily selected to illustrate each of the 16 themes established by the NPS in Holding the High Ground and the Civil War Handbook. Again, our goal is to use these themes to connect to 48 different units of the national park system.

As discussed in class, I need your final list of thee suggested parks for each theme posted to the appropriate theme page (found in the blog’s right-hand column) no later than 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, February 2, 2011. In addition, there is still some resolution necessary to ensure that we’re representing parks only once:

  1. Richmond National Battlefield Park: this park was recommended by you for both Women Amidst War and Industry/Economics. To me (and based on our in-class discussion, I think) it seems to make more sense in Industry/Economics, but Doug, Makenzie, & Mary, please discuss and let me know your decision and justification. Thanks!
  2. Vicksburg National Military Park: this park was recommended by you for both Women Amidst War and The Civilian Experience. My recommendation is that we use this to help illustrate the latter from a Southern (and civilians-under-siege) perspective. Makenzie & Mary, please discuss and let me know your decision and justification. Thanks!
  3. Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield: this park was recommended by you for both Race and Ordeal of the Border States. My recommendation would be the latter, but I’m open if folks feel otherwise. Laurie, Andrew, Amy, & Dianna, please discuss and let me know your decision and justification. Thanks!
  4. Boston African American National Historic Site: this park was recommended by you for both Race and Emancipation. My recommendation would be the latter, but I’m open if folks feel otherwise. Laurie, Andrew, & Dianna, please discuss and let me know your decision and justification. Thanks!
  5. Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site: this park was recommended by you for both Reconstruction and Causes. My recommendation would be the former, but I’m open if folks feel otherwise. Melissa L. & Doug, please discuss and let me know your decision and justification. Thanks!

Please take a close look at the parks below. Of course, it is difficult to limit ourselves to just 48 parks, but are there any parks glaringly missing? Would you add or subtract to our list? If so, how?

Preliminary List of Parks (Source: worksheets posted in-class)

**Please note that the redundancies requiring your resolution have been marked with a double asterisk. Also, I’ve added the four-letter park acronym after each park name, as well as a hotlink to the park’s official home page.

Women Amidst War

The Military Experience

Industry & Economics

Legacy of the Civil War


The Civilian Experience


Ordeal of the Border States

The War & the Westward Movement

The U.S. on the Eve of the Civil War

Emancipation and the Quest for Freedom


Death and Dying


Reconciliation, Commemoration, & Preservation

The Changing War

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