Artifact of the Week: Great Auk Bones

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Great Auk (Pinguinis impennis) bones from Cape Lookout National Seashore.


Variation in Great Auk eggs and plumage by F.W. Frohawk, R. Dieck, H. Klönne, and Brune Geisler 1903.

The Great Auk is an extinct, flightless bird that stood about 2 1/2 feet tall. The prehistoric and historic inhabitants of the Outer Banks hunted these penguin-like creatures for their meat, oil, feathers and down, and bones, and harvested their eggs.

These particular faunal specimens were identified by SEAC zooarcheologists while analyzing materials excavated from prehistoric and historic midden deposits at Cape Lookout National Seashore (CALO).

Relatives of this species, including little auk or dovekie (Alle alle), razorbill (Alca torda), and guillemot (Uria sp.), were also found in the CALO middens.

An avian aside…

The mainland dwellers “down east” sometimes referred to the inhabitants of Harker’s Island and Shackleford Banks as “Loon Eaters”!

Loon (Gavia immer) specimens have been recovered from prehistoric contexts at CALO. Though edible, the loon is not regarded as the most palatable fowl. An article by the pisciculturalist Fred Mather published in Forest and Stream on July 31, 1898, had this to say about his experience On the Eating of Loons:


The Great  Northern Loon

“…if a man wants real hard chewing, with a flavor of raw fish, let him tackle an adult loon. That bird could not be picked; it was skinned, and in its stomach there was a catfish recently swallowed, one partly digested, and the bones of another. The triggers of the pectoral fins of the catfish were set, but the stomach of the loon did not seem to be troubled by that fact.”



If you’re thinking that you might try loon instead of turkey this Thanksgiving, find a couple of choice historic recipes…

Here and Here

Learn more about the Great Auk’s extinction at 

the John James Audubon Center 


History Beyond His Earliest Recollection: Abraham Lincoln Boyhood Home

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SEAC archeologist Timothy Roberts monitoring developments at Abraham Lincoln Boyhood Home. Photo Credit: James Ludwig, NPS.

The Boyhood Home Unit at Knob Creek is a relatively recent addition to Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical ParkAfter several years of planning and negotiations, the park is well into a major infrastructural rehabilitation at the Boyhood Home site.Through the process of complying with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, archaeological investigations have revealed that the park holds more memories than just those of the sixteenth President of the United States. 


Thomas and Nancy Lincoln, and their children Sarah and Abraham spent six years at the Knob Creek Farm.

Located along U.S. Route 31E in LaRue County, Kentucky just south of Athertonville, the 30-acre tract includes the slopes and summits of steep cedar knobs, a fertile alluvial valley or hollow, and a section of Knob Creek, a waterway perhaps better known for its association with the Kentucky bourbon of the same name.

Abraham Lincoln’s father, Thomas Lincoln, leased this portion of the 228-acre Knob Creek Farm between 1811 and 1816, and lived here in a modest log cabin with his wife Nancy, daughter Sarah, and young Abe. The former president is often quoted as saying, “My earliest recollection is of the Knob Creek place.”


The location of the original Lincoln cabin at Knob Creek has not been pinpointed.

While the modest log cabin at the site is an authentic depiction of an early nineteenth century frontier home, it was not the actual cabin in which the Lincolns lived. It is, however, constructed from logs that made up part of the home of the Lincolns’ neighbors, the Gollaher family, a son of which, Austin Gollaher, was young Abraham’s closest childhood friend.


Abraham Lincoln’s close childhood friend Austin Gollaher in his later years.


The park’s interpretive cabin was made from part of the Gollaher family home.

Gollaher figures prominently in a tale told by interpreters of the time young Abe fell into Knob Creek skipping across stones while the creek was swollen. It was the Gollaher boy who pulled him to safety.

Visit one of

Austin Gollaher’s Find-A-Grave memorial pages!

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Contractors constructing a leach field in a portion of the Lincoln’s corn and pumpkin field. Photo Credit: Tim Roberts. NPS.

Among the other “earliest recollections”, interpreters highlight the tale of a time when after planting the family’s fields with corn and pumpkin seed, Abe and Sarah watched as their hard work was washed away by the flooding of Knob Creek.

But there is more to the Knob Creek Unit’s story than these quaint anecdotes and Honest Abe’s childhood reminiscence.

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For Native Americans in prehistory, gravel bars in Knob Creek were a source of stone for making tools. Photo credit: Tim Roberts, NPS.

The gravels and cobbles that make up much of the bed of Knob Creek were an important raw material resource for prehistoric Native Americans. Archeological surveys of the hollow by SEAC archeologists in 2004 and 2006 identified thousands of stone artifacts including unmodified and retouched flakes, tested cobbles and cores, and a few formal tools, to boot. Limited shovel testing on the top of the knob south of the valley recovered tertiary flakes, interpreted as those associated with the final stages of stone tool production.

point fragment, 2008Wade projectile point, 2008

While monitoring backhoe trenching for the new septic system SEAC archeologists identified evidence of intact prehistoric cultural features buried under a meter of silt that seem to have narrowly avoided floods and shifts in the creek channel.

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Charcoal from this prehistoric fireplace dates to about A.D. 750. Photo credit: Tim Roberts, NPS.

ABLI, SEAC Acc 2705 (293)

Charcoal from this feature dates to around 860 B.C. Photo credit: Tim Roberts, NPS.

Charcoal samples from the two different features were submitted for radiocarbon dating with Accelerator Mass Spectrometer at the University of Georgia in Athens and produced uncalibrated dates around A.D. 750 and 860 B.C., respectively.

Unfortunately, excavations elsewhere have found that much of the hollow’s prehistoric deposits have been disturbed or destroyed by floods and a century or more of plowing. Archeologists are currently analyzing the results of their somewhat limited findings that include circular features of heat-altered stone and the single post-hole feature identified to date. None of the cultural material recovered during SEAC’s surveys could be directly associated with the period that the Lincolns occupied the site.


SEAC Archeologists Timothy Roberts and Jessica Fry map circular features of heat-altered stone found when the parking lot was demolished. Photo credit: Eric Bezemek, NPS.


The faint stain of a post hole. Photo credit: Tim Roberts, NPS.

The one-room cabin and its compliment are an excellent interpretive tool for discussing the Lincolns’ frontier lifestyle but the tiny building stands in the shadow of the visual centerpiece of the site, the two-story Lincoln Tavern that is to become the park’s Visitor’s Center.


The Lincoln Tavern was built in 1933 by Hattie and Chester Howard shortly after they constructed the cabin; the same year Prohibition was repealed. The site was intended as both a memorial and a business venture, capitalizing on the increased tourism in the area made possible by the growing abundance of automobiles and the paving of Highway 31E, the Old Cumberland Trail; gas pumps once stood out front to service tourists’ cars. In a way, Lincoln tourism was a family business – Hattie’s brother, James R. Howell owned and operated the Nancy Lincoln Inn, a restaurant and gift shop located at the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park.


Cabins of the Nancy Lincoln Inn at the park’s Birthplace unit around 1940. Photo credit: NPS.

The Lincoln Tavern’s second story was home to the site manager and the downstairs was opened as a dance hall for part of the year and served refreshments including liquor until the sale of intoxicating spirits was prohibited by LaRue County 1942. The building was redeveloped as a museum and gift shop by Hattie and Chester’s youngest son, Fred in the early 1950s. Fred bought the tavern and 200 acres in 1964 and his wife, Mary Brooks Howard took over the management after he died in 1980. Lincoln Boyhood Home, Inc., made up of a group of Howard family members bought the site at auction in 1986. The tavern and cabin were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988 as important to the history of LaRue County tourism and a significant monument to Abraham Lincoln. Ten years later, in 1998, the site was donated to the National Park Service.

To learn more about the Lincoln’s in Kentucky and Lincoln Tavern,

have a look at the Historic Structure Report

A phase in the rehabilitation of the Knob Creek unit includes an ethnographic study that will hopefully shed light on several finds and themes well-worthy of public interpretation.


The remains of rifle found in the 1930s foundation of the old comfort station. Photo credit: NPS.

One of the first interesting discoveries at the site was made during the demolition of the old comfort station behind the tavern. Local legend held that around the time the tavern was built, a murder was committed as part of a family feud. The crime was never solved because no murder weapon could be found. Folks had always heard that they weapon was hidden among the stones of the comfort station’s foundation. Park staff and contractors, alike were still surprised to find the metal hardware of a .22 bolt action rifle nestled in the mortar of the building’s foundation when it was demolished in January!


The unpaved Nolin-Bardstown Road also known as Old Cumberland Trail is now the paved Highway 31E.

Another local legend mentions a water well that was once
situated in front of the tavern
near the road. It is said to have been used by, among others,enslaved African Americans brought down the Old Cumberland Trail to be sold in markets. While monitoring the removal of the flag pole from what has become the new parking lot, SEAC archeologists identified what may have been part of a pump well.


Parts of a possible pump well? Photo credit: Tim Roberts, NPS.

Though currently the main interpretive focus of the Abraham Lincoln Boyhood Home unit is a few short years of the 16th President’s childhood in the early 19th century, the park boundaries encompass cultural resources from more than a thousand years before to more than a century after the Great Emancipator nearly lost his life in Knob Creek. Such is the story of so many parks: they are specially protected time capsules of the human experience in America to be preserved for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.

Abraham Lincoln is one the most beloved figures in American history and the internet abounds with facts (and fictions) about his cut-short life.

Learn some interesting tidbits about his life on other  WordPress blogs…but don’t believe everything you read on the internet!




Byrd Hammock Talk Scheduled

As part of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service‘s First Sunday series, SEAC Archeologist Jeffrey Shanks will be presenting a talk this Sunday entitled:

 Byrd Hammock- A Prehistoric Village and Mound Complex in Wakulla County.

The event will be held at 2:00 pm on November 1 in the Barred Owl Room at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.

Brush up on your knowledge and view some glossy photos of

the Bird Hammock Field School here!


Archaeologists for Autism


SEAC’s Thadra Stanton before getting her hands dirty at the Second Annual Archaeologists for Autism event in Titusville, Florida.

Last Saturday, SEAC Archeologists spent the day at the Second Annual Archaeologists for Autism event in Titusville, Florida! The event was designed to teach children with autism about archaeology in a fun, low stress environment. SEAC hosted two tables at the event where children learned about shell middens and about how Native Americans made pottery.


At the pottery table, kids were able to learn by doing – they used their hands and replica tools to make and decorate their own clay pot.


At the shell midden table kids searched for artifacts inside a shell midden exhibit and learned about zooarchaeology. 

The children had a lot of fun and asked some really great questions about archaeology and science. Thank you to Archaeologists for Autism for hosting such a fantastic event!

For more pictures visit:

International Archaeology Day

SEAC co-hosted the 2015 San Marcos de Apalachee State Park International Archaeology Day. This year’s theme was – Forts, Flags, and artiFacts!


SEAC’s Jessica Fry making posters for the 2015 International Archaeology Day


SEAC archeologist Jeff Shanks delivering an amusing archeological quip

Blacks in Grey: Confederates on the Blue Ridge Parkway


Using a mirror to side-light a headstone can help make the inscription more legible.

SEAC archeologists recently completed their first mobilization mapping cemeteries along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. These cemeteries range from single graves seemingly forgotten in the woods just off of the Parkway to regularly arranged and named, well-maintained multi-family graveyards with well-made headstones and regularly refreshed artificial flowers. Others are overgrown plots filled with poison ivy, greenbriar, and poplar and sassafras saplings, with clusters of field stones whose pattern is only manifest when the pin flags are set.

The Reynolds Cemetery, also known as the Claytor Cemetery, is one of the latter, but was one of the largest cemeteries we’ve mapped along the Blue Ridge so far. In recent years, the Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway Adopt-A-Cemetery program has brought some much needed care to several cemeteries along the Parkway. We recorded more than 65 graves in the Reynolds Cemetery, some dating as late as the 1980s. There were clearly more depressions than grave markers; no doubt some temporary plaques have been lost, and headstones and footstones displaced. More graves might have gone unrecorded if not for the clean up efforts of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s partners.


Reynolds Cemetery, aka Claytor Cemetery

Reynolds is particularly unique among the burial spaces we’ve investigated as part of this project because it is an African African cemetery. It is located opposite the Pine Spur overlook, part of what was intended to become a recreation area designated for African Americans. Development of Pine Spur began prior to the desegregation of the National Park Service, blueprints were produced and a ball park, swing sets, and some driveways were built, but save for the overlook, the Pine Spur Recreation Area was never completed.

Click here to

explore a georeferenced 1934 map of Pine Spur !

Can you find the cemetery?


1940 blueprint for the Pine Spur Recreation Area.

An appraisal report made during land acquisitions for the proposed recreation area states that, “In the center of this tract there is a negro graveyard, which has been used by Negros in this vicinity for a number of years. The graveyard contains about one-half acre.” The report describes the cemetery as, “an undesirable feature of this tract.”


Humphrey Claytor’s headstone.

Did the presence of the cemetery play a role in preventing the development of the recreation area? Did the community who buried their dead there actively seek to prevent development? What role did the racist policies of the Jim Crow era play? How did America’s entry into World War II impact development plans? Interesting questions, but the cemetery’s intrigue hardly stops there.

Humphrey Claytor was reportedly the earliest interment in the Reynolds Cemetery. Claytor was an African American Confederate soldier and his grave is marked with a military headstone. He was born in October 1842, in Franklin County, Virginia. Between 1863 and 1865, he served as a private in the Confederate Army. In the year following the war, he married Mary Jane Ferris and their first son, Giles, was born. He was a farmer, married three times, twice widowed, and had five sons and seven daughters between 1866 and 1886. He died on May 28, 1926, in Floyd County, Virginia, at the age of 83.


1936 military headstone application for Humphrey Claytor shipped by his daughter.

It is not a secret that African Americans fought for the Confederacy – it’s history. The recent debate over the sale and display of Confederate flags on government property and the highly publicized speeches of the recently deceased Anthony Hervey, perhaps the most vocal African American supporter of the Confederate flag as a symbol of Southern pride and not racism, has brought discussion about black confederates more into the limelight.

Check out an interesting blog on

the Recollections of a Confederate Servant !


(Right to left) Sergeant A.M. Chandler of the 44th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, Co. F., and Silas Chandler, family slave.

Throughout the Civil War enslaved African Americans were conscripted by the Confederacy, leased from slave owners, and brought to the war as servants by white Confederate officers. There were also free African American men, some of whom held others as slaves, who voluntarily enlisted. At Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s request, the use of 20,000 free blacks and slaves in noncombatant roles, such as cooks, laborers, nurses, and teamsters was authorized by the Confederate Congress in February 1864. In November of that year, Davis asked the Confederate Congress to purchase 40,000 slaves for noncombatant duty. It became legal for African Americans to fight in the Confederate army on March 13,1865, long after the United States had begun recruiting free and formerly enslaved African Americans.

Frank Baker, James Townsend and Sheppard Mallory presented before General Benjamin Butler.

Frank Baker, James Townsend and Sheppard Mallory were slaves of a Confederate officer and had been pressed into service constructing gun emplacements at Sewell’s Point at today’s Norfolk Naval Station. Under cover of the darkness on the night of May 23, 1861, the three rowed across Hampton Roads in a stolen boat and presented themselves to the guards at Fort Monroe, one of our newest national monuments. When Confederate Army Major John Cary requested that the men be returned pursuant to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, the commanding officer, General Benjamin Butler refused, stating that the Confederate States of America was a foreign power with which the United States was at war and that the men in question were property that had been and would be used by the enemy against the United States if were they returned. The three men had been were confiscated by the United States Army as Contraband of War.


African American soldiers of Company E, 4th USCT Infantry.

During the Civil War, thousands of enslaved African Americans abandoned the places where they had been forced to work and sought refuge with the United States Army. The army called them Contraband and the places they lived, Contraband Camps. From among these, thousands of African Americans enlisted in the United States Colored Troops and fought to preserve the Union as much as their own freedom from enslavement.

Interested in United States Colored Troops? Click hear to watch a short video on the USCT in Natchez, Mississippi !

What were Claytor’s motivations for fighting for the Confederate cause?  Did he join under duress? Was he a slave owner who felt strongly about preserving the institution of slavery? Perhaps, despite the speeches delivered at the Virginia Secession Convention and more in tune with the careful language of Virginia’s Declaration of Secession, he believed he was fighting for the more innocuous oft cited value of “state’s rights”. Perhaps he was promised his freedom or at least his family’s compensation if he enlisted.


Temporary plaque marking the grave of Octavia Jane Claytor, daughter of Humphrey Claytor.

Some may find it interesting that the African American community would bury so many of their own around a Black Confederate soldier – a character that seems anathema to many of us in the drama of the Civil WarWhat inspired the black community to lay beside him in death?

According to the 1930s appraisal report mentioned above, “The present owners [had] endeavored to stop burials in this plot but have failed.” Was it too difficult for African Americans to find an accessible alternative burial plot in the era of segregation? The majority of the graves in the Reynolds Cemetery are marked only with field stones which, while reflecting little information about the person interred besides possibly being a child or adult, suggest that the deceased or their survivors could not afford a professionally carved headstone. Perhaps any alternative was too expensive for most people to purchase, maintain, or even visit.

Claytor lived a long life following his discharge after the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Court House. After the war, he lived as a farmer in Locust Grove, Floyd County, not five miles west of the the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Pine Spur Overlook.  He picked up his mail and applied for his veterans pension at the Floyd County Courthouse in Floyd, Virginia.

Confederate veteran pensions? Virginia began granting pensions to white Confederate veterans in 1888 but not until the 1920s was this extended to black Confederate veterans. Interestingly, Claytor applied in 1921. The Federal government began granting pensions to Confederate veterans in the 1930s.


First page of Humphrey Claytors 1921 Disabled Confederate Soldier Pension Application.

African American applications for Confederate veteran pensions were required to include affidavits from two white ex-Confederate soldiers or, if none could be found, two local white men of good reputation. A man named Walker Claytor signed an Affidavit of Comrades as part of Humphrey’s 1921 pension application, making an oath that he joined as an enlisted soldier and not as a servant.

Walker Claytor had served as a sergeant in Company G, 37th Battalion Calvary Regiment of Virginia. He was a white man and the son of Harvey Claytor, of a well-to-do farmer and former slave owner. Additional research may suss out the nature of the relationship between Walker and Humphrey but in the 1921 affidavit, Walker swore that he had known Humphrey for 75 years!

The SEAC mapping crew stayed in the town of Floyd during the trip. The locals to whom I made mention of Humphrey Claytor had not heard of him or his grave in particular, but they did say that Claytor is well-known surname in that part of the Commonwealth. Folks were quick to recommend exploring Claytor Lake State Park, a lovely place to visit and the site of the Haven B. Howe House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. But hardly steeped in the drama of the story of a black Confederate soldier buried in a nearly forgotten cemetery on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

This year, high emotions and heated debates have surrounded the meaning 2009 National Park Service Employee & Alumni Ass. Calendarof the Confederate flag and whether or not to raze monuments to Confederate soldiers. On the eve of the 150th anniversary of the Reconstruction Era perhaps it is appropriate that we revisit these issues and re-examine our understanding of our shared history. How will we choose to understand the African American men that willingly or unwillingly fought for the Confederacy? Why did they choose to fight? We’re they pawns in an ideological battle over equal rights? In enlisting, were they the masters of their own destinies? How were they received by their communities after the war? Should their descendants be ashamed of their ancestors’ loyalties or be proud of their bravery and self-sacrifice? The resources to explore answers these questions are out there, don’t be afraid to look!

Share something about African American Civil War soldiers!

Know something about the Claytors’ story or the African American community around Pine Spur Overlook?

Please, share your thoughts

Leave a Reply below

or on Twitter @NPSSEAC and Facebook !


Check out SEAC’s interactive online GIS map of historic cemeteries at Mammoth Cave National Park ! (It may take a few seconds to load..)

Saved by Grace, Mapped by Archeologists: historic cemeteries at Blue Ridge Parkway


RASP archeologists Guy Prentice and Robert Hellmann mapping with a total station.


A stone chimney once part of a house in a community in Rock Castle Gorge.

Between August 23rd and September 3rd, archeologists from SEAC’s Regionwide Archeological Survey Program (RASP) recorded and mapped cemeteries on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, from Mabry Mill to the northern end of the Parkway at Shenandoah National Park. This stretch of the park mostly runs along the central ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The park generally manages 400 feet from centerline on both sides of the majority of the road but Cultural Resource Project Manager Steven Kidd described the Parkway as “a string of pearls,” the 469-mile ribbon of asphalt set at intervals with various overlooks, visitor information stations, interpretive centers, and recreation areas.

For millennia Native Americans camped, hunted, gathered, fished, and quarried stone at places along what would become the Blue Ridge Parkway. Perhaps as early as the 1730s, Anglo Americans and African Americans migrated to the region south from Pennsylvania and west from the Virginia coast and Piedmont. These settlers established homesteads, farms, mills and stills in the mountains and set aside places to bury their dead.


The Thompson Cemetery.


Click this image to explore the Mammoth Cave interactive map.

The mapping project was prompted by Blue Ridge Parkway after SEAC published an interactive online GIS map of cemeteries within Mammoth Cave National Park that includes individual grave locations, photos and metadata. It is accessible to members of the public and professionals alike. The data collected during this project will also be made available on the Find-A-Grave website. The information is important to the descendants of those buried in cemeteries in the parks and researchers in fields like genealogy, as well as park visitors and NPS resource managers.


Yucca can be clues to the location of historic cemeteries at Blue Ridge Parkway.

The cemeteries visited during this mobilization included those marked only by a single undressed flagstone set on end in the woods or a cattle pasture, family plots near abandoned homesteads, multi-family graveyards with various kinds of markers, to large well-organized and maintained community burial grounds with monumental stone signs. Sometimes the most apparent clue to the location of a cemetery were ornamental yucca plants among the poison ivy, greenbriar, and sassafras saplings.

The location of at least each footstone and headstone at each marked grave in each cemetery was recorded. A total station was used in larger cemeteries, and measuring tapes, compass and graph paper  in smaller cemeteries. Photos of each marker were taken and all inscriptions were recorded. No rubbings were made but a mirror was used to side-light weathered inscriptions making them more legible and better defined in pictures.

Certain cemeteries were very clearly situated in a broader cultural landscape that imbued them with a more personal context. For example, the Painter Cemetery was located across the Parkway for the Painter homestead.


The Painter homestead.


Headstone of John King, a veteran of the Revolutionary War.


Headstone of Humphrey Claytor, an African American Confederate soldier.

Some cemeteries stood out for the presence of certain burials. For example, the Wimmer-Poff Cemetery contained the grave of a Revolutionary War veteran. The Reynolds Cemetery contained the grave of an African-American Civil War soldier. Other cemeteries brought to mind questions about the lives and deaths of the individuals buried in them. For instance, do many of the stones engraved with death dates between 1918 and 1920 mark graves of people who perished during the 1918 influenza pandemic?

On the ground, in spite of the tedium of the process, recording each grave felt like an act in memoriam for each individual. Some of the most moving plots were those that contained a couple’s infant children, like the Tates’ who lost three sets of twins; or double headstones for husbands and wives who died decades apart or where only half of a couple was buried.


The graves of the three sets of infant twins buried by James and Bessie Tate.


An elaborately incised headstone for a young woman.

While familiar epitaphs like “Gone but not forgotten” were recorded, several unique remembrances stood out; some seemingly ironic like, “Saved by grace, if saved”, others movingly forlorn like, “How desolate our home bereft of thee “. Many professionally carved and inscribed headstones and footstones were recorded as well as a few hand carved field stones sometimes both marking different graves in the same cemetery.

Documenting cemeteries as important historic resources rarely requires justification. They seem to have an inherent significance to all of us; a tacit understanding that can be more elusive when trying to explain reasons for mapping the ruins of a poor farmer’s cabin, an old whiskey still, or a wagon road. But together, these and other elements are parts of historic cultural landscapes that can teach us about what it was like to live and die in the past and how these stories are part and parcel of the big picture narrative of the human experience.

MACA little hope cemetery

Experience the interactive GIS map of cemeteries at 
Mammoth Cave National Park here

Interested in recording historic cemeteries in the Blue Ridge Parkway ?Adopt a Cemetery BrochureLearn more about how you can get involved with the Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway here !

Visit the Find-A-Grave website here !Find A Grave logo

Katrina Wood: NPS Archives and Collections Volunteer at SEAC!

As part of the support for the archives and collections of the National Park Service, I am pleased to spend time in the Southeast Archeological Center’s library. My role focuses on the upkeep and organization of the materials. KWood_Fig1I reunite books and materials with their cards, shelving said materials when the happy reunion is complete. I’m also on hand to assist patrons (in whatever form they may take) and to take on projects as graciously given by SEAC Museum Specialists.

My background includes previous work in the federal sector; I was an intern for two separate units of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). With the NARA, I re-housed documents, prepared them for researchers, wrote communication and social media pieces, and I wrote for Prologue, the agency’s quarterly magazine. Whether the subject matter be the facial hair of statesmen or the proceedings of the preservation process at the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site, I am invested in making the archival collections of entities known.

In my current library, a portion of the residents include archeological records, logs, observations, hand-drawn and labeled maps, and project plans that are grouped by National Park. These are the parks located within the Southeast Region, and they each have an acronym. There are ongoing projects and materials arriving from sites, yet my materials traffic usually concerns settled, steadfast materials that need to be kept in KWood_Fig2order and returned if borrowed—there is not an accessible digital library as of yet.

Other materials are where some of the directly related but curious items appear. For instance, I found an Annual Report for the National Museum of Canada. It was published in 1929. Being a librarian who has gone the museum and cultural heritage institutions route, I can speak to some of the advances in preservation, programming, exhibits and so forth since then. I’m not one to hastily weed out materials, however, so my stewardship remains impartial. I enjoy the discovery of Smithsonian Reports, background on the real-life Chief Osceola, traditions of the first peoples of the Southeast, and a wealth of best practices for handling objects that will only be excavated once.

KWood_Fig3To sum up the SEAC Library, it is a collection of intellectually rich archeological and natural-related resources. It is also a meeting place that is sometimes forgotten in the daily shuffle of paperwork, deadlines, and on-site demands. I only hope to maintain a space that can be appreciated by a wider network of patrons as awareness and accessibility increase. After all, the card catalog alone is reason enough to look further into the SEAC holdings!

Check out a previous Prologue blog entry by Katrina Wood on Sir Frederick Bruce’s facial hair here!

Read about more SEAC Intern and Volunteer experiences here!