I never thought that I would work on building a website. I mean, I am a history major after all! Our business is in dusty archives with old books, giving uninteresting lectures on the events and people of the past; or so other people have told me. Before this class I knew that some brave historians were moving to doing work on the world wide web but I never imagined I would be among them. The act of building this site and working with WordPress to fine tune the aesthetic of it is one of the things I foresee myself using in the future. This project also presented me with my first opportunity to go to an archive (albeit a nontraditional one) and work with primary sources in my hand. Working to distill which sources were useful and which were simply fun to look at was a skill I built up over the course of the semester with the help of my incredibly competent partner, Kristen. I honestly do not know what this project would be without that woman.
A great joy from this class was interacting with people from all around the country. My fellow students in this class were a constant reminder that there is a world outside of North Carolina. Another great thing about this class being so interdisciplinary was that everyone was from different majors. Seeing how others conducted research and how different their approaches to studying history were from my own was fascinating and a reminder that there are ways of thinking outside of my own. Watching the presentations I felt incredibly lucky to have been able to watch these ideas grow over the course of the past three months and to see how far we have all come.
Thank you to my classmates and professors for this inspiring ride!!!
Having posted a rough draft of our site is liberating. It’s great to have the notes to go back to and check off as we make the recommended adjustments. Research is still happening on my end when it comes to the Tourism page and the role of Conservationists on the Parkway. Jackie is back in the office and I look forward to going to get photos that are already digitized from her in order to update the map. The map is moving along, I have an idea for how to draw lines on the map and I’m going to change the background map when I’m finished so that it shows the topography more than the current one.
Everything is moving along nicely and we’re getting into a nice pace (at least I think we are). We’re hoping to be together for the final presentation so fingers crossed that can happen. That’s all for now, just the same old chugging along!
As the project moves along I find myself more and more nervous about these sites being out there for all to see. I am typing out sentences, erasing them, retyping them, and erasing again more than ever before. Although I am confident in our research and the direction we’re taking with the project I can’t seem to get comfortable with the public nature of this work. The timeline is also looming in the back of my mind along with due dates for assignments in other classes and the ever present stress about my future. Being a senior in college is more difficult than expected.
Now that I’ve done my grumbling for the semester an update. Research is going well, on our last visit to the BRP Archives we found the press releases from the mid 1960s on which were rich with information about tourism and (surprisingly?) weather! Kristen struck gold with a box of letters which were all filed complaints from visitors to the Parkway. The letters she shared with me made me chuckle and realize that angry customers are all the same whether on the Parkway or in a restaurant. As we start adding information to the project site it is important to keep up with our citations and add them as we add information instead of leaving them for later. Footnotes are turning out to be much easier than I thought and a bibliography page has been added to the site. Hopefully we can get pictures up in the next couple of days and iron out our theme and the look of the site. The end of the semester is near and other classes are demanding attention so it’s really helpful that we have our due dates already decided on and I can build my priority list off of that for the next couple of weeks.
Joines, Agnes. 2003. Interview by Philip E. Coyle. November 8. Sparta, North Carolina. Blue Ridge Parkway Archives, Asheville, NC.
The past week has been all about the Blue Ridge Parkway Archives. Tomorrow we will be heading back there after spending a couple of hours there on Tuesday and Thursday of last week. As we dig through sources there I have also been looking through some of the oral histories that Jackie Holt gave us a few weeks ago. The one I most recently read through was an interview conducted by Philip Coyle of Agnes Joines and her husband Earnest Joines. The couple has lived near the Parkway in Allegany County (the northernmost county with the Parkway in North Carolina), for most of their lives. Both of them give some great insight into life in Allegany in the early 1930s and 40s. When speaking about the Parkway Agnes gives this great quote that I loved. She says, “That’s what I think the Parkway really does for people that really want to relax and get away from everyday life… You know all this beautiful scenery you don’t get to see in other places.”1
In regards to the Parkway influence on the locals and local economies, she also supports the argument that it does have a big impact. She says, “It’s a big benefit to our town, too, because people that are traveling on the Parkway will come off and come to either to restaurants or come to lodging or they’re looking entertainment, and Sparta really has all of that…We have a lot of tourists that come off the Parkway.”2
Even though this is only one woman’s voice it’s nice to see some confirmation of what the Blue Ridge Parkway folks have been telling us, along with some of the secondary sources have been claiming. There are a bunch of oral histories to go through thanks to Jackie and I look forward to reading the transcripts for them.
Another interesting phenomena happening currently is that the things we’ve found in our research have begun to pop up in my other classes, and just in random places in my life. We were discussing the US Cabinet and Executive Agencies and how Congress can exert some control over them in class today, and it comes on the heels of reading folders of correspondence from the then Superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway and various members of Congress and the Dept. of the Interior begging for legislative change and funding for Parkway land acquisition.
- Agnes Joines, pg. 17
- Agnes Joines, pg. 17
Jolley, Harley. ‘That Magnificent Army of Youth and Peace’ The Civilian Conservation Corps in
North Carolina, 1933-1942. Raleigh: North Carolina Office of Archives and History, 2007.
This book is about exactly what the title says, the Civilian Conservation Corps in North Carolina. With a bounty of primary sources in the form of photos and graphs, the author goes into detail about specific camps and the demographics within the camps. Although our project is focused specifically on the Blue Ridge Parkway this sources is more broad. There is so much information about the fights to bring the CCC to North Carolina.
For us, this source goes over the role of the one and only Parkway CCC camp in North Carolina. It gives stories from folks who lived and worked at the camp and details about events that happened at the camp. What I found to be fascinating is that the Parkway had 4 designated camps but only one was in North Carolina. That one camp was located in Laurel Springs which is in the northern most county affected by the Parkway in this state.
Also this week I advanced our map, but I ran into a road block. Word of warning: Google My Maps only lets you have 10 layers. I say only as if any sane person would need more than 10 layers. But clearly I am no sane person. So my plan to have directions being how I distinguish the sections of the Parkway is not going to work out. Instead I’ve decided to do directions from one end of the Parkway to the other. This might not make sense to read, but I promise it will make sense when you see it (hopefully). Unfortunately, it’s not done just yet because of yet another road block. The directions don’t follow the Parkway exclusively? It’s also difficult to adjust it to be the Parkway. So small road blocks that frustrate me enough to not be able to do it all in one sitting.
So here’s what I’ve got so far, I hope you enjoy!
What a day! The link above is to a source that I’ve been using to put together a My Map with the sections of the Parkway and when they were opened. I’m unsure how to cite it because I found it on the DocSouth website but they didn’t have a citation either and I can’t seem to find the document by searching the web anywhere. The document details stretches of the parkway and when construction on them began, as well as when they were opened to the public.
However, this document is not what I want to focus on today. I visited the Headquarters of the Blue Ridge Parkway today to meet with Jackie Holt, the Museum Curator for the Parkway. She was beyond enthusiastic about our project and introduced me to several people in the office including the folks who manage community outreach, tourism, all the Parkway’s social media accounts. Everyone there was excited and incredibly helpful when it came to our topic. I have pages of notes from the meeting as well as a flash drive full of documents to look through and several Park documents like their General Management Plan and Founding Document.
View of the Headquarters building from the bridge to the entrance
One of the things that we discussed while I was there that I found to be of particular interest was what brought the actual employees to work at the Parkway. Many of the people I spoke with today told me that they had bounced from Park to Park and when they landed at the Parkway they loved it so much that they didn’t want to leave. This opened up an avenue that could lead us to having oral histories included in this project. Jackie and I talked about the possibility of talking to retired National Parks Service employees who had worked on the Parkway and decided to stick around in the area after their retirement. The ideas and opinions brought up today made me realize that we really need to nail down what our geographic location will be for this project –the Parkway is huge! Western North Carolina is also quite large! On a similar note, I really need to study a map of both places so my head spins a bit less when the conversation turns to counties and cities.
Overall the meeting today was the kick in the butt I needed to get on top of research and start critically thinking about how our project is going to look and what kind of impact it will have. I look forward to working closely with the folks at the headquarters and digging through the documents they provided to find trends that will aid our project.
This week is all about prepping. We’ve crafted our Contract, started setting up our website, and have put everything in place to go visit archives and find our primary sources. Getting our contract ready was a relatively simple process for us. We looked at the old contract that was given as an example and built ours off of that. Kristen and I met up Friday morning and knocked out the majority of it and discussed the rest to be written out later. All in all, our contract lays out pretty well and coherently how we are approaching this project. To start our website we decided on a theme that is no fuss so as to not have the theme distract from the project. When we began to narrow down our topic originally we started thinking about pages and how we wanted to break down the work. That is why once we got the site we already had an idea of the desired format. However, our format is flexible. If it turns out there isn’t all that much information on cyclists who train on the Parkway then maybe they don’t need an entire page to themselves. Maybe they fall better into a category that includes more types of tourists.
Personally what I’m most looking forward to is starting to visit archives. We’ve sent out emails to different archivists in the area who we’ve seen have sources of interest to us. Two of them are out of town until next week, but hopefully we hear back from the rest of them soon and are able to start carefully flipping through folders in boxes and finding treasures. Looking at old photos of the Parkway and comparing them to the same stretch of road as it stands today is something I love doing and I’m excited to incorporate that into the StoryMap and website in general. Contacting our community resources put us a week ahead of our desired timeline so I look forward to completing the rest of the things on our list and hopefully taking on our timeline head on.
Our contract lives on its own page on this site, on the Blue Ridge Parkway Contract page!
National Park Service. “Monthly Public Use Report January 1988-August 2017.” Accessed September 13, 2017. https://irma.nps.gov/Stats/SSRSReports/Park%20Specific%20Reports/Monthly%20Public%20Use?Park=BLRI.
Today I chose to look through the Monthly Public Use Report that is published by the National Parks Service every month. The first report that they have available is from January of 1988 and the most recent is from August 2017. The report goes through the number of visitors, broken down by recreational and non-recreational visitors, in the calendar year as well as the fiscal year. It also further breaks the types of recreational visitors into those who stay on the campgrounds (and how they stay i.e. campers, tents) as well as hikers that are going through the trails off of the Parkway. Also interesting it is that they also specify the number of visitors on the Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina. North Carolina consistently has higher numbers.
The way I reviewed the document, I compared peak months (April, May, August, September, and October) from the years 1988, 1998, and April, May, and August of 2017. I landed on these months because they are late spring when everything is in full bloom and the beginning of fall which is peak leaf looker time. This year the numbers are lower than in previous decade, I would be interested to look at why. Overall I think this source will be useful for the big picture. If we are arguing that the Parkway has had a significant impact on the amount of people coming through Western North Carolina and that those people have impacted local economies then it’s important to see the numbers. Going through the reports year by year (instead of jumping in every decade) can also help us see trends and compare them to the weather that year or greater themes happening nationally. This source is raw data, but there is a lot to be learned from it. As I already mentioned, numbers are good for seeing trends and it will be interesting to see the data for September come in.
This weekend I read part of Ted Olson’s book titled Blue Ridge Folk Life. The book was published by the University Press of Mississippi in 1998 and covers the culture and history of the people who have lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Ted Olson was a ranger on the Blue Ridge Parkway before becoming a college professor and a folklorist. I never realized how common of a name he had until I searched him to find more bibliographical information on him and found several other Ted Olson’s instead.
Anyways, his book is a general look at the people of the Blue Ridge and how they and their culture were affected by time and tourism. In his chapter on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Olson covers the Blue Ridge Parkway. When I picked up this book at the library I was hoping it would have more details on how Parkway tourism changed local economies, but unfortunately he does not go into any great detail about that. He does, however, mention that the construction of the Parkway and other major roads that came before it did change the economy of the region. He also outlines how tourism changed local culture. He writes about the National Parks Service romanticizing ‘mountain culture’ for the sake of tourism, and exaggerated aspects of the culture in order to make for more interesting talks and presentations. His bibliographical notes are very different from what I am used to seeing as a student of History as he doesn’t use footnotes or end notes but rather has about a paragraph with several sources per sub topic. That being said, his sources on the Parkway were slim. All in all I think this book will be good for us to use if we want some information about the area where the Parkway was built and what it was like before its construction but I do not see it being of any value to us in our examination of tourists and tourism caused by the Parkway. As a lesson to my fellow classmates I’ll say this: skimming is your best friend because there are often more not useful sources than useful ones out there.
This week time has been tight for both of us, but Kristen is a godsend of a partner and has done some amazing work. I have tried my best this week to explore some online databases and archives and have found some letters and reports from the National Parks Services, but the bulk of the sources on our Primary Source Bibliography have been found by Kristen this week. As we try to figure out how to do a hanging indent in Google Docs (YouTube videos have been surprisingly unhelpful) we have put together a document with some sources that we will add to as we find more. That document can be found at this link. Neither of us knew if both bibliographies were supposed to be in the same document so we kept them separate. Our secondary source bibliography can be found at this link.
Next week I hope to reach out to the National Parks Service as well as the Blue Ridge Parkway Museum curator, Jackie Holt. Heather South at the Western Regional Archives told us that Jackie may be able to help us get our hands on some information. I also want to see if we can start going to the Parkway Visitor Center to talk to visitors to the Parkway. However, there is a hurricane heading towards North Carolina so we will see how that affects the Parkway as far as closures go.