Wednesday, February 23, 2011

National Park Service - wonderful places, wonderful things

The National Park Service consists not only of wonderful places; it also manages the objects and artifacts that those places possess. Working through a co-operative agreement between the National Park Service and the University of Tennessee, I’ve been leading a project to redevelop the current web catalog site, and work with parks to increase the number of items on the site.

The scope of the collections is extraordinary; more than 42 million objects including archeology, art, history, and ethnography objects, biology, paleontology, geology specimens, and historic photographs. Currently only a small percentage is available online, and graduate students at UT have been helping add records and images.

We imagine a number of different audiences coming to the site: students and educators, researchers and park visitors. We expect they’ll come with questions about the Civil War, about specific park collections, about the household belongings of John Adams, and many, many more.

The challenge is to create a site that answers the questions of a researcher looking at maritime history, as well as the casual visitor curious about the history of the Florida parks. It’s about seeing the objects not just as individual things but as part of a park, a collection, a historic theme, or an aspect of the rich cultural and bio-diversity of the United States.

The site will be available to the public in late summer.

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