Hello world! I’m Emily and I joined the Olmsted Center about a few months ago to work on the region’s Cultural Resource Stewardship Assessment (CRSA) initiative. The CRSA aims to provide a reliable framework to measure the condition, status, and trend of a park’s cultural resources. It also answers three questions: What is our knowledge of the cultural resources under our care? How are we applying that knowledge to their management? What is the condition of those resources?
The assessment framework breaks down cultural resources into 7 NPS program areas as: archaeology, cultural anthropology, cultural landscapes, history, historic structures, museum collections, and resources subject to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).
The first park I am working on is George Washington Birthplace National Monument in Westmoreland County, Virginia. The land had a long history of Native American use and habitation before being settled by George Washington’s great-grandfather in the 17th century. The park is not only significant for containing the site of George Washington’s birth, but also for exploring the history of archaeology and preservation that occurred during the commemorative efforts surrounding the park’s creation. Spurred by the efforts of Wakefield National Memorial Association (the plantation was renamed Wakefield by Washington’s half-brother’s son), the park was created in 1930. The WNMA donated additional land surrounding the site, helped transfer the site from the War Department to the National Park Service, and pushed the creation of a Memorial House. While there was extensive archaeology done at the site, there was very little information about the original house Washington was born in, and an approximation was built on the presumed original foundations. Later and through more archaeological work, the foundations of the house were confirmed in a nearby location. While today, one would not reconstruct a whole house on so little evidence (or often even with the information), the Memorial House remains as an example of an upper-class house from the time period as well as a lens into the past history of the site.
In order to complete this CRSA assessment for George Washington Birthplace, I have been reviewing a lot of baseline documentation, including the National Regist
er Documentation, its Cultural Landscape Report, an Ethnography Overview and Assessment, Archaeological Assessments, etc. I also have been reviewing records of cultural resources in park databases including the LCS (historic structures), CLI (cultural landscapes), and ASMIS (archaeology). Armed with this background, I met with staff from each cultural resource program and discussed that particular resource, assessing the knowledge the park has, its documentation, the inventory, and its treatment needs. Recently I have completed a draft of all the tables capturing this data and an outline for the rest of the report, and it has just been sent to the staff at George Washington Birthplace to review! Next up, I will be working on Richmond National Battlefield and then incorporating park comments and information into the draft.