I was in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia for another training this week. Even though I’ve been there before, I don’t usually have time during the day to explore the historical park, but this time I had part of Friday afternoon, so I visited some of the historic buildings in the Lower Town. Each one, more or less, is a museum with exhibits of the park’s many themes: John Brown’s raid, the Civil War, arms manufacturing, and so on. Though the exhibits were a little busy-looking and cluttered for my visual tastes (especially after a week of hard concentration), the one on John Brown’s raid was pretty provocative. One of the videos, without going into too much graphic detail, was frank about the violence of the raid and the counter-raid, as if it was an omen of the great war to come. It raised some interesting questions about violence in the name of righteousness.
It’s too bad this sort of thoughtful reflection appears in a public exhibit about a radical antislavery action, but not in our numerous war museums and memorials. It is as if violence should only give us pause when it is not perpetrated by the state. Or perhaps fear of inflaming Southern sensitivities prompted the National Park Service to be particularly introspective when planning this exhibit.
On lighter note, one evening some of us went on a “ghost tour” of the Lower Town. Despite its rich and exciting past, Lower Town is pretty deserted on Monday evenings. I can see why ghost stories are popular there. I noticed a little extra zeal in the local businesses for Halloween decorations.
Training at Harpers Ferry was great. I had fun, met a lot of nice people, and learned a lot.
Harpers Ferry is a pretty little town. The old part is a National Historical Park. It looks very European, with stone and brick buildings built organically into the hillside and along the river. In addition to the historical park, the NPS has a training center in the old Storer College building. This week’s training was the fifth and final part of NPS Fundamentals program (last year in Grand Canyon was the second part).
Since the motel was in Bolivar, the town right above Harpers Ferry, I could walk to class and down the hill. I took pictures before and after class and during breaks, but I didn’t get to see inside most of the historic buildings.
Most of the training was excerises in leadership, teamwork, conflict resolution, problem solving, and the like. On Thursday, our class took a field trip to the nearby C&O Canal National Historical Park to discuss a recent controversial issue. We had some time at the end of the day to visit Antietam National Battlefield. On Friday our respective teams had a final project: a presentation addressing an issue facing the NPS and recommending a course of action. My team did an especially fine job presenting on partnerships.
I got back home around noon today. The airport in Cedar Rapids is so small and quiet compared to O’Hare and BWI. I was out the door–with my baggage claimed–in about ten minutes.