Grant Maher shares his perception of the uses to which archives may be put, including preservation of historic buildings or landmarks.
Early on in my work with the Theodore Roosevelt Center and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP) collection, I reviewed materials concerning the establishment of the park, and the attempt to reconstruct the Elkhorn and Maltese Cross ranches. Though not conducting any research, I found it very interesting to track the progress of this project over time. National Park Service (NPS) employees went to great lengths to research the history of these structures and to make a historically accurate reconstruction of the cultural landscape in western North Dakota.
One of the reasons I wanted to be an archivist was to make history available to the public. This means making the physical documents accessible to researchers, and also, by extension, allowing people to use my work as a springboard for a host of potential uses. When I began my work reviewing metadata for the TRNP collection, I wondered just what uses people would make of this interesting collection of documents. As an archivist it can be difficult to anticipate just when and to what degree documents will be used.
However, I was interested to learn that the Elkhorn Ranch was announced as one of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2012 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP). While a place on this list is bittersweet, it was exciting to know that my work may be of immediate use to researchers. Furthermore, having just completed course and practicum work in historic preservation, I was excited to know that documents from the TRNP collection could potentially help in this preservation effort.
While it remains to be seen just how and if the Elkhorn Ranch can be preserved, Jenny Buddenborg of NTHP has already provided an update and progress has been made.Â Buddenborg notes that NTHP has been working with the NPS, the U.S. Forest Service and private land owners in order to help preserve the ranch. Preserving this location will indeed involve the cooperation of many interested parties, as it has for many years. In my own work, I found that NPS employees consulted a number of groups in the establishment of the park in general and specifically the reconstruction of the Elkhorn Ranch. I find it encouraging that this cooperative work continues to happen, and even that I am participating in it. I have greatly enjoyed being a part of this project, and contributing to such a valuable resource.
Grant Maher recently earned a Master of Arts degree in Public History at Appalachian State University, and has accepted a position as a processing archivist with History Associates, Inc.