Yellowstone Over Time
By Quinn Walker
B.S. Candidate in Human Biology
Summer Intern with Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center
Read about our summer research projects on the OutWest student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.
At the beginning of the summer, family and friends kept asking me what exactly I was doing in Yellowstone National Park. “Well,” I said, “I’m working in the Heritage and Research Center.” “Mmhmm…” they would doubtfully reply. “In the museum collection,” I’d add. “Um…” they would say. “You are so skeptical,” I’d sigh. “How can I put this? I catalog artifacts (clean, photograph, and label them before entering the details into the database and storing them), do inventory of items we already have, design exhibits, and give tours to visitors. I deal with pests, vacuum the processing room, and make perfectly sized boxes out of cardboard and a box cutter.” By this point there is silence. “That’s nice,” they say. And yes, it is nice. It’s also beautiful, fascinating, and an incredibly valuable experience.
I will never forget my summer in Yellowstone (or, probably, the hundreds of random facts I now know about the nation’s first national park). I learned why the park holds such an important place in the world’s conservation efforts. Of course, Yellowstone couldn’t have happened without the contributions of countless individuals, such as Thomas Moran, John Colter, and Horace Albright. For my final exhibit, I chose to elaborate on one of those people. Ole Anderson was a Swedish implant to the park in its very early days. He set up wooden racks within the hot spring terraces. The hot springs, which are part of Yellowstone’s impressive thermal features, would coat specimens with layers of travertine (limestone) and create an impressive and unique souvenir. When I saw some of the horseshoes we have in the collection, I knew this was what I wanted to do. As I studied, I fell in love with the stories in the collection. The people who explored the park became my companions, and I couldn’t be happier about that.
The people who work in Yellowstone today should be just as appreciated. They love the history of the park and what they do every day here. I only wish the hundreds of thousands of objects were visible to more people. The park just doesn’t have the resources or the space to have larger exhibits in a full time museum, or even to show people around the offsite vehicle storage building, my favorite part of the collection. But these artifacts fill me with wonder every day, and I hope they will continue to do the same for others in generations to come. Truly, the employees are of paramount importance to the park and the preservation of its history. We need to support and appreciate them as much as possible because without them, we wouldn’t have Yellowstone. And on a selfish note, I wouldn’t have had this amazing summer: working, learning, and exploring. I will be forever thankful for that.
Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns »