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Yellowstone and its Old Stuff

Jul 13 2016

Seth Chambers 

By Seth Chambers
B.A., Ancient History, 2019
Archaelogy Intern at Yellowstone National Park

Out West Student Blog

Student Blog

When I drove out to Yellowstone, I had no idea what to expect. Well, not the right idea, anyway; I assumed that I would be spending most of my time in the backcountry, freezing to death or getting heat stroke while helping some crazy old archaeologist dig up mummies or shields or weapons of some sort. I wasn’t that excited; I’ve always been more of an office person, and I was afraid that Yellowstone would be lawless for those who worked there. After all, Yellowstone is a National Park preserving nature, so it must be wild, right?

Having been here for five weeks, I can say that the park is wild. I’ve had to stop in the middle of the road to let a herd of bison pass me, and I’ve hiked trails that lead to beaver dams miles away from any human settlement. However, I can also say it is run efficiently and effectively. All sorts of people in all sorts of occupations work here. There are rangers and shopkeepers, true, but there are also architects and geologists and computer scientists and even a historian specializing in the history of Yellowstone! Each one is invaluable to the park; some people protect tourists; others protect wildlife from tourists; others protect the sacredness of the names of every location in Yellowstone; still others make sure that buildings follow strict codes in order to preserve both their historic integrity and the integrity of the land in which they are placed.

So far, I’ve worked for the protectors of historic buildings. I’ve worked under Zehra Osman, who is a Cultural Resource Specialist and Landscape Architect. With her and a few other interns, I’ve had the opportunity to analyze the way historic buildings in the park have been treated over the years. I take pictures of these buildings while another intern reports on the condition of the building and whether or not it maintains its historic appearance and integrity. This report also recommends steps to be taken to preserve these historic buildings and their environments.

Along with taking pictures for these reports, I often have the chance to edit them. In addition to giving recommendations for preservation, these reports often provide a historical context for each building. It is amazing that a little place like Yellowstone Park could have such a rich history; yet despite its short lifespan and its small geographic location, Yellowstone Park has a history large enough to fill thousands of books.

This next week I will begin work with the head archaeologist. I’ve already had the chance to do some archaeological monitoring; I get to go out with construction crews and, as the name suggests, monitor their digging to see if they produce any historic artifacts. However, I am excited to expand my horizons and see what it is really like to be an archaeologist in Yellowstone.

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