Thursday, August 26, 2010

I should switch to a felt-tip pen

My job certainly keeps me on my toes and requires me to figuratively wear many hats (while literally wearing one very distinctly-shaped ranger hat). My hats ranger from that of ranger to historian, greeter to tour guide, designer to writer, organizer to researcher, teacher to trainer, and the list does not stop there.

Currently, the park has a series of wayside signs in the creation/revision process. One wayside planned for the Hazen Brigade Monument will list the names of the 55 soldiers buried at the site. Our museum tech and I were assigned to confirm that the names listed were correct. We already had one sign go up, only to have two separate descendants of the soldiers buried there inform us that some names were incorrect. My minor OCD tendencies told me this would be a good job for me. In fact, it sounded like an excellent task when it was assigned to me this morning. Ha! What was I thinking?

The task involved checking the list of soldiers printed in the Roll of Honor (page 439) then cross referencing those names in various adjucent general reports (depending on those states, the reports vary in size from two to ten volumes per state). We had to confirm the soldier's name, spelling, regiment, and burial plot. After spending several hours reviewing these volumes (and telling "we see dead people" jokes), we confirmed our findings by matching each of these headstones with our list.

Misspellings or variations of spellings often occurred during the nineteenth century as the individuals writing the name just wrote what he or she heard. Depending on dialect, the variations could prove particularly interesting. Our trek through the enclosed monument site was hot and only demonstrated MORE inaccuracies in our records. I really felt if I stabbed my ballpoint pen through my eyeball it would have been a less painful process. The fact that I had to take breaks to do my regular job stuff probably saved me (or at least my right eye).

By the end of the day we decided we will need to create an organized file to list out the various spellings of each soldier (for researchers and inquiring family members). I would say we will spend most of tomorrow creating that list, but indeed, we will not. We will be listening, instead. I have lots to look forward to on Saturday (and will keep my ballpoint pen in hand, just in case).

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