Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
YHP 2015 was held at the Fort Vancouver Historic National Site where we explored topics such as the early settlement of the American West and the subsequent displacement of indigenous peoples; the archaeological process; the merits of reconstruction as a method of preserving the past; and the complexity of authenticity in historic preservation.
Participants were engaged through a variety of activities designed to help them develop their own ideas for what constitutes successful and engaging historic preservation strategies. Students toured the reconstructed buildings at FV and experienced living history demonstrations. YHP this year featured a significant archaeology component; students were taught how FV was excavated and how the archaeological information was used to reconstruct the buildings and participated hands-on in an archaeological dig in partnership with an archaeology field school. Students also visited the Cathlapotle Plankhouse, a reconstructed Chinookan plankhouse located on the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge near Fort Vancouver. This exposed students to reconstruction from a different cultural angle, and they also learned how the plankhouse integrates into present-day Chinookan culture through community events.
This year, YHP featured a new format, involving specific projects students completed for presentation at the culminating Town Hall event:
One group of students focused on living history reenactments, a major element of public interaction at Fort Vancouver. Working with scripts developed from historic accounts and journal entries describing events at the Fort, the group received living history training and rehearsed their respective roles. They developed characters, rehearsed scenes, learned dance steps, and even practiced nineteenth century decorum.
With the program’s emphasis on archaeology, the curatorial staff at Fort Vancouver designed a project that challenged students to envision different ways to exhibit archaeological artifacts. A group of students was able to work with the curatorial staff at the Fort on a storyboarding and exhibit design project. Students examined a group of artifacts collected through archaeological work at the Fort, developing a storyboard for each. With consideration to origin and significance of the artifacts, students collaborated to design unique conceptual interactive exhibits that would convey information the artifacts represented.
Relaying important information in an accessible, visual format is a needed skill in the digital age. Students in the final group were tasked with relaying information related to Fort Vancouver through icons, symbols, charts, and other visual mechanisms. Through their infographics, students endeavored to convey how reconstructed buildings are effectively used to interpret the past, while providing an engaging visitor experience. Students collected data about visitation and engagement by interviewing Fort staff, volunteers, and visitors. Students formulated an objective for their infographics, compiled their data, and added visuals to help communicate their ideas.