Ethnographic Overview And Assessment Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
Harpers Ferry Ethnographic Overview Assessment_FInal Report.pdf (37.98Mb)
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Shackel, Paul A.
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The purpose of this ethnographic overview and assessment is to identify the traditional ecological, cultural, and historic activities and associations with Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. This study reviews and summarizes existing ethnographic information on park resources traditionally valued by stakeholders, then evaluates these data and identifies areas where additional research is needed. In the course of this project we identify the groups and communities whose collective history and activities are attached to the landscape in and around the park. The study aims to provide data that can inform park planning, management, and interpretation, and help the park relate its mission and resources to the various groups that have a stake in the park. In addition, the ethnographic overview and assessment serves as a starting point for park staff and scholars, as it identifies gaps in ethnographic and historical data and recommends areas for further research. Though the communities, traditions, and associations described in this study may change over time, this report provides a baseline for understanding the diverse peoples and activities that are currently associated with Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Research for this study took place between October 2014 and September 2016. Over the course of our investigation, we consulted a variety of sources including archival written records, oral histories, and published materials. We also conducted nine semi-structured interviews with local residents and held informal conversations with those who had relevant and/or expert knowledge of the Harpers Ferry area, including its history, its residents, its landscape, and traditional activities that take place there. Based on this research, we were able to develop an overview of the historical processes that shaped the landscape and communities in and around the park. This history includes the Native American occupation of the land, contact with European settlers (16th and 17th centuries), the period of intensive settlement and agriculture (18th century), the industrial period (19th century), the post-industrial pre-park period (20th century), and the present era. It is clear from this historical review that Harpers Ferry’s economic, political, and social development was shaped by its agricultural, industrial, and tourism activities, as well as major events such as the introduction of the railroad, the devastation of the Civil War, and the establishment of the National Historical Park. We document the ways in which local communities interact(ed) with the Harpers Ferry landscape both before and after the establishment of the park and identify resources within the park that are significant to the lifeways and traditions of these communities. Three groups are identified as having clear associations with the park and its resources; they include: (1) The African American population of Harpers Ferry and Bolivar; (2) The Italian quarry workers employed by the Standard Lime and Stone Company; and (3) Representatives of the tourism industry. We also identify ten groups or activities that have demonstrable ties to the park, but are less prevalent than the previous three groups. While we present specific examples of sites and resources of significance, such as schools, churches, neighborhoods, rivers, and farmland, there are likely many others that did not come to our attention during this investigation or that required more in-depth research that we did not have adequate time to pursue. Accordingly, we make several recommendations for topics of further study.