I've often wondered if I would end up working with the National Park Service someday. Lord knows I have met many people who work there currently, and I have had the pleasure of serving on at least one committee dealing with increasing the diversity of our National Historic Landmarks. And, like many people, I was reminded today that Ken Burns is setting his brilliant eyes on national parks in his latest documentary.
With my academic focus on African American history, I was particularly interested when I learned that there is an organization that works to raise funds for national parks that focus on black history. I am not sure if other national parks that have a shared categorical link have a fund dedicated to them, but I think the idea has great potential. For example, I am a huge fan of preserving American sports and music historic sites. I think those would be incredible sites for which to raise money. Another great advocacy organization is the Civil War Preservation Trust; it's dedicated to preservation of the nation's Civil War battlefields and related historic sites.
I raise this issue of the national parks simply to remind folks that we have a wide array of historic sites and national parks out there that try to tell the complex story of our nation (though there is a glaring omission for the historical period of Reconstruction). I will always encourage people to visit historic sites associated with books that they've read about a particular period in American history. Those visits can help to bring that history to life. It makes that history more tangible. And they make for rather inexpensive travel destinations, particularly in tight times.
I hope that there will be a run on the national parks following Burns' documentary, and I hope that there is a great deal of praise given to POTUS Theodore Roosevelt, my favorite Republican (check out this excerpt from the May 2009 edition of Vanity Fair on TR), for his foresight into saving more than 200,000,000 acres of land across the country for future generations to enjoy.