Hello everyone! This is Joe Morse reporting from Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. This week I present to you my tenth Service Spotlight, where I interview a volunteer from one of our sites to get a better sense of what they bring to our volunteer program, and any other cool facts about them.
This March I had the opportunity to interview Rosanne Petersen. Rosanne is a newly made history buff and long time volunteer at the Fort. She primarily volunteers as a docent in three of our buildings, the Chief Factors House, the Indian Trade Shop, and the Fur Warehouse. Here, she inspires members of the public and local school groups, helping them make connections between the past and the present in the Pacific Northwest.
Here’s the transcript of my interview with Rosanne:
How did you happen to become a volunteer at Fort Vancouver?
My husband Bob and I went to Ireland in the fall of 2008 on a Rick Steve’s tour. Ireland was everything I thought it would be – friendly people, beautiful views and landscapes, lovely towns all surrounded by the ever changing coastline. What surprised me however, was how much I enjoyed learning about the history of Ireland. We had expert, local tour guides as we traveled around the isle. Their stories gave us such a rich and deep understanding of the Emerald Isle that I then vowed to know and understand my country’s history also. (Quite a shock to me, as history was never a favorite area of study for me). Feeling a bit overwhelmed with the task, I started studying about Fort Vancouver as there are many resources available on the NPS website. In addition, the rangers were very supportive, knowledgeable and helpful.
How long have you been volunteering at Fort Vancouver?
Since 2011, I have volunteered in various programs but my favorite is working with the school groups that visit the Fort throughout the year. It is so satisfying to see the students become engaged with the buildings and the stories that are told. I can see in their faces what I felt when in Ireland.
What is your favorite area to volunteer in at Fort Vancouver and why?
Of the three buildings I have interpreted, my slightly favorite is the Fur Store. The artifacts draw the young learners in and learning the five steps of the fur trade keeps their interest. It is fun to help them imagine or “walk in the shoes” of the children their age – who lived near Fort Vancouver in the 1840’s. I also enjoy interpreting the Indian Trade Shop. The story is so relevant today as the students learn that Fort Vancouver was a successful, multi-cultural community that provided goods from all over the world.
What keeps you volunteering?
I continue to volunteer because I get to interact with students, I continue to deepen my knowledge and understanding of our history, and finally because we volunteers are all treated so well by the staff. Our rangers are simply the best!
What the biggest challenge of being a volunteer and how do you overcome that?
The only challenge I have experienced – besides the weather – was what I felt was an acceptable level of knowledge to become an interpreter. Self-study is required but there are so many NPS resources available and the staff provides helpful training and one-on-one help if wanted. The rewards of interpretation are worth the work! I am so thankful and proud that we have Fort Vancouver, the destination point for the Oregon Trail, in our “backyard” It is a great story.
What’s one thing you’d like to tell people who come to Fort Vancouver?
Dr. John McLoughlin is my favorite person to tell the visitors about. He made several choices that brought about unintended consequences but the students get to decide if these choices were mistakes or not.
Any cool facts about yourself that people should know?
That’s all folks! Come visit our Fort and join us for a tour led by our volunteer docents. The May Spotlight is coming up next!