Term: Winter 2017
National Museum of Forest Service History – Missoula, Montana
As the Director of Education for the National Museum for Forest Service History, I came to explore and investigate Grey Towers, Gifford Pinchot’s home, in order to have a fuller understanding and appreciation for the Man and the momentous organization he initiated; the United States Forest Service.
As a non-traditional scholar, the Heritage Association placed great trust in me to apply the details I learned while visiting and absorbing this beautiful site to the narrative for our Museum’s interpretive trail and fledgling educational program.
The NMFSH holds 36 acres of land west of Missoula, Montana on Highway 10 West (near Missoula International Airport). This is the site where the organization plans to eventually build their National Conservation and Legacy Center and where the current archival treasures (numbering some 50,000 artifacts) will be available for display, education, and research.
Recently, the NMFSH Board of Directors and advisors made a decision to share and to further develop the site with exhibits including an interpretive trail. We currently showcase an historic Forest Ranger’s cabin, deconstructed from the North Fork of the Clearwater River National Forest. It is now painstakingly restored to original glory. The site also features a Forest Service L-4 lookout tower, constructed from 1936 USFS plans.There is a creek on the site that wanders through old cottonwood trees and the Museum property borders an active jump site for the Smokejumpers Center, which is a next door neighbor. The Museum has the “bones” on this acreage that will support an exceptional interpretive trail that could serve our community, schools and the large numbers of tourists who pass through our valley every year.
My exposure to the place and to the letters and diaries of Gifford Pinchot that are housed at Grey Towers will be a tremendous asset to me as I create a narrative for this interpretive trail along with supplemental teaching tools.
There are at five stories that the Museum intends to initially explore in our research;
Foundations of the Conservation Movement
- The first will be the story of the founders of the American conservation movement, the USFS and their role in building the historic trail; George Perkins Marsh ,Teddy Roosevelt, Aldo Leopold, George Grinnell,Gifford Pinchot, and many other fellow foresters who made up the forester fraternity in the early days: who were they, and why did they devote their lives to conservation and protection of the lands?
- The Museum also wants to investigate and demonstrate the effect that nature and its exploration can make in human lives. We will talk about how touching trees and interacting with the weather, and wind and rain and snow and the earth critical to human wellness.
- The NMFSH plans to include fire weather stations that show how the USFS scientifically measures fire danger at any given time or place. We’ll use the commemorative lookout tower to tell of fire and its control and use from the early days of the Native Americans to its science in today’s forests and grasslands. Perching in this lookout tower with all the accouterments in place will offer a deep-seated memory for those who come to visit.
- The Historic Ranger Station will feature the story of the Forest Service Ranger and his family and how they impacted conservation and recreation in America.This Ranger Station will also serve as a meeting site for teacher training and various community meetings.
- The Museum plans to build an historic ranger and pack corral as well, to demonstrate the role that pack teams and their caretakers played in making the forests safe and productive
“It is my belief that my opportunity to participate in the Grey Towers Scholar-in-Residence program was an incredible opportunity and served as an inspiration that ensures our interpretive trail and education programs will be even more significant and authentic. I will always treasure the confidence and hospitality that the Grey Towers staff and Heritage Association placed in my selection as a Scholar In Residence. Thank You!”
I visited Grey Towers in April of 2017. It was a productive visit as it gave me a great background in the Pinchot family history and more basic information about the USFS. My mission was to get enough information to write a narrative for our interpretive trail at our visitor’s center in Missoula, Montana.
We completed the original interpretive trail in the summer of 2017 and have continued to add text and information to our signs over the past two years. In addition we have added an amphitheater where we host educators, authors and entertainers.
I have used photos I took from GPs papers of a diary he kept while in the Swan River Valley of western Montana in 1896 many time- this photo shows just one page from the book. It recounts an important time in timber exploration in Montana History and I have shared with many folks. The total diary covers about one month. He explored Glacier NP with John Muir and others and then this trip was taken with a guide named Monroe.
In addition I have included two photos that show you some of the signage we have created (author Aaron Parrett pictured) and a photo of our new amphitheater. (John N. Maclean pictured) Your generous grant gave the NMFSH some basic information and background to begin building our trail and site.