Monday, November 23, 2009

Ellis Island and the Ranger jones.

Saturday I attended volunteer training at Ellis Island, through Save Ellis Island, and I have to say, I'm pretty pumped about being involved. SEI is charged with preserving and restoring the southern side of the island, which contains the hospitals that held and cured immigrants too ill to be admitted to the country immediately. The vast majority of the buildings are unrestored and sitting idle; the only one to be opened to the public so far is the ferry building that was the final stop for immigrants on their way to New York after having successfully gone through processing in the main building. Primarily, the tour uses that building as a place to show materials from the hospital and provide a brief history.

The volunteer coordinators were downright thrilled to have us there, and they emphasized that we weren't expected to know everything immediately. In fact, to supplement the big packet of information they provided, they anticipate that each volunteer will work side-by-side with an experienced guide a few times before going out on our own. And given that we are considered to be National Park Service volunteers, we've also got to go through NPS training, too.

You'll recall that a few months ago, I went to the Island and took the tour, which I found to be pretty boring by comparison to what I expected. While Saturday's public tour covered the same locations, the guide himself provided a much more interesting and informative narrative. He emphasized more of the people aspect, noting the great work and caring of the doctors, nurses and others who provided top-notch care in the island's hospital. I'll have the opportunity to add my own perspectives to the tours I give. The Save Ellis Island people provide a basic tour outline and some information, but they anticipate that each of us will craft our own tour, based on our own interests or backgrounds. My luck, to my knowledge, none of my ancestors went through Ellis Island; my grandparents found out that only Steerage passengers went to the island, so they paid for second class passage so they'd go through the registration process onboard the ship they took to get here. Still, though, maybe there's something to be drawn from that, and who knows what else I might be able to dig up on my own or with others.

The Park Service volunteer benefits appear pretty generous -- discounts for the gift shop and food vendor on the island, plus some pull at other National Parks. (Now that I'm thinking about it, maybe that can be my key through some locked doors at Sandy Hook, and maybe some fun stuff at the Edison site.) Dork that I am, I'm also tickled to get an official volunteer patch for my shirt, and after I've put some time in, I'll get an ID badge and official shirt, too. The one downer is that we don't get the Smokey Bear hat; that's for the exclusive use of rangers. (How sad am I, I ask you.)

From a vocational perspective, I'll get a share of real-life experience on dealing with the touring public, given that I'll also be staffing the SEI information desk next to the Park Service desk before and after my tours. A ranger will nearly always be nearby, so I'll also be able to get their perspectives, too.

As of now, I start on December 3 and have a couple of other days booked, too.

1 comment:

  1. I am pretty sure that my ancestors, the Festa's and the McGoran's passed through Ellis. Although the McGoran's may have come by way of Canada from Ireland...Look forward to your first day on the island.