Emphasizing their 100th anniversary, Glacier National Park adopted the slogan, “research, discover, preserve, celebrate- be part of the legacy.” David Hsiung, professor of history, was called upon to be part of Glacier’s legacy. This summer, Hsiung lived at Glacier as a historian in residence to research the park’s history and help promote a diverse way of public interaction. He shares his experience:
Did you view the PBS national park series? What did you think about it?
I watched parts of it; it was 47 hours long so I only saw bits and pieces. It featured gorgeous photography and I knew some of the talking heads and historians. It was neat seeing them on camera. These beautiful, thoughtful ideas just come flowing out of their mouths.
Do you feel that America places enough importance on their National Park system?
At one level, Americans don’t value the parks enough in that they are under-funded. Every park has infrastructure, bridges and visitors’ centers that are falling apart. There needs to be a huge infusion of money. In another sense, Americans love the parks almost to death. The crush of people, air pollution caused by vehicles, solid waste generated by coffee cups and trash are putting a strain on parks that in some places, they can’t handle.
What does it mean to be a historian in residence at Glacier?
They gave me housing and I volunteered my time to help the park. Their staff members weren’t really trained historians, so I used my skills to research and write 10 mini-biographies for the students of schools that come into the park during the school year. It was fun doing the research, but doing the writing was agony. I had to keep it two pages max for each mini-biography.
What surprised you the most about your job? Was it the experience or the information that you uncovered that left you with the greatest impression?
The greatest impression was probably the location. I had not been to Glacier before and I enjoyed the enormity of the place, the mountains, the majestic peaks, the beautiful trails where I would have to ‘schooch’ to the side of the trail so a mountain goat could go by. That was great! Sadly, they predict that by 2020 there wont be any more glaciers there.
The other memorable thing was that my boss at Glacier was an old buddy who I first worked with in the Panhandle of Alaska in 1986. To reconnect with him, share old times and insult each other again and go on hikes together again, was great. He’s the reason that Juniata has a connection to Glacier.
If you had the power to create a national park, where would it be, what would it entail and what would it be called?
The kinds of parks I’ve been mentioning are natural wonders. However, probably more visitors go to historic sites like Gettysburg and the Statue of Liberty then go to some of the scenic parks. So I think some sort of national park site based on history would be my choice. Maybe the racial discrimination and oppression between the end of the civil war and the civil rights movement. Perhaps I would name it after Ida B. Wells.
-Erin Kreischer ’13, Juniata Online Journalist