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Help Ken Burns Chronicle the Parks


    In the fall of 2009 PBS will air The National Parks, a major documentary film series produced and directed by Ken Burns and written and produced by Dayton Duncan.
   But now they are asking for your help. Their film series is not a travelogue or a “nature” film; it will tell the very powerful, human story of how the parks came into being and what they have meant to Americans for more than a hundred years.  It will be filled with major historical figures — from John Muir to Theodore Roosevelt to Ansel Adams — but it will also tell the stories of many lesser-known Americans, from cowboys to immigrant artists, wealthy philanthropists to dirt-poor  farmers who turned their passion for a part of the American landscape into crusades for their permanent protection. 
    And as it tells the story of this very uniquely American, very democratic idea of setting aside special places for the benefit and enjoyment of everyone, it will reveal a larger story of people passing on a love for these special places from one generation to another.
    To help them tell this story, they would like to collect home movies of visits to National Parks by families and individuals for possible use in the film. They are looking for home movies from the time period of the 1920s through the 1980s and are most interested in footage of families and tourists in the parks.

    If your home movies are used in The National Parks, you will receive a DVD of the series. If you happen to have footage of the Yosemite firefall and it is included in the series, you will receive the DVD, plus your choice of one other Ken Burns film. If you have home movies you would like to submit, please follow the criteria listed below.
    * Home movies from the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s.
    * They are most interested in families and tourists in the national parks, not scenery without people.
    * Do not send original footage: VHS or DVD copies only, please. THE MATERIAL WILL NOT BE RETURNED.
    * Clearly mark the tape or disc with your name, address, phone number and e-mail (if available), so they can contact you if your footage is selected.
    * Include a brief description, e.g., the Smith family, George and Martha, Bill and Sally, in Grand Canyon, 1955.
    * Send to the address below by August 1, 2007:
    Anne Harrington
    2775 S. Quincy Street
    Arlington, VA 22206


Orson Burlingame, your grandfather, not your uncle, was my great grandfather. His oldest child from his first marriage, Helen Virginia Burlingame Taylor, was my grandmother. Her son, George Orson Taylor, was my father. I would love to know more about the family from the years in Tennessee and North Carolina. My dad talked often of his boyhood visits to Hazel Creek, and we have a few photos from that time. A framed photo that I have kept for many years is one of Great grandfather Orson sitting in a rocker in the yard of the house at Hazel Creek. At least I think that is where the house was located.

Right now I am living in Chattanooga. I moved here with my parents in June of 2006, to take care of them for the duration of their lives. My mom, Margaret, passed away in September of 2008, and George a year later in October, 2009. When we first moved here from Mobile, AL, Dad got in touch with Orson by phone, and he occasionally talked about driving over to see him, but we never did. My father was actually older than Orson, even though technically Orson was his uncle. Really, half-uncle, since my grandmother Helen and the younger Orson had different mothers.

I see that this posting is three years old, but I'm hoping it still finds you. Please let me know if you read this. Thanks!

I have some photographs from a flight in '05 of the top of Denali. It was an unusual year as the mountain was visible both from the train and from the flight

My GreatGrandfather, Senator John Conness, US senate 1863-1869,the Junior Senator from California introduced the Yosemite Grant legislation into the US Senate. The was the first preservation of Yosemite Valley and the Wawona Grove of Giant Sequoias. He was a member of Abraham Lincoln's "Kitchen Cabinet" and urged Linclon to sign this. It was signed in March of 1864. While this was not my greatgrandfathers original idea he did introduce, and lobby for it in the middle of the Civil War.
I hope you have acknowledged this in your film. Mt Conness is on the eastern boundry of the Currrent Yosemite National Park just north of Tioga Pass. It was named for John Conness by the Whitney survey party earlier. John Conness was a member of the California Assembly in the 1850's and responsible for the state legislation that formed and funded the Whitney Party to map the eastern boundry of California. Naturally Whitney named the highest peak for himself.

One of the elements that might be considered when searching for who we are as Americans should look at who we first set out to be. In the preamble to our constitution for instance, we are betrothed to insure “Domestic Tranquility”....what does that mean?...what should it mean?...what does it currently mean to many? Is anyone really working to "insure" it?

Personally I feel that if we hold fast to who we have set out to be, and to include insuring domestic tranquility in that equation, it needs to be defined better so that we would all make sure that we protect it.

So this is the premise for what I think could be a great movie by Ken Burns. Maybe it is a documentary where Americans are asked to give their definition of domestic tranquility. Maybe it would include historic intentions and definitions. To me domestic tranquility is nature...protected...the ability to venture out and be a lone human in a vast, native, and natural landscape. It is a National Park...but it is more that that.

You (Ken Burns) would be great at presenting the “domestic tranquility” thing in some way. I feel that it could be a strong platform from which to launch nationwide support for the protection of wilderness, space.

PS...seeing the preview of your series last night at the Emerson inspired me to share this.

Back in the early 1990s, I met a National Park Service ranger named Donald Scott. He was quite interested that I was the chapter advisor for the Sigma Chi chapter at UC Berkeley. It turns out that when Stephen T. Mather held the conference to write the National Parks Act, he did it at Cal and had the congressmen and other dignitaries stay at the fraternity house. Mather was an alumnus of the house and very proud of his association with both Sigma Chi and the Park Service. As it is told in the history of the park service, Mather wanted to have a collegial, symposia type atmosphere during the conference. At one point he had the undergraduate brothers do a football cheer, much to the horror of the conference participants.

The house still stands on the same spot today. The same place where Mather built it back in the 1910s.

In Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado, many old Hispano families claim their land grants were stolen and are now managed by the National Parks System. Will your documentary cover this? Latinos say you have a blind-spot to their history in this country. This seems like a good opportunity to make up for it.


Sounds like you have some great footage. While the deadline was last August, you might try to contact the folks at WETA in Arlington, Virginia.

Good luck!

I have 8mm film of our family's trip to Yosemite National Park in the Summer of 1954. What's intersting about this film is that while we were there Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz and crew were filming scenes form their 1954 movie the Long Trailer. You can clearly see Lucy in this film (from a distance) you can't miss her red hair. Although only a few minutes of footage it was one of the highpoints of our vacation at Yosemite and one I always remember whenever the Long Trailer is on TV. My father shot lots of film at Yosemite and the beauty of Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, the Mercer River are all captured on film. I also have film of our family vacation to Seqouia National Park in 1955. Many scenes of the giant trees (the General Sherman) and other scenes. Scenes of bears (fairly close) and people feeding a buck (four-pointer) from their hands. Lots of great stuff. Lots of footage of our family also (this trip was 3 families of relatives, 11 kids ages 5 to 13, 7 adults, including grandma). Is it too late to submit some of this film for consideration in Ken Burns upcoming documentary?

John Correia
9441 Winding River Way
Elk Grove, CA.

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