One of the more interesting national park interpretive programs I've run across down through the years was a collection of oral histories that could be listened to in some homestead cabins in the Cataloochee area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
It was fascinating to hear the Cataloochee residents, in their own words, discuss the coming of the national park and life as they knew it in the valley.
Now, thanks to a $10,000 grant from the National Park Foundation, a cultural resource specialist at Blue Ridge Parkway will be able to interview some of the workers who helped build the parkway back in the 1930s and 1940s.
Steven Kidd is using the grant to not just record interviews with any Civil Conservation Corps alumni who worked on the parkway, but with a diverse cross-section of those workers.
According to a story in the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation newsletter, "(I)ncluded in these are culturally diverse groups traditionally not associated with the parkway, including African-American communities, some of whom worked in racially segregated CCC camps, Cherokees who formerly lived in areas where the southern terminus of the parkway lies, and the descendants of Italian-American and Spanish-American stone masons brought from Europe to construct the intricate stone-work associated with the parkway's bridges, walls, and overlooks."
To complete the interviews and transcription, the parkway has enlisted the services of Dr. Heidi Altman, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Georgia Southern University. Dr. Altman has considerable experience working with the Eastern Cherokee in such areas as language revitalization. Her experience in Appalachian culture with her emphasis on the Cherokee language made her a perfect match for this project.