Pipe Spring National Monument treats Tom and I just like regular rangers. We get assigned the same shifts and duties as the rangers. Tom and I really like this because there isn’t a ranger vs. volunteer hierarchy. We feel valued for what we know and what we can do. Being treated as rangers means that we are each assigned a collateral duty.
Collateral duties are areas of interest or ability that we are in charge of here at the monument. Generally they are behind the scenes jobs that need to be done but no one notices unless they aren’t. We had a chance, at the beginning of our season, to volunteer for the duties we wanted. Tom volunteered to fix things, especially historical items used for living history. I volunteered for costuming.
In our fruit loops schedule, we have time for our collateral duties. Most of my collateral duty time is spent creating or fixing living history costumes. There isn’t any room for sewing in the Visitors Center or even the Living History storage area. So I work in the library in Headquarters.
Unfortunately, the park doesn’t have its own working sewing machine. The previous costumer brought her own machine. Ranger Sarah brought a small but sturdy little sewing machine and she is graciously letting me use it until the park can buy one of its own. So I set up the sewing machine and an ironing board and iron in the library. I use the big table to cut out materials. Having to set up and clean up every day means that I don’t spend as much time sewing as I would like. But it is better than working in the RV.
So far I have made three costume items from scratch: a bonnet for Melonie, a divided riding skirt for Miranda, and a pinafore apron for Sara. I spend most of my time fixing or altering costumes. Some of the activities we do in living history are hard on the clothing. I shorten skirts and petticoats, repair pants and suspenders, and sew on buttons. I also research what is historically accurate for the time and place. For instance: zippers were not widely used in clothing until the 1930’s, so totally inappropriate for 1870. Button fly Levis are fine, zippered Levis are not.
I enjoy my time doing my collateral duty. I turn on a playlist from my iPhone and happily work all afternoon. Helping someone feel comfortable in their living history clothing is satisfying. I also like figuring out how to alter a piece so that someone new can wear it. And making something from a plain piece of cloth that fits a ranger perfectly is a delight. My collateral duty is another way I get to use my skills to help the national parks.