Tom and I have settled into a work routine here at Fort Necessity. He spends every work day as a soldier, talking to people and firing a musket. My routine is more varied: one or two days every work week doing living history and the other days behind the desk at the Fort Necessity Visitors Center.
I like working in the Fort Necessity Visitors Center. I like being the first point of contact for the people coming in. The Fort Necessity Visitors Center is relatively new, built in 2005. It is spacious and well-designed. The desk is just to the left of the entrance to the building and people have to go through the building to get to the Fort. When people are coming in the door, an electronic bell dings so I can count them and be ready to greet them when they get in.
This is a very nice Visitors Center. The restrooms are large, modern and kept very clean by the maintenance crew. The Museum is huge with many interesting displays. There is a large classroom for field trips and even a distance learning classroom. All the interpretation offices are upstairs. Large storage closets can accommodate all the things we need in the Vistors Center. The Eastern National Bookstore and Giftshop has plenty of room to display an interesting collection of items. We have a 75 seat auditorium where the park movie plays every half hour.
One of the unusual features of the Fort Necessity Visitors Center is the large playground just outside. Built in the shape of Fort Necessity, this is a favorite place for families with children. School and Scout groups also head right toward it. Some of the rangers don’t like having a playground, but I think it is one more way to connect people to the park.
As the first contact person to visitors, I get to give them a synopsis of the park and tell them what there is to see and do. If they come in with no idea about the park I tell them “This is where 22 year old British Colonel George Washington started the French and Indian War.” That is the pocket synopsis. I can also tell them a lot more details, but the Fort Necessity Visitors Center gives them a much larger picture.
Our movie is very good, taking people from the first skirmish at Jumonville Glenn through the history of the National Road in 20 minutes. That’s a lot of history in a short period of time! The museum has some interactive displays and enough room for full-size models of people talking about various experiences.
The first thing people see when the come into the Fort Necessity Visitors Center is a life-sized model of Tanacharison, an ally of George Washington. He welcomes people to the park with these words: “Brethren, you came a great way to visit us. Many sorts of evils might have befallen you by the way which might have been hurtful to your eyes and inward parts, for the Woods are full of evil spirits. We give you this string of wampum to clear up your eyes and mind and remove all the bitterness of your spirit that you may hear us speak in good cheer.”
I really like this greeting. It speaks for me at the Fort Necessity Visitors Center. Some people have had a hard time getting to us. Some people don’t want to come. And others don’t know what they are getting into. By visiting and interacting with the park, I hope that our visitors are able to hear us speak in good cheer.