Five Questions With returns! In this series, I’m talking with colleagues, social media friends, and others I admire to learn some tricks of the trade, hear their stories, and introduce you to more preservationists. While the first three interviews have been with preservation friends I’ve made through social media, #4 is a graduate classmate of mine. I love making the world smaller and meeting friends who are doing inspiring work.
Introducing interview #4: Katie Miller!Katie Miller is one of the hardest working people I know, and one who is extremely dedicated to and excels at historic preservation. I thought you all might like to meet Katie and learn about her career with the National Park Service. It’s taken her to Massachusetts, New Mexico, Wyoming, and now Alaska. She has a B.A. in Cultural & Historic Preservation from Salve Regina University and M.S. in Historic Preservation from the University of Vermont. Read on for Katie’s interview and to see some beautiful photographs.
1. Katie, let’s start with the basics. What triggered your desire to work for the National Park Service?
I grew up on Cape Cod, where I managed to find an internship working with the museum at the national seashore. Instantly, I was attracted to the agency’s mission to protect not only its historic resources, but the collective natural and historic environment for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of the public. I also loved working with a group of invested, good-hearted, passionate, hard-working people.
2. You’ve had multiple positions with the NPS? Would you tell me about them?
After my internship at the Cape Cod National Seashore, I then drove to the opposite coast to work in the archives at Yosemite National Park in California.
In graduate school, I worked with the Cultural Landscapes Inventory Program at a NPS regional office in Santa Fe, New Mexico. After completing my coursework, the region stationed me at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
After the funding ran out for my position, I stayed with Grand Teton for as long as I could as a volunteer working on several projects, including historic furnishings reports, compliance reports, and an iPhone app. for self-guided history tours.
For two years, I worked as an architectural historian with a cultural resource management firm that received contracts from the NPS. There, I worked on National Register documentation for a few personally exciting historic sites, including Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia, the Appalachian Trail (which extends from Georgia to Maine), Great Smokey Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina, and Marsh-Billings National Historical Site in Vermont.
Now, I work directly for the NPS in the Alaska Regional Office as a historian.
3. Tell me about your job duties with the Alaska Regional Office.
It’s located in Anchorage, the state’s largest city, population-wise. As a historian, I write national register nominations, historic structures reports, and coordinate future cultural resource projects for national parks throughout the state. Alaska is a considerably sized area. If it were transposed over the contiguous United States (they call it the “lower 48” here), Alaska’s body would encompass most of the Mid-West and its tails would extend from Sacramento, California, to Savannah, Georgia.4. What was it like to pick up and move to Alaska (from Rhode Island) and how do you describe living in Alaska?
I love working for the NPS. With full support from my family, the move was very easy. My father drove with me, all 5,000+ miles between Massachusetts and Alaska.
The state has mountains that meet the ocean; long stretches of darkness and lightness; the world’s most adorable animals — otters and puffins; inspiring Native Alaskan culture; and colorful auroras. I also get to work with some of the most wonderful people in the universe.5. What advice would you offer to new/aspiring preservationists?
Don’t underestimate the power of an internship – it’s the perfect opportunity to identify your interests. If you’d like to work with the NPS, I encourage you to look into the Student Conservation Association and the National Council for Preservation Education Internships. Also — if you’re passionate about something, take the risk. It will be worth it.
Thank you, Katie. Your photographs and your travels are beautiful. We’re proud to have preservationists like you who are dedicated to the National Park Service. Enjoy Alaska!