- Associated Press - Friday, June 19, 2015

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) - Grand Teton National Park’s many pinnacled peaks grace the postcards a million tourists send around the world each year. They are what attract so many here, what converted some to residents, what helped inspire the conservation movement.

But the park and its peaks and lakes, forests and sage plains also contain stories - some well known, some less familiar, some still waiting to be told - and that is the purview of Bridgette Guild, Grand Teton’s museum curator, archives and library manager and tribal liaison.

“I see the overlap between the natural and the cultural,” Guild said, conversing across a picnic table in the shade of the park’s new administrative center at Moose. “The culture through our museum collection tells the story of the management of the natural resources.”

Guild, who is just shy of 42, grew up in Michigan and came West in 1991 to attend the University of Montana, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education. After teaching for a few years she went to Bozeman to renew her teaching certificate at Montana State. In doing so she took a history class that inspired a career change.

“I loved it,” she said of the class. “I decided to apply for a graduate program at Montana State and did the history program there.”

While still in grad school she got her foot in the door of the National Park Service working in Yellowstone National Park’s Heritage and Research Center in Gardiner, Montana.

“I’d do my four 10s” - a work week of four 10-hour days - “then go back to Bozeman to write my thesis,” she said. “I was in my late 20s, so I had more stamina.”

That led to contract work in Yellowstone and eventually a four-year position that stretched to 10 years.

In 2013 the position of museum curator opened up in Grand Teton National Park. When Guild was with Yellowstone she had on a couple of occasions worked with Grand Teton’s well-known David T. Vernon Indian Arts Collection, “so I knew the background of the collection,” she said.

But when the Teton position opened, she said, she and her husband, James - who works in construction and with whom she has a son, Cooper, 6, who just finished second grade at Kelly Elementary School - had to seriously think about it.

“I love the Park Service,” Guild said. “It’s the career of my dreams. But I hadn’t thought of being one of those Park Service employees that climbs the ladder and moves to multiple parks - that’s the way it is; you go where the jobs are - but I didn’t want to have that lifestyle. I’m not in my 20s. I want to put down roots.”

But they are rafters and skiers, she said, and they had some friends here already, “so we decided to go for it.”

There’s certainly no shortage of work. Her curatorial duties extend to everything from the park’s small research library to 90 or so works of art by artists who date to the early days of the park, and, indeed, the National Park Service. Among them are William Henry Jackson, Thomas Moran and Grand Teton’s first official photographer, Harrison Crandall.

“His family just donated three of his cameras” to the park, she said.

Starting in the ‘50s, Guild said, the Grand Teton Association began to secure works by contemporary artists such as John Clymer, Conrad Schweiring and Greg McHuron.

“He has close connections to the park,” Guild said of the late McHuron, who used to also make signs for Grand Teton. In fact the Craig Thomas Visitor and Discovery Center displays some of McHuron’s signage.

And there are other collections that require management: geologic specimens, examples of the birds and animals that live in the park, an herbarium of more than 5,000 items, a collection of climbing artifacts and records. Some of these are on display in the Craig Thomas Center, but most are not.

There’s also the park’s archive - a vast collection that adds up to about 750 linear feet of nonpublished material: administrative records; contracts, correspondences and brochures from concessionaires; historic maps and photos; and summit registers.

Before 2005 or so the archive was scattered around the park, but now, thanks to archivists from the Park Service’s Intermountain regional offi ce, it’s in one spot, albeit in town. This summer Guild hopes to bring it together in the park, where it will be easier for researchers to access and search. Eventually, she said, parts may be digitized and made searchable online for wider public access.

A good part of the Vernon Collection - 1,400 or so items representing about 100 Native American tribes - remains in storage in Tucson, Arizona, awaiting a Teton museum to protect and display it. Guild said she has a summer intern who is working on the history of Vernon, his collection and how the Rockefellers, through the Jackson Hole Preserve, helped acquire it and donate it to the park.

“We’re working with his son, Kit Vernon, on making sure we get it correct, and he’s elated,” Guild said. “He’s sending forms from his father that we’ll copy and send back.”

And archaeological work continues in the Tetons, both in the backcountry and the frontcountry. As discoveries are made tribes are brought in to consult.

By treaty 24 tribes are affiliated with Grand Teton National Park. Staying in touch and forging and maintaining meaningful relations with them is a constant project, one that takes a careful, personal touch.

“What the title (tribal) liaison infers is being the conduit between the two entities” - the Park Service and a given tribe - “but also trying to build respect and that relationship with specifi c people, not just the office,” Guild said. “If we really want their input, we have to show that, we have to let them know. And they hear that … I think it has worked.”

For a historian with an outdoor bent, Grand Teton is a great fit for Guild.

“It’s a geological park, established because of landscape,” she said, “but because of the cultural landscape, the cultural resources are so rich.”

The problem is there’s no single facility to house it all.


Information from: Jackson Hole (Wyo.) News And Guide, https://www.jhnewsandguide.com

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