“We are better able to move forward by learning from what came before,” says Stacey Nadeau, the supervisor of historical interpretation at the Virginia Museum of the Civil War in New Market. “If we don’t, we will fumble with what’s to come.”
Due to her firm belief in the importance of remembering the past, Nadeau is grateful for Park Day, an annual nationwide event in which volunteers help maintain and preserve local Civil War battlefields.
“We so appreciate everyone who turns out,” she says. “We appreciate every moment.”
This year’s Park Day will start at 9:30 a.m. April 6 at the New Market battlefield. The day will begin with a brief speech given by Nadeau about the history and significance of the site. The group will then head over to the section of the field requiring attention. This year, same as last, the volunteers will be working on an area known as the “Bloody Cedars.”
According to Nadeau, it earned its nickname due to the fierce fighting that occurred on the spot during the Battle of New Market. Volunteers will spend the next few hours clearing the land of tiny tree seedlings and small cedar trees.
Without this maintenance, Nadeau says the cedars would quickly overtake the land. She believes preserving the battlefield’s appearance is crucial to the museum’s objective.
“Our goal here is to make history come to life, to take it beyond the pages in a book,” she explains. “When all your senses get involved in the learning process, your learning really goes deeper.”
Nadeau openly acknowledges that this goal would never be possible without the museum’s volunteers.
“They move us forward in a direction that we might not otherwise be able to go in,” she says.
This year, one of those volunteers will be Autumn Quinn, a senior at Bridgewater College. As the Vice President of Service for her fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, it is her responsibility to provide her chapter with service opportunities, both at school and in the community. She estimates about 20 members will be attending Park Day, and says she is excited to work with the “very inviting” museum staff. She thinks participating in Park Day will be a great way “to honor those who have served for the greater good of humanity.”
Nadeau agrees that the day honors those who served, but insists the event is not a solemn occasion.
“We honor them [the soldiers] but we don’t have to be long-faced,” she says. “It’s a day of good fellowship with people who share a passion for history.”
Nadeau recommends bringing children to the event, adding that a local Cub Scout group will be attending. She believes working on a historical site at a young age can lead to a life-long interest in history, and remarks that one of her most active teenage volunteers started out volunteering as a child.
“When you work at a site and help it with your sweat and your labor, then every time you drive by it, you remember it,” she says. “It strengthens the ties and deepens the connections [to the place].”
Contact Katie King at (540) 574-6271 or firstname.lastname@example.org.