Summer Travels

July 7, 2010

Government publications are more than just books. Guest blogger Kelly Seifert reminds us that maps and guides can be just as engrossing, especially at this time of year.

If you’re planning on doing some travel around the country this summer, you can start your planning with the National Parks System Map and Guide. It features a map of the United States, including Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, showing the locations of parks, historic sites, and other properties operated by the National Park Service. On the reverse side, an alphabetical list of each National Park System property describes its activities, services, and facilities. If you’re planning on exploring any of the 391 destinations of the National Parks Service this summer, this is an essential take along. You can also easily access this publication by visiting your local Federal depository library. Locate a library in your area here.

To make your trip complete, check out these other great publications as well: 1) the National Trails System: Map and Guide, which includes descriptions of national historic and scenic trails, and 2) the National Wildlife Refuge System: A Visitor’s Guide, which contains a map showing national wildlife refuges that provide recreational and educational opportunities. The Visitor’s Guide also provides tips for visiting national wildlife refuges and lists refuges in all 50 States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, along with the best wildlife viewing season and the features of each refuge.

Why leave the country for a little R&R when there are so many national treasures right on your doorstep? Happy Travels!

Clara Barton: Clara Barton National Historic Site, Maryland

April 21, 2010

It’s National Parks Week, which made me think about the National Park Service’s long-running Handbook series. Although I enjoy any and all national parks, I tend to seek out those with archaeological or historical connections. Research reveals that the Park Service began publishing its Historical Handbook series in 1949. Although the original handbooks in the series are out of print (you can find a list and cover images here), the series continues today.

A favorite of mine is the Clara Barton Historical Site and its accompanying Handbook. For one thing, the site is in Glen Echo, Maryland, which for residents of the Washington, DC area means Glen Echo Park, another favorite Park Service place. For years it was an amusement park, and remnants of those days remain, as does a carousel and a ballroom for dancing.  It’s worth a visit all by itself.

The Barton house presents quite a contrast. Originally built from timber scavenged from the Johnstown flood for use as a storage depot for Red Cross supplies, in 1897 it became both the headquarters of the American Red Cross and the home of its founder, Clara Barton. (Visiting the site on a hot summer day always makes me wonder what life was like in this rather humid area before air conditioning). The size of this 38-room house, the rooms themselves, and the dark pine paneling all conjure up life in a unique turn-of-the century home/office/volunteer center dedicated to helping victims of disaster at home and abroad.

The Clara Barton Handbook presents the story of the house, the person, and the organization concisely and lucidly. Like all of the Park Service handbooks, it’s also a quality product in design. If you’re planning a visit, or just want to learn more about this remarkable place, I’d recommend it.

You can find a list of Handbooks, including quite a few that cover historical parks, here.

Charley Harper Posters

April 7, 2010

It’s easy to become blasé about the things you deal with on the job. For years, I’ve been seeing a variety of National Park Service posters whose design was along similar lines. They depicted stylized birds and animals, evoking, at least for me, a sort of Native American sensibility. I admit, though, that this is more thought than I actually put into them. If asked, I would have surmised vaguely that the stylistic resemblance was due to some kind of “look” the Park Service was trying to achieve, rather than because they were the work of a particular artist.

Recently, we reprinted a number of these posters and our content acquisition staff kept referring to them as “Charley Harper” posters. Then we got an inquiry from the depository library side of the house about “Charley Harper” posters. My first response: Who’s he? Well, Charley Harper (1922-2007) was a noted American artist, particularly esteemed for his wildlife posters, prints, and illustrations in a style he described as “minimal realism.” He’s also an eminently collectible artist, so once again Government publications suddenly appear in a new guise,  far removed from the tired old stereotype.

These posters are sold by stores in the various national parks and also are available from GPO. It’s easy to pick them out! To see all of the posters and handbooks produced by our Park Service colleagues in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, go here, where you’ll also find a link to the various parks associations that sell Park Service products.

March Madness

March 30, 2010

College basketball playoffs are wildly popular and followed by millions of fans, including some in our office. Last year, we came up with the idea of doing a “Sweet 16” playoff of Government publications on GPO’s online bookstore. After working with our web support team, which is both creative and very patient, we launched our first playoff last year. We sent out a message to all of our customers who have requested information about our products and sat back to see if anything would happen. It did! By the time our “tournament” was over, we received more than 139,000 votes and a mention in the New York Times business blog.

I think this proves that Government publications have fans, and highly motivated fans at that. The winner? You can find it here.

Now it’s March again, and this year it’s a National Parks Playoff, featuring eight National Park Service handbooks and eight posters by the noted artist Charley Harper (who will be the subject of a future posting here). If you get a chance, stop by and vote!

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