Bringing History to Life – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Bringing History to Life

Kim Parkhurst ’11 has the opportunity to make history come alive this summer, as an intern at Ganondagan State Historic Site, just southeast of Rochester, N.Y.

Ganondagan was the site of a large 17th-century community of Seneca people of the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois Confederacy, which was destroyed by the French in 1687. Currently, the site serves to give visitors a sense of what life was like for the community who once lived there.

Parkhurst has had a passion for Native American studies, and has completed extensive coursework on the subject as an anthropology and sociology major. She is currently planning to pursue a graduate degree in Native American studies. With the help of Lana Cao at the Salisbury Center for Career Services, she was able to find this internship, which enables her to gain anthropological work experience while continuing to learn about her specific area of interest.

At the site, Parkhurst is responsible for facilitating activities for large visiting groups from schools and senior clubs. She shows visitors the full-size replica of the 17th century Seneca bark longhouse which contains period clothing, cookware and utensils, blankets and bedding. She also explains daily and family life, trade, politics, warfare, hunting and agricultural practices of the Iroquois. Parkhurst teaches games, tells Seneca stories, and gives guided tours of the walking trails around the site where she identifies several of the plants and trees which were used by the Seneca for food, medicine, or other purposes such as dyes and building materials.

While she is not busy hosting visitors at the center, Parkhurst reads and conducts research about the Haudenosaunee, particularly the Seneca, another important aspect of working at a historic site.

“This experience has given me a much more in-depth look at the life and culture of the Haudenosaunee people. I really like working at the site; I think it stands out from traditional museums. We try to set up the longhouse so that people feel like they’re stepping into the 17th century, and I think by doing that we give visitors a better picture of what life was like in that time period than if we simply showed them artifacts behind glass.”