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Volunteers help out at W.Va. park

April 21, 1997

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - Volunteer soldiers once fought for Harpers Ferry during the Civil War.

Now it's volunteers like microbiologist Suzanne Isaacson, 25, of Harpers Ferry, who help present the history of the town to National Park Service visitors.

"This is a really, really special place," Isaacson said. "It holds a special place in the country's history. I think the volunteers really care about this place."

On Sunday, 10 volunteers took part in an annual training program to help them present living history programs and other aspects of visitors service.

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The living history workers of the park operate 19th-century historic exhibits in the dry goods store, ready-made clothing store, blacksmith shop, military provost office and tavern.

Many of them dress in civilian clothing or military uniforms of the Civil War era to help lend a historic atmosphere to the park and to tell the dramatic stories of the past, National Park Service officials said.

Jon Isaacson, 29, the husband of Suzanne Isaacson, said he and his wife have helped out in everything from serving as living history re-enactors to helping move museum exhibits away from rising flood waters. "Volunteers at the National Park Service have been devoted partners in all aspects of park management," said Catherine Bragaw of the Harpers Ferry National Park's living history division.

John King, supervisor of the living history division, said there's only a small, permanent staff at the park. The park relies heavily on the volunteers, who donate thousands of hours to Harpers Ferry.

"There's always a need for volunteers," King said.

The volunteers in living history use a wide-range of items to teach history, he said. At the dry goods store, they may point out how sewing machines were a part of the industrial revolution, King said.

Brian King, 27, of Harpers Ferry, said he decided to volunteer because of his love of history.

"This is a way I could get into history by helping others learn history," he said.

In addition to living history volunteers, Harpers Ferry uses volunteers to operate the visitor center, the information center, and park museums, where they answer questions and greet visitors, park officials said.

Volunteers also work behind the scenes in the park library and research center, cataloging books, entering information into the library's database, and research, officials said.

Anyone interested in volunteering at Harpers Ferry can call David Fox, volunteer coordinator, at 1-304-535-6282.

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