About Homestead

Hola de nuevo! I have been an intern at the Homestead National Monument of America in Nebraska for about two weeks now. Now that I have been here a while and have gotten the hang of things (though I’m still learning), I thought it would be a good time to talk about the park. Specifically, why it was created, what it represents, and my duties as a Latino Heritage Intern.

The Homestead National Monument of America is about an hour’s drive south of Lincoln, Nebraska, and is located four miles outside the small town of Beatrice. Homestead is built on the land that once belonged to Daniel Freeman, the first person to file a claim under the Homestead Act of 1862. The park has three main buildings. The first and largest is the Heritage Center, which sits at the top of a hill and overlooks 100 acres of tallgrass prairie and a small forest. The Heritage Center is shaped like the scythe that would have once been used to cultivate these lands. This building houses the park’s main museum, which includes a twenty-minute film as well as a number of computers where visitors can look through Homestead records to see if their family were homesteaders. The entrance to the building is lined with visual representations of the thirty states in the U.S. that were homesteaded under the Act.

The second building, and the one that I have been spending most of my time at, is the Education Center. Currently, this part of the park has three exhibits. Two of them focus on the one-room school. The first features a collection of photographs of one-room schools from around the country, while the other exhibit includes quilts about one-room schools made by local Nebraska quilters. A more permanent exhibit on the groups is the one on farm implements, which displays the 19th century tools that would have been used to cultivate the prairie lands. The Education Center also houses most of the administrative offices for the park’s rangers.

The last and smallest of the park’s buildings is the Freeman School, located about a third of a mile from the Education Center. The Freeman School was built in 1872, and served as a school and gathering place for the community. It was in operation until 1967, after which the park acquired it in 1970. One of my duties as the LHIP intern is to open the school for visitors. I usually take advantage of the beautiful Nebraska weather and walk to the school from the Education Center. Once there, I unlock the doors, open the windows, and wait for visitors who wish to see the school from the inside.

Half of my duties at this park are in visitor services, meaning that I work from the Education Center. I greet guests arriving at the park, explain the exhibits, and answer questions (or direct them to a ranger). I also take them to the Freeman School if they wish to see it when it is not open. I attend ranger meetings, do training activities, and help with events that are happening at the park. The other half of my duties is working on an oral history project that the park has started. However, my arrival coincided with planning for the park’s biggest event of the summer, this weekend: Homestead Days. Once that event passes, I anticipate I will have more time to work on the history project.

Hasta la próxima!

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