Volunteers are the heart and soul of the Empire Mine State Historic Park and are the human faces that make our beautiful park come alive. Generally speaking, historic parks need interpretation more than natural and recreational parks do. Natural parks, typically encompassing spectacular or outstandingly scenic natural features, may be enjoyed aesthetically by most visitors regardless of whether they understand the geologic, biologic or historic phenomena underlying them. Although this historic park has great aesthetic appeal much of it cannot be greatly appreciated without some explanation of who lived and worked here and what occurred here.
As a volunteer you will be working under the Department of Parks and Recreation's Volunteer in Parks program (VIP) which provides support to State Park personnel in three categories: Interpretation, Administration, and Facilities/Grounds/Trails. The activities in each category are listed below.
Interpretation: Volunteers, called docents or interpreters interpret the cultural, natural and rec-reational resources of the Empire Mine SHP. They spend a good deal of time in the public eye. Jobs or activities in this category are as follows:
a. Tours and Stations: Lead complete tours of the Park or give interpretive talks at various stations.
b. Gift Shop: Greet visitors, provide information, and sell merchandise.
c. Living History (cottage, clubhouse and mineyard): Volunteers dress in period costume to re-enact activities and portray people prominent in the Empire Mine history.
d. Luncheons: Dress in costume, prepare and serve pasty luncheons at the clubhouse.
Administration: Volunteers assist in those duties behind the scenes as described below:
a. Oral History: Record and transcribe interviews of people with prior association with the mine.
b. Research: Investigate a variety of historic resources, record and file on computer disks.
c. Library: Acquire books for the reference library, organize shelving, catalog and maintain checkout logs.
d. Desktop Publishing: Volunteers use computer publishing software to create, update and publish various books and pamphlets such as this one in support of Park activities.
Facilities/Grounds/Trails. Volunteers perform tasks as shown below:
a. Work Projects (Over-the-Hill Gang): Volunteers, do new construction, maintenance and repairs of buildings and facilities.
New Cottage Door -April 1905
b. Grounds (Rose Garden Group): Volunteers maintain the rose garden and propagate plants (mostly roses) to sell at the Gift Shop.
c. Trails Maintenance: Volunteers patrol and maintain trails in the Park backcountry.
2. Special Events: Volunteers in all categories are urged to participate in special events such as Living History Days, Holiday Open House, Miners' Picnic the Spring Open House / Art Show.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF VOLUNTEER ACTIVITIES
1. Tours and Stations: One of the most rewarding and fun opportunities for volunteers at the Empire is that of being a Docent Tour Guide/Interpreter. These volunteers are "Docents" in the true spirit of the word as they meet people from all over the world and interpret the history of hard rock mining here at the Empire from the point of view of both the hard working local miners as well as the family that became incredibly wealthy as they built the mine.
The requirements to be a Tour Guide or Interpreter are simple: Be interested in learning about local history and be interested in meeting people. Our hands on training classes cover everything you'll need to know from the philosophy of "historical interpretation" to the specific information you'll need to know and where to find the information you don't know.
If you want to be challenged, and feel a sense of accomplishment, meet some great people, and at the same time have fun, then volunteer to be a Tour Guide/Interpreter here at the Empire Mine State Historic Park. (No previous experience is necessary.)
2. Gift Shop:
Being a volunteer in the Gift Shop gives you the chance to meet almost every visitor to the Park. It is a very interesting and rewarding experience meeting and conversing with such a diverse cross section of citizenry, from local residents to foreign tourists. You will sell from a large, varied stock of merchandise, including jewelry (both gold and mineral), postcards, books, brochures, beautiful minerals of all sizes, gold flakes and nuggets, 1/4 scale ore cars, and a variety of other items from T-shirts to teddy bears. You will also replenish stock as it is sold. You will be given a handbook covering everything you need to know, and training will be on-the-job with an experienced volunteer. You will learn to operate a cash register, a simple one, not like those monsters in a grocery store. You will be the source of information as to the location of different buildings and sites in the Park, tour times, and provide some interpretive information in response to questions. Gift shop hours vary with the season, generally two, 4-hour shifts per day. You can meet your monthly goal of 8 hours by being scheduled for a shift on the same day every two weeks (or more often if you desire), or be on-call, as a fill-in. In any case, you will be more than welcome to join the Gift Shop family.
3. Trails: The Volunteers that work on the trails generally walk the trails on their own and are on the look out for any thing that might need to be called to the attention of the rangers or coordinators . Occasionally there may be a work party to do whatever maintenance is needed. If you enjoy walking and like to be outdoors, it's a great way to help make EMSHP a better place for our visitors.
4. Cottage Living History: Cottage Living History was started to keep alive the stories of Mr. Bourn and the Bourn family. Each Saturday and Sunday from May through October, a group of volunteers portray the Bourn family and their friends as they were in 1905. Join us and be a part of the fun we have doing these portrayals and watch the faces of the visitors as they suddenly realize they have stepped back in time and that life was quite different in those days.
5. Mineyard Living History: You might want to join the Mineyard Living History group as they portray the people that actually worked at the Empire Mine. You may want to work in the Office, the Carpentry Shop, the Blacksmith Shop or any other of the other work areas in the mineyard. All you need to do is decide where you want to work, study the character, dress the part and have fun taking the visitors back in time.
6. Oral History Program: Talk to a miner about what life was really like working in a hardrock mine. You can help identify people who have insight to share on their relevant life experience, conduct interviews and complete transcripts. It's a great way to get to know the people who worked in the mine and learn more about the area's rich history. It also leaves a record of a vanishing resource that can by used by park staff and volunteers to help verify information and enrich visitor's experiences.
8. School Tour Guide: Want to have fun? Do you like working with kids? Maybe the new School Tour could be your thing. It's so cool! It is a hands-on journey through the mine yard where the children are given the role of either "Miner" or "Mucker," and the adult chaperones are given the roles of "Foreman" or "Timekeeper." Everyone works and everyone has a job. In the Mine Yard, the children experience single jacking and mucking into an ore cart. There is also a fun demonstration with dynamite to illustrate the use of technology. The kids love it! In the Visitor Center we explain the mine model, then introduce Cornish Culture and the competitive spirit of these hard working men. That leads us to the sand pit, where a rousing game of tug-of-war takes place between the Miners and Muckers, sometimes between the Foreman, too. It is a riot. The highlight of the tour, of course, is the trip down the mineshaft on the new manskip illusion. The kids squeeze in two-by-two then take an imaginary ride down to the 900 foot level.
9. Clubhouse Living History: Like to entertain? Ever wonder what it was like to entertain guests in the early 1900s? The clubhouse was used by the Bourns and the Starrs to entertain their guests and you can portray some of these guests or the hostesses or the hosts. Why not spend some time at the clubhouse playing cards and/or other games and help the visitors to see what fun they had in those days?
10. The Over-The-Hill-Gang: Are you a "Handy Person?" would you like to put these skills to good use? Then why not join the "Gang" and help us to build, maintain and do whatever is needed to keep up the park facilities. We have just completed the Gold Room museum, the Gift Shop, the Park Aid Station and a new Cottage door ( see photo's above ) to name a few of our accomplishments. Check us out; and join us and help out the park.
7. Research: Without research there would be no information on the mine, its workings, the Bourn's, the Starr's and anything else connected to the Empire Mine. What would our tour guides talk about as they take tourists around to the different buildings and the cottage? A lot of work searching the newspapers from the 1850's to the 1950's, as well as searching through books, letters, and old boxes filled with treasures has taken place from the year the State purchased the Empire Mine and it became a State Park. To make our information accessible to our volunteers and the park staff, we have been putting a summary of the thousand of files in our possession on a database. This enables us to quickly find information that has been requested. Our Research Group is a small group, but dedicated, working in the background. We welcome anyone who would be interested in working with us.
11. Rose Garden: Do you enjoy working in the great outdoors in an area that is both beautiful and serene? If you don't mind getting your hands and clothes dirty then maybe the rose garden and area surrounding the cottage is the place for you. Our work involves a variety of jobs such as; rose deadheading (clipping) during peak blooming season, weeding, raking in all the garden areas. We also propagate rose cuttings and other plants that we sell in the Gift Shop. If this sounds like what you like to do, then please join us.
Volunteers who contribute over 100 hours in a year receive special passes to the Sierra District parks.
If you're interested in volunteering please contact the
Unit Ranger at (530) 273-8522 or stop by the park.