Ask a Public Historian: Eric Frey

Eric Frey is currently a Park Ranger at Horseshoe Bend National Park. He has formerly worked as a Park Guide at Mammoth Cave National Park, Biological Technician at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and most recently worked at the Southeastern Regional National Park Office focused on partnerships and promotion of the Centennial of the National Park Service. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Master’s in Biology from Boise State University.


Why did you choose to enter your field?

I somewhat chose my path and my path chose me. I’ve always had a fascination with the National Park Service, which might have stemmed from a trip to Gettysburg NMP at the age of seven or eight. I always enjoyed the outdoors and camping yet also found myself fascinated with American history, especially the Civil War. My interests were quite varied and I think that fits in well with the National Park Service and its many roles. We preserve this country’s history as well as its invaluable natural treasures and landscapes. We strive to keep these things unimpaired for future generations yet we invite the public to use them quite freely and for a variety of different ends. It’s these aspects of the job that satisfy the biologist as well as the historian.


What was your favorite project?

I became really interested in the historic signatures that could be found on the cave walls at Mammoth Cave NP. After a little research, I realized that a handful of civil war soldiers carved or smoked their names on the rocks. I soon found myself on my weekends inside the cave scouring the walls for more signatures or down at the archives going through the cave hotel records searching for more soldiers that had visited the cave during the war. My finished product was a database complete with all of the soldier signatures from the hotel registers and a database with photos of all the signatures that I documented in the cave. I still continue to occasionally look online for soldier letters that mention their trip to the Cave.


 If someone wants to be “you” what advice would you have?

Volunteer. Volunteering in the NPS is a great way to gain skills and experience for your resume as well as show your work ethic and what you have to add to a park. It also exposes you to working for a federal agency, allowing you to consider if it is a right fit for you and your career goals. It also helps if you are flexible; being able to work in settings or roles that are not your 100% dream position but making them into a positive for your development.


Any good resume tips specific for the field?

Be familiar with the differences between a “private” resume and a federal resume. They are completely different and if you submit a resume following “normal private” standards, you have little chance of being chosen for a federal job. There is certain required information that needs to be included in your resume so be familiar with these requirements. Look at your federal resume as your first interview.


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