Philadelphia Chapter Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation

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What is the Corps of Discovery II?

Project Proposal
"Corps of Discovery II: 200 Years to the Future" will be a federal initiative which, along with private partnerships, will use the internet, the news media, live interpretation, educational programs, and other means of disseminating information to bring the story of Lewis and Clark to the widest possible audience. Members of the "expedition" will actually retrace the route of the original Corps of Discovery, staying in the places as the explorers did (allowing for modern land use restrictions and the changes, such as the damming of rivers, which have taken place over 200 years). The expedition will begin in Charlottesville, Virginia on January 18, 2003, and visit the eastern cities in which Meriwether Lewis prepared for his western journey. A large kickoff celebration will be held at the White House on July 4, 2003. This will commemorate the 200th anniversary of Meriwether Lewis' departure for the West, when he left for his expedition. The President of the United States in 2003 will send off the "permanent crew" of the modern expedition from the White House, just as Jefferson sent off Lewis in 1803. The expedition will travel across the entire United States from Washington D.C. to the Pacific Coast in Oregon, and will return to St. Louis on September 23, 2006. Opportunities will be sought to compare the trail Lewis and Clark saw to the trail of today, to educate the public about history and natural resources and to provide a format for American Indian tribes along the route to tell their stories. The four components used to tell all aspects of Corps II will be:

1. What was life like before Lewis and Clark
2. What was life like during Lewis and Clark
3. What has life been like in the last 200 years
4. What does the next 200 years look like

The permanent crew of the "Corps of Discovery II" will consist of government employees from the NPS, and the other Federal MOU groups. In short, the expedition was a cross-section of America then and America now, and this would be reflected in the composition of the modern team.

Corps of Discovery II will act as an anchor for the many local celebrations which will surround the Bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Corps II will provide a matrix into which local, state, tribal, and federal celebrations will fit. The Corps of Discovery will retrace the trail from Charlottesville, Virginia to Astoria, Oregon and return to St. Louis, Missouri. During the winter months, portions of the interpretive and museum components will tour through metropolitan areas away from the original trail of the explorers. In this way, cities like Atlanta, Memphis, Miami, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Phoenix, and other areas will be able to experience the Corps of Discovery II first-hand.

Living History and the Recreated Journey
Corps of Discovery II will not try to recreate history as much as lead a nation-wide commemoration of it. Contrary to surface appearances, the corps will not be a reenactment group, nor will they try to faithfully reenact the expedition. There will be plenty of re-enactors on the trail. So, although we advocate a living history component, this will not be the expedition's main function. The Corps will be responsive to local events, and will not attempt to duplicate efforts already planned. The Corps of Discovery will be able to be a partner in an event, augment the programs of other localities, or on some occasions, in localities where nothing is currently planned, put on an entire event. In all cases, the participation of the Corps will be cleared and approved by the municipalities through which it passes. Events the explorers described in their journals will be commemorated by the group on each Bicentennial day, at the original location (or as close as possible to the original location).

The interpretive program at each location will begin each morning with a special, scripted show in which the entire interpretive staff will participate. After this show there will be a reading of the day's journal entries. Throughout the remainder of the day, Corps II staff will be kept busy giving hourly programs on various agencies, some in living history clothing. A living history camp can be set up with interpreters in period clothing, who will explain the rigors of life along the trail. Nature walks, lessons on the use of navigation instruments, firearm demonstrations and other special programs will educate visitors about the complexity of the expedition. Indian tribes will be an integral part of the interpretation of Corps II and will be invited to participate. Corps II will not interfere with other interpretive programs, and will strive to complement and supplement the programs of any given area. Non-personal services will be provided by a mobile museum set up in a medium to large vehicle,which will depict, in pictures and maps, the course of the expedition and will have hands-on exhibits.

Education Component
In addition to public programs for drop-in visitors, an education program given by the ranger staff for schoolchildren and their parents will also be a benefit. Education programs will be curriculum-based with plenty of hands on activities. Pre and post site activities will be developed, along with a specific program of onsite activities. Scheduling will be a major component of this program, which will run for most of the 1,309 days of the expedition (figured from January 18, 2003 to September 23, 2006), thus providing an opportunity for schoolchildren from all over the United States to have a first-hand encounter with the Corps of Discovery.

Internet and Distance Learning
The expedition's computer experts, in a special vehicle, will post the original Lewis and Clark journals entries for each of the Bicentennial days on a special internet home page, noting the distances traveled by the original corps and by the modern crew, while adding information pertaining to the modern expedition. Local people could be interviewed about the meaning of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and changes in the topography since the Lewis and Clark's time could be noted. Plants and animals described for the first time by the explorers could be shown with notes about how the natural world has changed in the last 200 years. Corps II will also allow video and two-way communication between classrooms and the Expedition, which could be seen on cable television outlets as well as over the Internet. In addition, cable television and satellite feeds could put the expedition into the living rooms of America on a nightly basis. This effort will not only enable us to tell the Lewis and Clark story to an enormous world-wide audience, but will also allow all of the organizations that support the trail to participate, including national and international media. The internet component will stay in the winter localities at St. Louis, Fort Mandan and Fort Clatsop to continue reporting on the weather and Lewis and Clark discoveries to classrooms in localities where the museum and interpretive components are located.

Research Component
A historian and a naturalist will accompany Corps II, and work in conjunction with it, to survey and evaluate existing sites, landscapes, and cultures to establish benchmarks that will provide links to 200 years of change and development. In addition to answering specific questions from the staff and the public in their areas of expertise, they will conduct research, taking advantage of an unparalleled opportunity of seeing the Lewis and Clark Trail at a leisurely pace, to compare the trail today to the way it was in 1804-06.

Specific Needs (to date)
The expedition team will need three large vehicles: one a mobile visitor center, one a computer/telecommunications center with a satellite dish, and the other a support vehicle for the team. On the road, the team will have a "base camp," an area from which personnel will operate and to which they will return each evening. The base camps will be established within a 50-mile radius of a series of daily camps. The base camp will "leapfrog" ahead of the daily camps to establish a place to stay, obtain necessities, and eliminate having to move one's belongings every day.


Updated March 20, 2002