Morristown NHP, photographer go virtual with artist-in-residence program amid changing times

Morristown National Historical Park, along with a parks photographer, is going virtual in an effort to boost its visitor experience and arts programming as the region rebounds from the pandemic.
Arts and our national parks have a long history. Xiomaro has followed the tradition of photographers such as Ansel Adams by documenting the sights of a number of local national park units across the tri-state area. Morristown National Historical Park preserves the site of Gen. George Washington's Continental Army's winter encampment from 1779 to 1780. Xiomaro's fine-art photography of the site highlights aspects of the park, including of the soldiers' huts. Xiomaro says this current Morristown partnership was originally conceived as a traditional public residency, but 2020 changed everything.
A photograph of Morristown soldier huts by Xiomaro. It is displayed facing outward from the visitor center to encourage outdoor viewing with social distancing. (Photo credit: Xiomaro) A photograph of Morristown soldier huts by Xiomaro. It is displayed facing outward from the visitor center to encourage outdoor viewing with social distancing. (Photo credit: Xiomaro)
"We planned for an indoor gallery exhibition as well as a hands-on photography workshop, a guided photowalk on the grounds and trails, and a public talk about my photography work with the National Park Service," says Xiomaro. "Although the process began in the summer of 2020, the uncertainty of the pandemic made it increasingly difficult to plan. Earlier this year, we finally made an executive decision to expect the worse and hope for the best."
Large prints of Xiomaro's fine-art photographs of the Morristown site will be displayed outward from the Jockey Hollow Visitor Center's windows so they can be viewed outside by socially distanced visitors. QR codes allow visitors to use cellphones to view videos discussing the works. Xiomaro also uses video to present a workshop on cellphone photography and a talk on his photography and work with the National Park Service.
A still from Xiomaro's video essays. (Courtesy: Xiomaro) A still from Xiomaro's video essays. (Courtesy: Xiomaro)
Dr. Jude Pfister, chief of cultural resources at Morristown National Historical Park, shared other ways the park is taking a more digital mindset.
"Morristown NHP has expanded its social media presence and cellphone tours. The park has also installed a collaborative fiber arts youth exhibit inside the Visitor Center at Jockey Hollow which the public will experience when we reopen the visitor center in early July," says Pfister. "We will likely continue most aspects of what we enhanced during the pandemic. The paradigm shifts we've experienced the last year cannot simply be ignored. For good or bad, the pandemic has set the course for the foreseeable future in terms of heritage tourism. We will continue to promote our social media presence and work to expand offerings through virtual programming."
Pfister mentioned the park is also working on other ideas for the future.
Xiomaro sees the steps they've taken as an evolution of his work that will improve accessibility for park visitors and enthusiasts beyond the pandemic.
"It won’t replace my interaction with a live audience, which I love to do. Rather, it will be an extension so that a larger and more diverse audience can be reached," says Xiomaro. "Some may not be able to travel to my National Park exhibitions and programs because of distance, finances, health, and other reasons. With video, however, I can potentially reach a national and worldwide audience."
A photograph of The Wick House at Morristown National Historical Park by Xiomaro. (Photo credit: Xiomaro) A photograph of The Wick House at Morristown National Historical Park by Xiomaro. (Photo credit: Xiomaro)
Xiomaro has already expanded this model of exhibition to nearby Weir Farm National Historical Park in Connecticut. The site will soon be broadcasting his cellphone photography workshop to replace canceled live workshops, Xiomaro says. He also envisions growing companion programs, with one idea being to utilize a video conferencing program like Zoom to allow for live audiences who don't need to be in person.
The free exhibition at Morristown runs through July 31.
More information on Morristown National Historical Park can be found at the National Park Service website HERE. More information on Xiomaro's work, as well as his videos and a link for a free souvenir print, can be found on his website HERE.