This spring, the National Parks Service, in association with America's National Parks, has introduced a program that allows one to get a cancellation for virtual tours completed Spring 2020. Due to Covid-19, nearly all of the national parks have closed, making it impossible to acquire new cancellations for the passport program.
If you are unaware, there is a program that allows you to get a cancellation stamp when you visit a national park, national monument, historic site, or other affiliated program like the national trail system. The stamp has the date, the park name, and is color coded to the region. There is a passport available for purchase from America's National Parks, the company that supplies the passports and stickers, but there is no requirement to buy one in order to participate in the program. All the sites I have visited have had little slips of paper you can use, or you can create your own passport to collect cancellations. They're typically unmanned.
The cancellation stations are typically found in the information center of the park/historic site with a stand, an ink pad, and the stamp.
I first learned about the passport program when I took my family to visit the Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa. I was disappointed to learn that the program has been around for almost my entire life. I have been to many, many national parks and I would love to have a record of these visits in one place.
Finding the cancellation locations are fun, though they are a bit difficult to come by in the region where I currently live. There are only two national sites in Iowa, and I have now visited both. The others in the Midwest region are a bit of a trek. Fortunately, Iowa has the Silos & Smokestacks program, so I have some more opportunities for cancellations.
Last year we visited Canyonlands NP and Arches NP and I picked up three new cancellations. The plan this year was to visit St. Louis and pick up another stamp for my passport, but that has unfortunately been cancelled due to the outbreak of Covid-19.
When I first learned about the virtual passport cancellations during National Parks Week, I didn't plan to participate. There is a big difference between going on a virtual tour and visiting a park in person. I spent many hours researching our trip to Canyonlands and Arches. It was a very different experience seeing the canyons disappearing into the distance of the Island District and the startling remoteness of the Needles District. Or realizing how large the Delicate Arch is in person.
After I thought about it for a while, I ultimately decided to participate. This is a unique opportunity to take part in a program that reflects our current events. Hopefully this is one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Also, the stamps clearly state that they are cancellations for virtual tours, so there isn't a way to mistake them for the real thing.
The website for the virtual passport cancellations recommends printing them out and pasting into the passport. I didn't like that method and decided to make stickers instead. I am not going to get into how I made the stickers for my passports, as this is not a tutorial and the process probably takes more effort than it's worth. What I will say is that I converted the PDFs of the cancellations into images when I imported them into GIMP. I selected a 450x450 pixel area around the cancellation and pasted it into a document of 2550x3300 pixels. This is all at a 300 dpi ratio as the cancellation stamps themselves are 1.25" square. The cutting guide circles are 600x600 pixels.
I printed the cancellations on sticker paper. I had these leftover shipping label sheets, but they worked well for my purpose. I only wish that I had a circle punch to make the stickers look nicer, but I don't and I wanted to put them into the passport ASAP, so they were cut by hand.
One of the tours I enjoyed most was for Lowell, MA, the first factory city in America. This was a video, not a virtual tour, but it did a good job of demonstrating how people had been exploited in the factories and how multiculturalism has had a positive impact on the area. The Cesar Chavez virtual tour was also good, though I would have liked for there to be more information on what the UFW had accomplished, rather than emphasizing how the union managed the buildings of an old tuberculosis hospital for children.
The tours I liked least were the Hampton and Cane River sites that both seemed to downplay the roles of enslaved and domestic workers. I'm not interested in how much the owners of these sites paid for chairs. I'm sure $40 was a lot for chairs in the 1830s. I'd rather learn more about the workers that afforded the owners the comfortable lives they led.
If you are interested in participating in the virtual passport cancellations for Spring 2020, you can find more information here.