We've been away from the blog for awhile, absorbed with finishing up an NEH grant proposal to support a digital archiving project we are gradually building. Luckily, our undergraduate interns have been busy writing about their experiences working for the National Park Service this summer. Nathan Hess checks in with another post emphasizing our shared responsibility for preserving the parks that mark our past.
In my past couple of posts, I've discussed what interpretation is all about, and a few effective interpretive strategies. For this post, I'd like to discuss one of the most important roles of the National Park Service, namely the protection of our resource (the battlefield, its monuments, etc.). This is a timely topic, since these parks are, not surprisingly, at their busiest in the summertime. The responsibility for protecting park resources lay mainly with the National Park's Law Enforcement, or LE. Even so, the protection of park resources is the responsibility of not only law enforcement, but everyone that wishes to enjoy our nation's heritage. Preserving our resource could be as simple as being sure to stick to walking on paved walkways, picking up trash that you see on the ground, not climbing on the monuments that dot the battlefields, or, perhaps more important, not bringing home "souvenirs" you might find on the battlefield.
Kids playing on one of the natural features of Gettysburg
How does interpretation fit into
protecting our resource? It's quite
simple really. The goal of interpretation is to create a visceral, emotional
bond between our visitor and our resource, correct? Hence, if interpretation is
successful, the visitor will have developed a bond with the resource. Once that bond is established, the visitor will want to care about and protect the
resource. Interpretation therefore, could be seen as a way of working hand in
hand with LE in the name of protecting our resource. If we do our job
effectively, it makes LE's job easier. If you'll be visiting one of our
national parks this summer, I hope you will think of yourself not just as a
visitor, but a steward of these great resources. After all, if we don't take
care of these many, many parks, our country will lose vital aspects of its
heritage. I hope we all will feel a pride in our collective ownership of these
resources and a desire to ensure their preservation for our own benefit and for
Please park along the road and not the grass when
visiting the PA monument...
But if you come across the Irish Brigade monument,
please don't pet the wolfhound....
And this gentleman might look strong, but I don't
recommend climbing on him....
And please don't rub Colonel O'Rorke's nose for good luck. So many
visitors have done that over the years, that it's started to wear away.
But by all means, enjoy the battlefield and the monuments.
You never know what you might learn from them.