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Interpreting Our Heritage

Interpreting Our Heritage

Edited by R. BRUCE CRAIG
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Interpreting Our Heritage
    Book Description:

    Every year millions of Americans visit national parks and monuments, state and municipal parks, battlefields, historic houses, and museums. By means of guided walks and talks, tours, exhibits, and signs, visitors experience these areas through a very special kind of communication technique known as "interpretation." For fifty years, Freeman Tilden'sInterpreting Our Heritagehas been an indispensable sourcebook for those who are responsible for developing and delivering interpretive programs. This expanded and revised anniversary edition includes not only Tilden's classic work but also an entirely new selection of accompanying photographs, five additional essays by Tilden on the art and craft of interpretation, a new foreword by former National Park Service director Russell Dickenson, and an introduction by R. Bruce Craig that puts Tilden's writings into perspective for present and future generations.Whether the challenge is to make a prehistoric site come to life; to explain the geological basis behind a particular rock formation; to touch the hearts and minds of visitors to battlefields, historic homes, and sites; or to teach a child about the wonders of the natural world, Tilden's book, with its explanation of the famed "six principles" of interpretation, provides a guiding hand.For anyone interested in our natural and historic heritage--park volunteers and rangers, museum docents and educators, new and seasoned professional heritage interpreters, and those lovingly characterized by Tilden as "happy amateurs"--Interpreting Our Heritageand Tilden's later interpretive writings, included in this edition, collectively provide the essential foundation for bringing into focus the truths that lie beyond what the eye sees.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0488-6
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Russell E. Dickenson

    I was fortunate to begin my career with the National Park Service as a park ranger at the end of World War II. One of the finest park interpreters at that time was Dr. Harold C. Bryant, superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park from 1940 to 1954 and considered by many to be the father and prime mover of national park interpretation dating from the igios. Also at Grand Canyon was park naturalist Louis Shellbach, who excelled in explaining canyon geology and the ancient landscapes of the region at the famed Yavapai Observation Station. Visitors were enthralled and appreciative of...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xi)
    R. Bruce Craig
  5. Introduction to the fourth edition
    (pp. 1-22)
    R. Bruce Craig

    For fifty years, interpreters at national, state, and municipal parks, nature reserves, museums, battlefields, and historic homes and sites have turned to Freeman Tilden’sInterpreting Our Heritageto provide a philosophical underpinning for their art and craft. Since 1957 it has beentheinterpretive primer, a classic that has influenced interpretation more than any other single work. Even the most experienced interpreter reaches for it from time to time to reread and refresh his or her memory. And invariably, in each successive reading, new insights come to light that in previous readings escaped notice. Because of its timeless concepts, ideas,...

  6. Part I

    • Chapter 1 Principles of Interpretation
      (pp. 25-35)

      The word “interpretation” as used in this book refers to a public service that has so recently come into our cultural world that a resort to the dictionary for a competent definition is fruitless. Besides a few obsolete meanings, the word has several special implications still in common use: the translation from one language into another by a qualified linguist; the construction placed upon a legal document; even the mystical explanation of dreams and omens.

      Yet every year millions of Americans visit the national parks and monuments, the state and municipal parks, battlefield areas, historic houses publicly or privately owned,...

    • Chapter 2 The Visitor’s First Interest
      (pp. 36-43)

      A roster of the reasons why people visit parks, museums, historic houses, and similar preserves, though a fascinating excursion into human psychology, need not detain us here. All interpreters know from their experiences that the reasons are so many and diverse that merely to name them all would take pages of this book.

      I go upon the assumption that whatever their reasons for coming, the visitors are there. What we should determine, then, if we aim at establishing our first principle of interpretation is: now that the visitor is here, in what will be his chief interest, and inevitably his...

    • Chapter 3 Raw Material and Its Product
      (pp. 44-52)

      The National Park Service has, for the guidance of its personnel, an exhaustive administrative manual. A section of this manual deals with “Information and Interpretation in the Field.” Speaking of “Newspaper Publicity” at the area level, one of the injunctions to the employee is as follows: “Do not editorialize in a news story. Stick to statements of fact, which can include the fact that somebody, identified in the story, expressed an opinion which is germane to the story.”

      Of course this would be accepted by anyone as prudent advice. It means, in effect, do not try to interpret: merely inform....

    • Chapter 4 The Story’s the Thing
      (pp. 53-58)

      Sooner or later the interpreter must face the question of whether he is dealing with a science or an art. Interpretation is one or the other; it cannot be both. If it is an art, it can draw upon all science. But if it is a science, it can have no patience with “the sweet insouciance of lettered ease.” Dr. John Merriam remarked of Albert Michelson, the physicist, that “it was his lot to be a scientist, otherwise he would have been a great artist.” The very fact that Michelson chose to be the one rather than the other is...

    • Chapter 5 Not Instruction but Provocation
      (pp. 59-67)

      Instruction takes place where the primary purpose of the meeting between teacher and pupil is education. The classroom is the outstanding example of this, but it can apply to field and factory work as well. When, as early as 1899, college professors were beginning to take their students into areas that afterward became national parks, their purpose was instruction. The students were not there primarily to look at scenery, to relax, or to contemplate.

      In the field of interpretation, whether of the National Park System or other institutions, the activity is not instruction so much as what we may call...

    • Chapter 6 Toward a Perfect Whole
      (pp. 68-75)

      Of all the words in our English language, none is more beautiful and significant than the word “whole.” In the beginning it meant “healthy.” I believe the thought it expressed was that no human being could be healthy who was well only in certain parts of his physical and moral self. “They that be whole need not a physician” (Matt. 9:12.) I believe there is not one of us who, looking back upon the errors of his own life, can escape the conviction that most of these were caused by mistaking a part for a whole. It is easy to...

    • Chapter 7 For the Younger Mind
      (pp. 76-86)

      Mr. Emerson was thinking, I believe, when he wrote the word “later,” of a maturity of men and women when they can begin to grapple more or less successfully with abstractions. Then, indeed, “remote things flower from one stem.” But Emerson would be delighted, were he here, to observe the splendid interpretive work now being done for children—the nature centers, the museum exhibits, the trail walks and talks, and all the rest—for it was not done in Emerson’s day. There were the textbooks, and there was the teacher, and there were the more or less obedient pupils; and...

  7. Part II

    • Chapter 8 The Written Word
      (pp. 89-100)

      This chapter does not offer a course in the writing of interpretive signs, markers, labels, or printed literature. It presents thoughts and examples consonant with the principles stated in the first part of the book.

      I feel sure that someday there will be a school with regular sessions held successively in at least four regions of the United States, where those of the National Park Service, and members of other agencies concerned with the graphic phases of interpretation, will meet to compare experiences, discuss examples, present their own productions for discussion and assay, and listen to at least one talk...

    • Chapter 9 Past into Present
      (pp. 101-111)

      Although none of the wilderness preserves are without some historical associations, this chapter will primarily concern itself with the prehistoric and historic areas of the National Park System, and of the many other shrines, publicly and privately owned and administered, where the effort is made by interpreters to turn back the pages of time and establish avital relationship between the visitorand the memorialized people and events.

      As to the primitive parks, however, this much may be said: that of all the millions of visitors to them, the fullest appreciation of unspoiled nature is found by those who are willing to...

    • Chapter 10 Nothing in Excess
      (pp. 112-118)

      The saying “nothing in excess” is attributed to several of the Greek “wise men,” but in truth it is far older than that. It probably dates from the time when a primitive man tried to bolt too large a hunk of mammoth meat.

      For myself I got a taste of this wholesome injunction years ago when I had a country house that needed wooden shingles. I hired an old cunning carpenter of the neighborhood to do the job, but then I was seized with the ambition to try my own hand at laying a square. The experienced eyes watched me...

    • Chapter 11 The Mystery of Beauty
      (pp. 119-125)

      In the domain of aesthetics, the interpreter must be wary. It is not good to gild the lily. Not only is the lily destroyed, but the painter has made a confession that he does not understand the nature of beauty.

      There is no adequate definition of beauty, though there are many noble essays; and this is true, I believe, for the reason that beauty is at once an abstraction and a reality. You might be interested in the way Bernard Bosanquet interprets the Greek philosopher Plotinus on the subject: “Beauty is all that symbolizes, in a form perceptible to the...

    • Chapter 12 The Priceless Ingredient
      (pp. 126-132)

      Henry James, in his very un-Jameslike bookA Little Tour in France,gives a humorous description of the “interpretation” provided at the ancient Cite of Carcassonne, in Provence: “It was not to be denied that there was a relief in separating from our accomplished guide, whose manner of imparting information reminded me of the energetic process by which I have seen mineral waters bottled.” After escaping from the guide, James “treated himself” to another walk around the citadel—alone.

      We all know this guide as though he had fizzed in our presence.We have met his like—a little better, perhaps,...

    • Chapter 13 Of Gadgetry
      (pp. 133-137)

      When I use the word “gadget” I mean no disrespect. I am writing this on a gadget; I hope I am not ungrateful, for it saves me the trouble of pushing, with cramped fingers, a quill pen. I am sometimes persuaded that the best writing that ever will be done was in the time of the stylus or the pen-and-foolscap; but if that be true, it could owe, conceivably, to a decadence in the writers. Anyhow, since this book is more concerned with the thinking about interpretation than the excellence of expression, the point has no large importance.

      The fact...

    • Chapter 14 The Happy Amateur
      (pp. 138-147)

      Over the years words undergo wear and tear, and some of them emerge the worse for it. When Samuel Johnson wrote his dictionary, the word “officious” meant “kindly; helpful.” Now if you call a man officious, he is insulted, for you imply that he is an impertinent meddler. When French explorer Samuel de Champlain wrote that Mount Desert Island—now containing Acadia National Park—was “inhabite,” he meant that it was a wilderness, exactly the opposite of what we now mean by the word.

      But, to me, the saddest fate of any has been suffered by the word “amateur.” I...

    • Chapter 15 Vistas of Beauty
      (pp. 148-158)

      In February 1965 President Lyndon Baines Johnson sent to the Congress of the United States a message “On the Natural Beauty of Our Country.” It was a state paper probably unique in the history of government. Can anyone recall a similar instance when a nation’s leader has proclaimed the vital importance of beauty in human welfare and moved to salvage what remains of the lovely heritage that a thrusting, feverish, ruthless technology has dilapidated to the point of ugliness? This is a Great Chart. And the time to preserve, to repair, to cease being a nation of prosperous slovens, is...

  8. Part III. Freeman Tilden’s Later Interpretive Writings

    • Chapter 16 Mindsight: The Aim of Interpretation
      (pp. 161-165)

      In Ralph Waldo Emerson’s day, every well-to-do Bostonian looked forward to whatwas called “the grand tour” of Europe. To such friends, on their departure, the sage of Concord gave his affectionate blessing and Godspeed. But he noted in his journal that they were not likely to bring back anything of great value that they did not take abroad with them. Henry David Thoreau echoed the philosophy when he remarked that the whole world was in Concord. All disappointments in our use of leisure time arise from this blunt truism.

      In this view, it must have been that when Charles M....

    • Chapter 17 That Elderly Schoolma’am: Nature
      (pp. 166-173)

      It happened at Crater Lake National Park, in Oregon.

      Just inside the rim of the crater stands the Sinnott Memorial Observation Station, cunningly ensconced so as to give visitors the best possible view of the lake and its surroundings, which suggests the origin and subsequent geologic story of the region. And to make understanding as easy as possible, the memorial is equipped with exhibits, field glasses fixed upon key points, and a large relief map.

      On this relief model, with a scale of one foot to six miles, are depicted the prominent features of the landscape—Wizard Island, the Phantom...

    • Chapter 18 The Constructive Aspect of Inaction
      (pp. 174-181)

      My good friends, I salute you all.

      When I deliver a discourse, which is nowadays not often, I attend strictly to business. I have no exordium of funny stories. Life is a serious matter, and becoming more perplexing all the time. So, to the business at hand.

      I did have the idea, in connection with this important exposition, to indulge in a slight innovation. This was going to consist of showing three slides at the very beginning of my paper, and then having some more slides at the end. Nobody ever did anything like that. But when I considered the...

    • Chapter 19 Two Concord Men in a Boat
      (pp. 182-186)

      “I go with my friend,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson in one of his essays on nature, “to the shore of our little river, and with one stroke of the paddle I leave the village politics ... and pass into a delicate realm of sunset and moonlight, too bright almost for spotted man to enter without novitiate and probation.”

      Who was this friend of Emerson’s? Was it Henry David Thoreau? It is altogether likely. In that event, the paddling was done by the younger man—by him who built the cabin on Walden Pond and spent two years there with the...

    • Chapter 20 An Interpretive Ideal
      (pp. 187-200)

      “Why do people love to visit the parks?” It is a question that somehow reminds us of the common expression, “the average person.” Really, there isn’t any such person. Yet, for working purposes, we have to imagine one—a fictitious character that will represent a fair norm of desires and behavior. So, being similarly arbitrary, we can safely say that people go to the parks because of a keen realization that no picture or printed word, however brilliant, can do more than whet an appetite to experience with one’s own senses the grandeur and wonder that nature has formed. No...

  9. index
    (pp. 201-212)