In-depth knowledge of park resources underpins the role of the interpreter and educator. Seen as trusted sources of balanced information, interpreters and educators convey complex historical and scientific content to diverse audiences. But beyond conveying complex concepts, interpreters and educators also help reveal the evolving relevance of park resources. By collaboratively exploring the current lessons of our national heritage, interpreters and educators help people make sense of their world and connect to nature and the past. Therefore, in-depth knowledge requires two interdependent areas of investigation:
Researching resources refers to compiling the scientific or historical consensus, or tangible evidence of a site, also known as the forensic truth. It also refers to researching the stories of a site, or the collective narratives that give the place its national significance. Both require actively pursuing, evaluating, and collaboratively synthesizing resource knowledge from a variety of sources.
Discovering relevance refers to the continuous exploration of evolving meanings within a site. This requires investigating the associated relationships, systems, processes, human values, and alternate intangible meanings of a site. It requires uncovering personal truths, or how a person lives through and remembers an event or experience; as well as the current social truths that represent a group’s communal understanding of concepts or events.
Researching a site’s resources and relevance is not limited by time period, enabling legislation, or geographic scope. It is enriched by a site’s evolving historical, scientific, and social contexts, including how preservation and resource management may have changed it. This knowledge must be gathered from a broad community of differing perspectives. Agency investigation, community collaboration, and visitor input all contribute to the rich body of content.
Interpreters and Educators:
- Compile scientific and/or historical research from a variety of sources
- Critically evaluate sources for their relevance, validity, and bias
- Collaborate with others (colleagues, partners, academics, community members, and audiences) to synthesize and interpret evidence-based content, site stories, and current social context
- Represent current NPS perspectives, as well as scientific and historical consensus, about site resources and issues
- Reveal a variety of personal and social truths pertaining to park resources (through research or techniques)
- Continuously incorporate and amplify new and historically excluded perspectives to broaden the inclusivity of a place and its meanings
Download the 2018 revision of the foundations document: Foundations of Interpretation – Competencies for the 21st Century 2018 [PDF]
- Rethinking Content–The Four Truths
- Unlocking Content — Part 1 and Part 2
- Imperiled Promise Report: The State of History in the National Park Service; Findings 11 and 12 pertaining to interpretation
- 21st Century Skills Training and Coaching Forum in the CLP Commons (you must be logged in to the CLP on the NPS network to access this discussion forum)