Changing sociocultural and historiographic contexts require new approaches to interpretation and presentation at National Park Service–administered sites. Through the study of two NPS parks in Washington State (San Juan Island National Historical Park and Whitman Mission National Historic Site), this article explores the agency’s interpretive programs and practices in relation to founding mandates and contemporary relevance. As demonstrated by these case studies, efforts to expand programming and presentations within the NPS system are ongoing but at present insufficient in light of current changes in demographics and visitation. Ultimately, for the NPS to remain relevant in the twenty-first century it must respect founding mandates but diversify interpretation of its parks’ contested histories, thereby enhancing its contemporary relevance and better engaging today’s audiences.
National Parks for New Audiences: Diversifying Interpretation for Enhanced Contemporary Relevance
Daniel E. Coslett is a doctoral candidate at the University of Washington’s interdisciplinary PhD in the Built Environment program. His research and published works focus on architectural and urban design in colonial and postcolonial North Africa, engaging issues including archaeology, tourism, and heritage management. He has taught undergraduate and graduate courses on urban and architectural history, place engagement and analysis, and historic preservation.
Manish Chalana is an associate professor in the Department of Urban Design and Planning at the University of Washington. His work has appeared in journals including the Journal of Architectural Education, the Journal of Heritage Stewardship, Planning Perspectives, the Journal of Planning History, and the Journal of the American Planning Association. His edited volume, Messy Urbanism: Understanding the “Other” Cities of Asia, has recently been published by the Hong Kong University Press.
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Daniel E. Coslett, Manish Chalana; National Parks for New Audiences: Diversifying Interpretation for Enhanced Contemporary Relevance. The Public Historian 1 November 2016; 38 (4): 101–128. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2016.38.4.101
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