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A Brief History Of The National Park Service




National Park Idea

Early Growth

NPS Created






Plans and Design





Historic Conservation

Land Planning

State Cooperation


Work Camps

Recreation Study




Antiquities Act

Organic Act

Historic Sites Act

Recreational-Area Programs Act



Research and Information

In 1925 the Secretary of the Interior approved Director Mather's plan for establishment of headquarters of the Educational Division at Berkeley, California, under Mr. Hall. Administration of the program was handled from that point until establishment of the Service's Branch of Research and Education under Dr. Bryant in Washington, D. C., on July 1, 1930. During this period administrative plans were developed for the educational activities of each park, in cooperation with the park superintendents and naturalists. Simultaneously, a plan of administration for the educational service as a whole was worked out, and its approval by the Director on June 4, 1929 formed the basis of operation and administration in the field.

The principal study of educational program needs in the national park system was made by a committee appointed by the Secretary of the Interior in 1929, which operated with funds provided by the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial. Its personnel included Dr. John C. Merriam, chairman, and Drs. Hermon C. Bumpus, Harold C. Bryant, Vernon Kellogg, and Frank R. Oastler. These men made field trips in the summer of 1928 and reported many practical suggestions for development of the program.

Acting on the recommendation of this committee, the Secretary of the Interior, in 1929, invited several eminent scientists and educators to serve on a National Park Service Educational Advisory Board. This group consisted of those already on the educational committee with the exception of Dr. Bryant, and in addition Drs. Clark Wissler, Wallace W. Atwood and Isiah Bowman. The committee on study of educational problems was also enlarged to include Dr. Atwood and Dr. Wissler.

Further field investigations were conducted in 1929 and 1930 by the committee and its members rendered individual reports on the areas they visited. The committee submitted its final report to the Secretary of the Interior on November 27, 1929. In this report, it was recommended hat the position of educational director of the Service should be filled by a man "of the best scientific and educational qualifications," that headquarters of the educational division should be a part of the central organization in Washington, and that two assistants be appointed who, together with the head, should represent the subjects of geology, biology, anthropology, and history.

With the establishment of the Branch of Research and Education in 1930, Dr. Harold C. Bryant, a biologist, was appointed assistant director in charge of this work. Dr. Wallace W. Atwood, Jr., was made assistant in charge of work relating to earth sciences, and a year later Verne E. Chatelain was appointed assistant in charge of historical and archeological developments. With these steps having been taken, the main work of the educational committee was completed, and the group was disbanded in 1931.

Now called the Branch of Research and Information, this branch is charged with the task of interpreting to the public the natural phenomena within the national parks and monuments, conducting or sponsoring such research as is necessary to that program, and the protection and conservation of the natural resources therein. The planning and administration of the work of the Branch, which is comprised of three divisions, the Naturalist, the Wildlife (assigned to National Park Service duty from the Biological Survey), and the Museum Division, is under the direction of a Supervisor, Dr. Carl P. Russell, who was appointed to fill the vacancy caused by the transfer of Dr. Bryant to the Superintendency of Grand Canyon National Park in February 1939.

Several main policies have been followed in the development of the educational program, and important among these are:

1. Simple, understandable interpretation of the major features of each park to the public by means of field trips, lectures, exhibits, and literature.

2. Emphasis upon leading the visitor to study the real thing rather than to utilize second-hand information. Typical academic methods are avoided.

3. Utilization of a highly trained personnel with field experience in geological and biological sciences able to interpret to the public the laws of the universe as exemplified in the parks, and able to develop concepts of the laws of life useful to all.

4. A research program in the natural sciences which will furnish a continuous supply of dependable facts suitable for use in connection with the educational program and for guidance in shaping National Park Service policy.

5. Promotion of library facilities and practice throughout the national park system.

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