On-line Book
cover to Admin History
NPS Expansion: 1930s







New Deal



NPS 1933-39




Expansion of the National Park Service in the 1930s:
Administrative History

Chapter Five: New Initiatives in the Fields of History, Historic Preservation and Historical Park Development and Interpretation
National Park Service Arrowhead

S. Interpretation: 1935-1941

During the late 1930s efforts were made to upgrade the interpretive activities in the historical areas of the National Park System. Improvements were made in various types of field exhibits, including sample "restorations," outdoor relief maps, orientation maps, trailside museums, and markers An example of such sample restoration projects was the reconstruction of the Continental Army hospital, together with reproductions of a soldier's hut and officer's hut, at Morristown National Historical Park in 1936-37. As part of the interpretive program field historians began to give public lectures sponsored by outside groups and to participate in numerous radio broadcasts in the vicinity of their parks. [105]

In April 1940 a historical technicians conference was held at Richmond, Virginia, with Ronald F. Lee as chairman and Roy E. Appleman, Regional Supervisor of Historic Sites, Region I, as vice chairman. The purpose of the conference was to consider interpretive problems relating to the development and presentation of historical and archeological areas. The subjects discussed included the objectives and standards of interpretive policy and park literature and the use of markers and material objects in museums and trailside exhibits. The objectives and standards of interpretive policy were:

That care should be exercised to prevent the interpretation of historical areas from becoming too technical. . . . The visitor . . . should be given a concise statement of major events and an interpretation of their significance in our national story.

That simplicity in presentation does not imply superficial knowledge. Rather, it implies and urges the complete mastery of history and period culture of historical areas. . . . Technical personnel should meet visiting scholars on a basis of equality

That the technician should have complete knowledge and appreciation of all historical objects and interpretative devices displayed in the park museum in order that he may meet properly an inquisitive public.

The principal objective of park literature

should be to provide a description of historical and archaeological remains to be found within an area, to give accurate, objective narrative and expository accounts of the events which cause the area to have significance in American history. . . .

Relative to the use of markers it was determined

that it is desirable to hold the quantity of markers to a minimum.

that narrative markers be used with discretion

that brevity is desirable in all narrative markers

that trailside and field exhibits be used to replace narrative markers or groups of markers

that troop positions on battlefield areas be permanently and unobstrusively marked; and that since the older type of marker existing on many battlefield areas is obstrusive, such markers where practicable, be lowered, or supplanted.

Concerning the use of material objects in museums and trailside exhibits, the conferees agreed

That the paramount importance of museums for the twofold purpose of preservation and interpretation of and through material objects should be stressed. Objects of historical and cultural value should be systematically sought for and collected with the specific needs of each historic area in mind, both by gift and by purchase as they may become available. To effect the foregoing objectives it is desirable to have each park prepare and maintain a list of desired material objects based on the approved exhibit plans. [106]

Chapter Five continues with...
Publications: 1935-1941


Last Modified: Tues, Mar 14 2000 07:08:48 am PDT

National Park Service's ParkNet Home