Dr, Kelly has asked us to complete this activity:
In this activity, begin by reflecting on your reading of “National Parks for New Audiences.”
Respond to the following questions in a blog post:
- How well, if at all, do Cosset and Chalana incorporate ideas we’ve discussed in our work on teaching historical thinking in their essay?
- Given what you’ve learned thus far, what advice would you give the National Park Service on how best to use their historic sites to teach to a more diverse audience?
In their piece, “National Parks for New Audiences, Cosset and Chalana present readers with a history of Whitman Mission National Historic Site and San Juan Island National Park. In addition, the authors discuss the efforts that have been made to change the sites and to be sensitive to issues of diversity.
They’re also very careful to point out the shortcomings in the interpretation of the sites, and the stress that these shortcomings sometimes cause for the interpreters. They ask questions about the ways that the sites are interpreted and offer interpretations of their strengths and weaknesses.
I like how the authors discuss both the online and on-site interpretations of the sites. For example, they note:
“The on-site experience at WM-NHS largely mirrors the complexity of its online
presence. Site managers have clearly attempted to address the conflict with an
even-handed approach that actively incorporates Native voices and their critiques
of settlers’ actions and openly presents the site’s history of commemoration and
Both presenting complex histories to diverse audiences and the evaluation of public historians who are doing so are crucial in the Twenty-First Century. We have been discussing asking questions and talking about coverage and “uncoverage.” The authors are interested in these questions as well.
All semester, we have been talking about the need to reach audiences in any way that we can, and how important it is to have quality online and on-site presences.
My advice would be to conduct thorough research and to present both painful and pleasant experiences in American history. They should make sure that many different types of voices are heard, as well, including oral histories and having curators and guest curators from many different backgrounds. These interpretations should be presented in ways that reach many types of audiences, including interpreters who know different languages and apps which allow for translation. I suggest tackling the tough issues with as many primary sources as possible and with lots of tact.
Coslett, Daniel E., and Manish Chalana. “National Parks for New Audiences. Diversifying Interpretation for Enhanced Contemporary Relevance.” The Public Historian 38, no. 4: 101-128. November 2016.