Freeman Tilden Award

The interpreter who creates a whole, pares away all the obfuscating minor detail and drives straight toward the perfection of his story will find that his hearers are walking along with him - are companions on the march. At some certain point it becomes their story as much as his.

- Freeman Tilden


The Freeman Tilden Award is an annual award recognizing outstanding contributions to the public through interpretation by a National Park Service employee. The award was created in 1982 to stimulate and reward creative work by National Park Service employees that results in positive impacts upon the visiting public.

The 2013 award recipient is:

Jane Farmer

Jane Farmer, park ranger
Natchez Trace Parkway — Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee

Congratulations to Jane Farmer for receiving the 2013 National Freeman Tilden Award. Farmer was presented the national award for her role in connecting American Indian students to their ancestral homelands in the park.

Farmer established formal partnerships with three tribal nations and collaborated with East Central University in Oklahoma to develop instruction that would provide in-depth park experiences for the students. In August 2013, students from the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma spent a week in the park researching genealogy, exploring the land, and working on educational projects, including a documentary video. Students met with area historians, representatives from the local Chickasaw Preserve, and members of the media.

In coming months, students from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians will also visit the park. The project is a model that can be expanded to other national parks to provide youth with more opportunities to discover and connect to their own stories found within parks.


Freeman Tilden provided a philosophical basis for interpretation in his book Interpreting Our Heritage. Nominees for the Freeman Tilden award are judged for their creativity, originality, and positive contributions to enhancing the public's understanding of the National Park Service and the resources it protects.




The National Park Service also applauds the accomplishments of the 2013 regional award recipients:

Frank Barrows
Frank Barrows, chief of interpretation and education
New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, Massachusetts

Barrows developed the Youth Ambassador Program (YAP), where at-risk youth created national park-themed music and videos, many of which are now shared through interpretive programs, interpretive media, curriculum-based education, live performances, and social media. Barrows collaborated with youth from the non-profit Third Eye Youth Empowerment to create songs that connect park themes to issues in the youth's own lives.

The group visited parks in five states and Washington, DC which inspired them to communicate core values such as moving outside, knowing your history, living sustainably, experiencing America and inspiring others. The songs and performances from the program were also showcased on a touch-screen Kid's Kiosk in the park's visitor center.
Tracy Evans
Tracy Evans, park ranger
Monocacy National Battlefield, Maryland

Evans created a tangible link to the past by returning Confederate General Robert E. Lee's 'Special Orders 191' to the site where they were originally written 150 years prior. Tracy secured the loan of precious museum objects from the Library of Congress and designed special events and interpretive exhibits around them.

Lee's Special Orders, which detailed his brazen plans to push into Union territory and divide the Union army, were intercepted by Union troops which allowed them to anticipate Lee's movements. The museum exhibit and special events connected to the exhibits spanned three months from August 1-October 31, 2012 and contributed to a 52% increase in visitation.
Greg Shine
Greg Shine, chief ranger and historian
Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, Oregon and Washington

Shine developed the digital iBook "Revealing Our Past: A History of Nineteenth Century Vancouver Barracks through 25 Objects." It is one of the first National Park Service publications to be created expressly for digital, interactive publication, using multi-touch features such as imbedded video, interactive images, swipe-friendly photos, pop overs, imbedded hyperlinks and more. The iBook is also fully accessible using voiceover technology.

Shine and the 2013 NPS/Portland State University Public History Field School highlighted historical artifacts and archeology in the digital media to facilitate an understanding of life at this 19th century military post.
Roy Wood
Roy Wood, chief of interpretation
Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Wood partnered with the Annenberg Foundation's Explore.org to bring the bears of Brooks Camp to the world through online bearcams. The Katmai BearCam project used technology to connect people to parks, providing a safe, up-close experience for millions of webcam viewers to learn about bears and salmon and to witness the raw beauty of wild Alaska.

He worked with partners at Annenberg Foundation's Explore Annenberg, LLC program to overcome the challenge of the remoteness of Katmai. Wood complemented the webcams with social media and live-streamed interpretive programs that garnered more than 5 million web hits, 1 million unique viewers, 62,000 social media comments, and 5,000 simultaneous viewers during the period eligible for the Tilden nomination. The bear cams continue to generate interest today.
Aaron Kaye

Aaron Kaye, supervisory park ranger

Kaye fostered visitor connections to the breathtaking night sky resources of Badlands National Park with Badlands AstroFest. Launching from the NPS Director's Call to Action 'Starry, Starry Night' initiative, Aaron's development and coordination of AstroFest increased park visitation by 3,600 visitors and engaged local underserved youth, especially those from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Audiences connected with the night sky through educational panels, curriculum-based programming, family activities, solar observations, presentations and guest speakers, including a NASA Astronaut, and more.

Read about previous award recipients:

2012
2011
2010