Hopewell Culture
Administrative History
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Interpreting the Mound City Group (continued)

The Interpretive Program

Superintendent Clyde B. King made it a point not only to be seen by visitors, but to contact them personally and endeavor to explain to them the significance of the mounds. In the summer of 1947, he reported contacting 1,262 out of 6,080 visitors in July. Outside of maintenance, King represented the only National Park Service employee trained to educate visitors. Like the consummate park ranger wearing the green and gray uniform, King took the responsibility to heart and made himself available at all times, including his days off. In the late fall, cold temperatures necessitated closing the unheated picnic shelter, but Clyde King still welcomed visitors who came to the residence to seek site information. [1]

The first crude mimeographed informational leaflet produced in the Region One Office was replaced in March 1948 with a new supply prepared by Clyde King. As news of the interpretive exhibits on display in the shelterhouse museum spread, a gratified Superintendent King greeted more and more visitors coming to the park seeking information, not recreation. Contacting almost half of the 1,200 visitors in November 1953, King noted that "It is not recognized by many that this is the only interpretive display in this section of country on this subject." In a not-too-veiled reference to the historical society in Columbus, he added, "By section, I refer to a broader field than even the state." [2]

King endeavored to deliver accurate information, incorporating current data into displays and interpretive folders. In early 1954, King himself researched and wrote "Indians of the Scioto Valley" with an eye toward having the narrative history substitute for a traditional park historical handbook. King made the document available for loan to students and teachers, and felt that with the addition of photographs and illustrations, it could one day be converted into a park handbook. Its availability soon sparked a demand by local academics, particularly by spokespersons preparing for group tours to the area. Conferring with Richmond officials in late 1953, King decided that interpretive materials include a separate self-guided trail sheet oriented from a single beginning point, rather than a more traditional marked tour route. This decision was based on the premise that the "mounds are so much alike." [3]

With facility developments in the early 1960s, came the decision to include a marked path for self-guided tours through the mounds for visitors who purchased a tour booklet produced by Eastern National Parks and Monuments Association. In the spring of 1963, the tour path was rerouted through the earthworks with tour guideposts repainted to reflect a uniform color scheme. In assessing the park's infant interpretive program, Regional Administrative Officer John J. Bachensky reported in late 1962 during a management inspection that the Park Service needed to ensure uniform interpretive information be "reflected in everything presented to the public." Bachensky criticized the bronze wayside exhibit "The Mound City Necropolis" produced by the Washington Office's museum division for depicting twenty-three burial mounds, not the twenty-four shown in site literature and other exhibits. [4]

Northeast Regional Director Ronald F. Lee approved the first interpretive prospectus (IP) for Mound City Group in April 1963. The brief IP included three recommendations for future implementation. The first called for an official handbook, and noted one was scheduled to be completed in fiscal year 1965. While this handbook did not materialize, neither did a similar effort performed under contract in the mid-1970s with the Ohio Historical Society. The second IP recommendation dealt with "the main drawback to interpretation at Mound City Group," namely that there was "no place within the visitor center to give an audio-visual lecture or address more than a dozen people who can crowd into the small space by the desk." The alternatives the IP considered included constructing an auditorium addition to seat one hundred visitors in the patio area, or placing a projection cabinet against the rear lobby wall for audio-visual presentations. The IP stressed the auditorium as the "best and most adequate service."

The third recommendation called for a campfire program away from the modern visitor center and earthworks in the forested area along the river. It envisioned evening programs centered around a campfire with vertical logs set in the earth for benches "to suggest the prepared floor surrounded by posts in a circle which lay at the base of each mound and indicated the ceremonials held by the Hopewell people." The IP pointed to the vale near the old picnic shelterhouse as a potential site for the campfire programs. For lack of funds, such a development never came to pass, although evening programs were held in close proximity to the visitor center and without campfires.

The 1963 prospectus concluded with the expressed wish for more research into the daily lives of the Hopewell. Such details would make the interpretive story more interesting and pertinent to visitors. The IP reflected the thinking of regional archeologists in Philadelphia as well as park archeologist Richard D. Faust. The document concluded with the following emphasized statement: "Until Mound City Group is adequately and extensively interpreted by 'livening up' the dramatic aspect of Hopewellian life by showing ON THE GROUND just what is known to have taken place AT THE MOUND SITES, and what was found in them, it will be difficult to keep the area from looking like a pleasant little green park, instead of a great prehistoric ceremonial center." [5]

The need for more information came to pass during the summer of 1963 as the Ohio Historical Society, under contract with the National Park Service, began a multiple-year excavation and mound restoration program. This program failed to address the need to explore non-mortuary aspects of Hopewellian life, and continued the myopic focus on mound exploration that characterized Ohio archeology since the early nineteenth century. Monument interpreters took full advantage of the educational opportunity the archeological work itself presented by erecting temporary displays in the mound area to explain what was happening. Overzealousness, however, also resulted in including a human skeleton unearthed in the southeast corner of the excavations. The remains were left on display as long as possible until the bones were collected and accessioned into the park collection. Temporary displays of photographs in the visitor center also served to whet the appetite of visitors who wished to see previous work of archeologists digging up artifacts and other burial features. June 1963 initiated guided tours conducted by uniformed interpreters through the museum and earthworks in forty-five-minute increments every afternoon [6]

The monument's interpretive leaflet met professional standards of other developed parks for the first time in May 1964. The simple foldover format gave way to a twelve-page, six-fold information folder with sharp illustrations and more descriptive text. A new after-hours distribution box for interpretive folders installed the following month brought a brisk pattern of after-hours use. Operating hours were first expanded during the three peak summer months in June 1964 when the work schedules of one permanent interpreter and two seasonals were staggered to allow expanded operation from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. [7]

During the tenure of General Superintendent William Birdsell, the interpretive program entered a new era. As mound excavation and restoration concluded, the need for a staff archeologist to oversee such contract work gave way to a more immediate need for professional interpretation. In January 1973, the Chillicothe Gazette proudly announced Robert F. Holmes entrance on duty as Mound City Group's first interpretive specialist in the monument's fifty-year history. Holmes began as chief of interpretation and resource management on January 7, 1973, charged with preparation of new programs, panels, and signs, public relations, research, school programs, special tours, and developing an environmental study program. Birdsell announced his pleasure at utilizing the archeological expertise of the Ohio Historical Society, but anticipated Holmes enhancing the interpretive story for visitors in not only the Hopewell culture, but sub-themes like Camp Sherman and the Ohio and Erie Canal as well. [8]

Ranger Jim Anderson
Figure 72: Ranger Jim Anderson presents a guided tour. (NPS/July 1977)

Professionalizing the interpretive program soon paid dividends. In 1976, a "teaching kit" about the Hopewell sent to schools through the mail proved widely popular. The slide program and written narrative also included photographs of artifacts, a replica smoking pipe, and a publication about the Hopewell. So successful was the teaching kit that the Ohio Historical Society duplicated the slide program and made it available to schools throughout the state. Utilizing United States Bicentennial funding for increased interpretive programs, Mound City Group sponsored traveling exhibits, a spring film festival, a play, and three summer concerts. A special exhibit of "Indian Pride on the Move" in July 1976, represented the first non-Washington, D.C., showing of this display of American Indian culture and history. [9]

In addressing the success of a primary management objective to "foster public understanding of Hopewell and Adena cultures," Superintendent Fred Fagergren, Jr., commented on the growing high morale and enthusiasm of his interpreters in 1977. The esprit de corps resulted in better interpretation and glowing visitor comments. Fagergren observed that in previous years, visitor contact from the small interpretive staff was small, but special weekend events and a commitment to expand educational outreach began to yield more than half of all visitors receiving personal attention. He attributed expansion of the trail system, improved signage, and revised museum exhibits as sparking an improved attitude among interpreters. Clearly, Holmes' hard work had begun to yield substantive dividends. [10]

An overnight "Camp In" for youths aged eleven to thirteen came in July 1979, chaperoned by Park Ranger Teresa Nichols and seasonal rangers Beverly Cooper and Steve Race. Limited to twenty children with advanced reservations required, the activity proved immensely popular. The year had special themes of "Year of the Visitor" and "Year of the Child" and programming changed to reflect these special emphases with more than a dozen other special programs lead by rangers. [11]

Interpretive ranger Teresa Nichols conducted sixteen oral history interviews in the spring of 1980 with individuals connected with Camp Sherman. The interviews were designed to be incorporated into a slide-tape program about the World War I army facility to be shown to visitors. Work soon began transcribing the interview sessions, with original recordings maintained at the Harpers Ferry Center. Interpreters also began accumulating quality photographs of the defunct installation. In 1982, seasonal Ruth Bartlett completed the program with technical assistance and narration done by volunteer Joe Murray of WBEX radio, husband of staff member Bonnie Murray. The same year Interpreter Murray wrote the first "Statement for Interpretation" for the monument, a document approved without revision. [12]

Native Americans began receiving special emphasis in 1987 when the park began its first "Native American Indian Day" on September 26. Paralleling Ohio's Native American Recognition Day, Mound City Group provided temporary exhibits and invited Indian volunteers for special talks. In connection with the National Park Service's seventy-fifth anniversary, the park sponsored the "Hopewell Spirit Art Contest," awarding prizes to the best renditions of Hopewell culture. [13]

The first interpretive newsletter debuted in November 1993, designed to keep the public informed about NPS plans and programs for Hopewell Culture National Historical Park. Interpreters assisted in developing a fifteen-minute orientation film called "Legacy of the Mound Builders." Filming took place in June 1993 by Camera I Productions of Seattle, in anticipation of the new auditorium programmed for construction. The park received a first place video award for the film in April 1996 from the Ohio Museum Association. [14]

Utilizing funding from the Mead Corporation, National Park Foundation, and the NPS's Parks as Classrooms program, park interpreters developed and distributed in 1996 more than 150 Hopewell Curriculum Guides to area educators. The 177-page guide proved popular with elementary school teachers and nicely augmented a long-time outreach effort. A record 191 onsite school programs reached nearly five thousand individuals during the 1995-96 school year. The Junior Ranger program, launched earlier in the decade, continued to be popular, with more than 1,400 children earning a patch or badge in 1996. [15] A greatly expanded series of "site bulletins" addressing a wide range of topics in depth was instituted since 1995, improving the quality of public information provided.


Last Updated: 04-Dec-2000