National Historical Park
The interpretive program is a major aspect of Nez Perce National Historical Park. The park story is complex and challenging. Interpreting the story for visitors is vital to the success of the park, because most of the park's widely scattered sites relate to each other historically rather than visually or geographically. Indeed, the park's creators acknowledged that most of these sites and wayside signs did not possess intrinsic national significance. It was only when they were considered as a whole that the historical sites in Nez Perce country accrued national significance. Therefore, the interpretive program has been responsible for making each site achieve a level of national significance by virtue of its association with the other sites in the park. The park administration's interpretive function carries most of the responsibility for making the park's "string of pearls" cohere.
The conceptual framework for the park's interpretive program was developed through three key planning documents: the feasibility report of 1963, the master plan of 1968, and the interpretive prospectus of 1970. These documents outlined the goals of the program as well as the physical development of the park that the NPS would need to undertake in order to accomplish its goals. This chapter begins with a discussion of that conceptual framework. It then looks at the various components of the interpretive program as it actually developed. Finally, it considers some of the problems that are peculiar to interpretation in this partnership park.