Southwestern Monuments Monthly Report


Travel Patterns of Southwestern Visitors
By Dale S. King, assistant park naturalist,
Southwestern Monuments Headquarters.

Just how blasé is the average visitor to the Southwestern Monuments? When one of our boys launched an explanation of tree ring dating, how much likelihood is there that he is hoping some visitor who has heard the same talk at another national park area?

We can guess at the answers to these and other questions, now that the returns from questionnaires issued during the 1938 summer travel season have been roughly analyzed. The experience of the average 1938 summer visitor was something like this:

(1) In past years he had visited between three and four national park areas.

(2) When he came into the Southwest, he saw approximately two of the monuments administered by Superintendent Pinkley.

(3) He also picked up one and a half other southwestern park areas, such as Grand Canyon, Carlsbad, Mesa Verde, etc.

(4) At some time on his trip he view slightly more than two parks or monuments in another part of the United States, and arrived home with his "lifetime" total number of visited park areas more than doubled.

Our interest in where our visitors have been and where they are going is not merely idle curiosity. Such information has great significance in the planning of visitor contact programs which we hope to build throughout the Southwestern Monuments.

Several times in the past few years we have been disturbed by comments relating to the content of information presentation at our monuments. A typical one was, "Why tell anything of New Mexico Spanish history at White Sands museum when the Tumacacori exhibits portray Spanish history quite thoroughly?" Assuming the Tumacacori exhibits did tell enough of Spanish history to explain the interesting events which transpired in the Tularosa Basin, we still wondered how many White Sands visitors saw Tumacacori. Hence the questionnaire.

One hundred forms were distributed to each custodian at those monuments whose travel peak comes in summer months. Field men were asked to make random distribution of them to a representative series of visitors, local and out-of-state, hurried and leisurely, rich and poor, interested and uninterested. Some of the boys fell down on the assignment, but enough answers were returned to form data sufficient for good guessing. It is planned to do the same with "winter" monuments during a typical travel month this winter. Casa Grande figures are bing kept both for summer and winter to check any observable differences.

Questions were:

1. Please name all national monuments and national parks you have visited this summer:

2. What ones do you plan to visit before your trip is ended?

3. What ones have you seen in past years?

4. What is your home state?

No tabulations have been worked out on Question No. 4, but the answers to the first three have pointed the way to some interesting conclusions, particularly concerning the danger and lack of danger of duplicating museum exhibits and guide representations at various of our areas.

For instance: taking the question about White Sands and Tumacacori mentioned above, NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THE HUNDRED PARTIES AT WHITE SANDS HAD VISITED, OR WERE GOING TO VISIT, TUMACACORI ON THEIR 1938 SUMMER TRIP! This would pretty definitely indicate that as far as Tumacacori's Spanish history presentation is concerned, White Sands will have to stand on its own legs. Put it another way. If we tell Spanish history only at Tumacacori; some 110,805 White Sands visitors are going to go away each year completely uninspired with this absorbing phase of the Southwest.

"Oh," you say, "Spanish history will also receive much emphasis at Gran Quivira, which is much nearer White Sands and would receive many of the White Sands Visitors." But NONE (speaking of the 100 interviewed) saw Gran Quivira, either. Absolutely none! Of course, the converse is not true, for approximately 15 percent of Gran Quivira's visitors also viewed White Sands.

Do we, or do we not, give at least a skeleton background of Spanish history at White Sands? The answer is, we do! And such decision are important, for it costs time, and sweat, and money to produce the exhibits which eventually will fill the White Sands museum, augment its trails, and be talked about on field trips and at moonlight talk programs.

It may be argued that since White Sands is primarily a geological phenomenon, it should include no historical exhibits. But White Sands geology would be considerably lessened in interest if it were divorced from its absorbing ecological and anthropological effects. We would be short-sighted, indeed, if we allowed the thousands of visitors to leave White Sands without a well-rounded impression of the many aspects of the area in relation to the Southwest as a whole.

It is an interesting sidelight conspicuously brought out in the answers to our questionnaire that to visitors "park" or "monument" merely means "point of interest." Listed below, in no particular order, are names which visitors included in their park and monument list:

Royal GorgeZuni countryColossal Cave
Painted DesertSan Francisco PeaksYosemite Valley
Casa GrandeJuarez, MexicoNiagara Falls
Golden GateIsletaDonner Pary
Lincoln's TombBlack ForestTuzigoot
Sycamore CanyonOak Creek CanyonWichita Game Preserve
all homes of U. S. presidentsGrand ValleyAlamo
Mount VernonTahoe LakeSan Jacinto
Ozark MountainsKaibab ForestLincoln (N.M.?) Nat'l Park
Meramac CaveMarble CanyonSandia Mountains
Hopi TowerHopi VillagesHuachucas
Natural Bridge, Va.Meteor CraterGarden of the Gods
Skyline Drive, Va.Black HillsCrook (N.F.?)
29 PalmsDeadwood CanyonGallup Indian dances
Seven Devils Cliff DwellingsRed CanyonEstes
Elephant Butte DamFrijolesPuye
Carson Nat'l ForestPikes PeakShiprock
AdirondacksTaosCochise Stronghold
San XavierKit Carson Cave

The following schematic maps show the most significant data in more graphic fashion, it is hoped. The accompanying notes assume that several basic ideas or principles; i.e., dendronchronological technique, stratigraphy, adaptation to environment, etc., will occur in exhibits and talks at many monuments. At one monument, stratigraphy is shown by a trash mound model; at another, by an actual sectioned midden in the ruin; at still a third, by means of motion pictures or colored slides, etc. Ideally, such variations in methods of presenting an idea could continue indefinitely. Practically, the 'steenth attempt to portray stratigratphy in a different fashion finds a man's ingenuity wearing a little thin. By "duplication" (which is a recurrent theme in the ensuing notes) we mean what results from the attempt just after the 'steenth one, which a designer still feels it important to portray the idea of stratigraphy.

(click on image for a PDF version)


AZTEC RUINS--Aztec's presentation should not duplicate that of Mesa Verde National Park in any respect. Care should also be taken that no extensive duplication be had with presentation schemes at Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, Casa Grande, and, to a lesser extent, Arches. Paucity of data makes these conclusions very tentative.


BANDELIER--This monument's somewhat peripheral position almost allows it an unhampered presentation scheme, although its exhibits and talks cannot parallel too closely those of Carlsbad and Grand Canyon. Somewhat more tenuous ties exist with Zion-Bryce, White Sands, El Morro, and Walnut Canyon. It is evident that Bandelier derives many visitors from the great horde that traverse US Highway 66 in summer months.

Not included in our figures, but certainly a factor to be taken into account, is the necessity for Bandelier to vary its presentation schemes from these used variously at the Laboratory of Anthropology, Museum of New Mexico, and University of New Mexico, all nearby popular attractions. This statement might be widened to include the various branches of the State Museum. Unless all institutions in New Mexico make a conscious effort to attain varied presentation techniques, a well-traveled visitor will soon find his museum tour monotonously repetitious.


CASA GRANDE--The informational system at Casa Grande evidently must be planned in relation to that of Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, and Carlsbad. Somewhat less important are Tumacacori and Zion-Bryce. There is a weaker, but effective, tie-up with the northern route to Montezuma Castle and the Flagstaff monuments. Still feebler, but recognizable, is the southern east-west bond including Chiricahua and White Sands.

Future educational planners must recognize also the duplicate travel which occurs between the Casa Grande and the University of Arizona Museum at Tucson and the Pueblo Grande at Phoenix. Hardly entering the picture is Gila Pueblo, not open to the general public, at Globe.


CANYON DE CHELLY--Questionnaire figures prove what we have long known,---- that our isolated monuments draw a high proportion of well-traveled persons, "globe-trotters," or, at least, "Southwest-trotters." Canyon de Chelly cannot reiterate devices used at Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, Navajo, Wupatki, Sunset Crater, Mesa Verde, and Chaco Canyon. It must also handle with caution those in operation at Natural Bridges, Zion-Bryce, Rainbow Bridge, Walnut Canyon, Montezuma Castle, Aztec Ruins, Casa Grande, Saguaro, Tumacacori, Chiricahua, and Bandelier.

Few questionnaires were submitted from this monument, and conclusions be fortuitous.


CHACO CANYON--Educational devices must not duplicate those at Mesa Verde, Aztec Ruins, Petrified Forest and Carlsbad. Bandelier techniques should be appropriated sparingly. The systems at the following areas, although not inconsiderable, have only slight bearing on Chaco: Canyon de Chelly, Zion-Bryce, Grand Canyon, Casa Grande, El Morro, White Sands, and Bandelier.

If the proposed Puerco area is made a monument, it must be added to the above list.


CHIRICAHUA--A large proportion of Chiricahua's visitors seem to be local, probably because development has not yet reached the allowance point for much national advertising. Chiricahua visitors have visited few areas, and see few more on their summer trip. Only the exhibits at Grand Canyon must be studiously avoided by the planners of Chiricahua's informational setup, although those of Zion-Bryce, Petrified Forest, Carlsbad and Tumacacori must also be viewed askance.


GRAN QUIVIRA--Figures on this monument are largely conjectural, since few questionnaires were returned. Apparently most visitors are local, or from the country to the east (Texas, Arkansas, etc.) where National Park areas are few. The only real bond is with Carlsbad. White Sands draws 15 percent of Gran Quivira's visitors. Small percentages also travel to Bandelier, Aztec, Mesa Verde, Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest, but these areas are too scattered and to distant to curtail the development at Gran Quivira.


MONTEZUMA CASTLE--This monument aligns itself more closely with the "Flagstaff Triad" (Walnut, Sunset, Wupatki) than we had previously supposed. It also proves to be a connecting link with Casa Grande and southern Arizona. Very carefully to be watched are the Museum of Northern Arizona, Grand Canyon, Zion-Bryce, and Petrified Forest, as well as the Flagstaff group. Tonto, Tumacacori, and Carlsbad figure in Montezuma's future less prominently. If Tuzigoot is made a monument it will add a further complicating factor.


PIPE SPRING--Almost all of Pipe Springs' visitors seem to be making the Zion-Bryce-Grand Canyon swing, or the reverse. Petrified Forest receives the next greatest percentage, while many scattered monuments are also visited. This is an accordance with our expectations, in view of Pipe Spring's isolated position.


WALNUT CANYON--Walnut is clearly established as one of the western gateways to the Southwest. Its visitors have seen only two park areas before their 1938 summer trip, but visit more than five additional ones before they return home. In tabulating Walnut's questionnaires it was noted that a surprisingly large percentage of its visitors were making far-flung tours of the west with national parks as their objectives.

It is manifest that Walnut must present a rather complete story of San Francisco Mountain anthropology, for only nine percent of its visitors see Wupatki, only 14 percent reach Sunset Crater. Conversely, 64 percent of Wupatki's tourists drive to Walnut. This is the present situation; improved entrance roads to Wupatki and Sunset will modify these percentages greatly.

Walnut cannot ape in any particular the exhibits and methods at Grand Canyon, Zion-Bryce, or Petrified Forest. Its formulation must also beware of intimate similarities with Wupatki, Sunset, the Museum of Northern Arizona, Montezuma, Tuzigoot, or Carlsbad.


WHITE SANDS--White Sands visitors, on the whole, are the most "provincial" group which visits the Southwestern Monuments. They have seen the fewest national park areas, and do not reach many others on their summer trips.

White Sands should make strict avoidance of Carlsbad techniques, and should also diverge from those in force at the Grand Canyon, in order to eschew tendencies toward monotony. Strangely enough, Zion-Bryce and Petrified Forest are the only other park areas which the White Sands group visited in any numbers.


WUPATKI--Wupatki's visitors were the most-traveled of the lot. At the end of the 1938 summer trip they had a lifetime average of 14.6 National Park areas visited. This contrasts with the corresponding White Sands figure of 3.7. Wupatki should watch the practices: Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, Walnut Canyon, Zion-Bryce, and Casa Grande. The Museum of Northern Arizona and Tuzigoot doubtless should be included also. A glance at the schematic map will show the many other areas frequented by persons who also visited Wupatki.

Ruminations, By the Boss

About Museums

About every so often it looks like the museum problem bobs up and has its little day. We have noticed, in this last year or so, that various people in our own Service need some orientation about museums. Our own administrators and experts have spoken now and then about the apparent multiplicity of museums among the stations of our Southwestern Monuments somewhat as through they were stumbling over them unexpectedly at every turn and, while they are generally pretty nice about it, we can see they are wondering what we are going to do with all the museums we have and have proposed.

To us, a museum is a tool with which we work and we can no more build an adequate background of the history or pre-history of the Southwest in the mind of the visitor without a museum than you could build a proper house for him without good working tools. A museum, rightly planned, is no luxury in the national monument business; it is a very vital necessity, yielding precedence only to such items as a water supply, personnel housing, administrative housing, and protection of equipment. We will have too many museums as soon as we have too many monuments. You remember that barefooted Arkansas kid who closed all argument with the book peddler by saying, "Shucks, no; you can't sell us airy book, paw's got a book!" Well, we have had that same argument used on us when we spoke of another museum and it was used by people who though they knew what they were talking about.

Just recently we have had an expert tell us that we must not have any Spanish history at the White Sands museum because White Sands is primarily a geological monument and the visitor will get his Spanish history over at Tumacacori, 400 miles west. The answer is that the White Sands visitors don't go to Tumacacori, so we had better have some Spanish history in southern New Mexico, too. The visitor at White Sands has come through several hundred miles of Spanish history and has several hundred more to go, so it won't hurt him to know a little about it. What seems at first glance to be an overlap to our critic is really no such thing.

It is to clear up some such ideas as that that the boys have gathered the figures and King has written his article, beginning on page 522 of this Supplement. Gradually we hope to learn a little about museums. We may, in time, reach the point where we can say this or that will or will not work; but we are sometimes amused, in the meanwhile, to have so much information which isn't so, so freely bestowed upon us.

As an evidence of how much it behooves us all to be modest about our actual knowledge of how people and museums react, I was struck with this little summary from a recent study: "When the individual records were examined, it was found that the route taken by the average visitor was the reverse of that planned by the guide book, 24.4 percent of the exhibits were examined, 10.9 percent of the labels were read, and the average time taken by the visitors for reviewing the history of life on earth during the past 500,000,000 years was 21.40 minutes." That looks pretty hopeless, doesn't it? Yet the study was made in one of the large eastern museums where experts had been arranging the exhibits these many years. In view of this, let us not become discouraged, as I sometimes do, if we can't hold our visitors more than an average of 23 minutes where we deal with the last couple of thousand years and have no large halls full of exhibits. We may be doing as well in our little field as the big boys are doing in their field.

If the big fellows who have been working for years at the game can have 75 percent of their exhibits unnoticed and 90 percent of their labels unread, it is certainly time for us to study our visitors with increased attention, for there and there only, can we get the answer to the museum problem.

In the meantime, let's not worry about getting too many museums; I am watching their batting averages pretty closely, and you are welcome to look their figures in the face any time you think one is not delivering real service.

The Boss

GENERAL INDEX - July — December, 1938
(PDF version)

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Date: 01-Jun-2007