2009 Public History Field School - Reading and Assignment Schedule

Week 1 (April 3): The National Park Service, History, and Interpretation, Part I

  • Readings for Week 2 (Please have the following assignments read prior to the next class)
    • Tilden, Part 1 (Intro & Ch. 1-7) p. 1-85.
      • Despite first being published in 1957, Tilden’s book is the foundational work for the field of interpretation. As you read, reflect on experiences you’ve had with interpretation, and think about when you have (and haven’t) seen Tilden’s principles in action. What worked? What didn’t? How can these principles help guide your work in this class?

    • Beck & Cable (Intro & Ch. 1-7) p. 1-79.
      • This text builds upon Tilden’s and expands to include 21st century issues. As you read, note and reflect on similarities and differences with Tilden’s text. Understanding the goal of this course, how does this text help you in different ways than Tilden’s?

    • Mackintosh, Interpretation in the National Park Service: A Historical Perspective, Chapters 1, 2, and the section in Chapter 3 entitled “Museums, Visitor Centers and the New Look.”
      • Mackintosh’s two works represent the official in-house introduction to NPS history and interpretation, and the purpose of these readings is to provide additional background on how the NPS has grown as an agency. Chapter 3’s section entitled “Museums, Visitor Centers, and the New Look” should be of particular interest, as the current Fort Vancouver Visitor Center and Museum came from this era. As you read, note any connections or parallels between the evolution of the field of interpretation and the NPS as an agency. Be particularly attentive to the NPS’ addition of historic sites and the growth of historical interpretation. How your class work can tie to this tradition…will it be part of a new branch? Will it continue an existing one?

    • National Park Service, Long Range Interpretive Plan: Vancouver National Historic Reserve, p. 1-16.
      • This document is the driver for any interpretive activities at Fort Vancouver NHS and the Vancouver National Historic Reserve; all activities must tie into its themes, goals, and general direction. How does this document connect to your other readings? Pay particular attention to the themes and goals. What opportunities and potential connections do you see for your group project?

Week 2 (April 10): The National Park Service, History, and Interpretation, Part II

  • Lecture & Discussion: Interpretation
    • What Interpretation Is: Tangibles, Intangibles, Universal Concepts
    • How Interpretation Works: The Interpretive Equation
    • Interpretive Process Model & TGOs
  • Lecture & Discussion: Introduction to Fort Vancouver NHS
    • Administrative history
    • Guiding plans & documents
    • How history is interpreted
  • Writing Assignment 1: Review one of the park's Counting House interpretive panels and complete the questions on the handout regarding tangibles, intangibles, universal concepts, and connections to course readings.

  • Readings for Week 3 (Please have the following assignments read prior to class)
    • Tilden, Part 2 (Ch. 8-15) p. 89-15
    • Beck & Cable, (Ch. 8-15 & Conclusion) p. 81-169
      • In light of the other readings, what sections or passages resonate with you? How can Tilden’s observations best help you in understanding historic interpretation and creating a new exhibit? How can Beck & Cable’s do the same?
      • Continue to compare and contrast these two foundational texts. What are the differences? Similarities? What – if anything – do Beck & Cable bring to the table that Tilden didn’t?

    • Hussey, Chapter 4, “History of Fort Vancouver 1846-1869: A Brief Outline.”
      • Hussey’s book was published in 1957, after he revised and expanded an earlier study from the 1940s. The section you are reading is part of that expansion, and presents an introduction to the transitional period when the U.S. Army first arrived at Fort Vancouver. What part of Hussey’s narrative interests you? What part provokes you into wanting to know more? What stories might be compelling ones that tie into the site’s interpretive themes? What stories might resonate with today’s visiting public?

    • Merritt, Administrative History: Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, Chapter 8.
      • Merritt’s administrative history of the site ends in the early 1990s, prior to the establishment of the Vancouver National Historic Reserve, but it provides a good overview of early interpretive efforts at the site. What similarities or differences do you see with the growth of the NPS as an agency and the evolution of historical interpretation? What connections, if any, do you see with the principles espoused by Tilden and Beck & Cable? How was the history chronicled in Hussey’s work reflected in site programming?

Week 3 (April 17): Knowledge of the Resource: Army History & Archaeology

  • Special Presentation & Walking Tour
    • Archaeology and the Early Army Presence (Dr. Robert Cromwell, park archaeologist)
  • Special Presentation
    • Resources Available in the Park Archives & Collections (Heidi Pierson, museum technician)
  • Writing Assignment 2: Read Shine's The Manumission of Monimia Travers: A Slave freed at Fort Vancouver and answer the questions on the handout about universal concepts, tangibles & intangibles, and linkages to course readings.

  • Readings for Week 4 (Please have the following assignments read prior to class)
    • Sinclair, Part 1, p. 1-77.
      • Sinclair’s work is a good example of a social history and a good, holistic introduction to the Army’s history at the site. How does it build upon and/or compliment Hussey’s work? What stories connect well with the Reserve’s interpretive themes? Of these, what stories might resonate with the public and also help them understand the significance of the site? How could you apply the tenets of Tilden and Beck & Cable to telling these stories?

  • Serrell, p. 1-64.
    • Serrell’s text uses a foundation in interpretation to drill down to rubber-meets-the-road practical application – the writing of compelling exhibit text. How does Part 1 build upon the tenets of Tilden and Cable & Beck? Are there any differences? If so, why?

  • Tilden, Part 3, p. 161-199
    • How would you describe the connection between Tilden’s earlier work and his later essays? What particularly resonates with you? Why?

  • David L. Larson, “Be Relevant or Become a Relic: Meeting the Public Where They Are”
    • I consider this to be one of the most influential articles in NPS interpretation in the last 10 years. It marked a huge departure for NPS interpretation, away from “information as interpretation” and toward a more abstract goal of helping guide an audience toward their own understanding of a resource. How does this compare/contrast with Tilden and Beck & Cable? What challenges does this approach present?

Week 4 (April 24): NPS & Interpretive Media Development

  • Readings for Week 5 (Please have the following assignments read prior to class)
    • Sinclair, Part 1, p. 78-173
    • Serrell, p. 65-110
      • As you complete Part 1 of Serrell’s text, think about the important role of the audience when crafting exhibit text. What are some of the most important considerations? What is an example of exhibit text that does a good job/bad job of factoring in the audience?

  • Parman & Flowers, 1-50
    • This is text is a workbook that we will be referring to throughout the remainder of the course. In your initial read, please make yourself familiar with it but do not begin working on the specific tasks and worksheets. How does this workbook build upon the other readings? How can it help you in the development of your exhibit?

Week 5 (May 1): Understanding Existing Media & Developing Your Exhibit Themes, Part 1

  • Readings for Week 6 (Please have the following assignments read prior to class)
    • Serrell, p. 111-176
      • Part three gets into the practical development of exhibit writing. How do Serrell’s recommendations compliment those in Parman & Flowers’ workbook?
    • Stanton, Part 1., p. 1-44
      • What is the Lowell experiment?
      • How does Lowell fit into the history of Public History (how does this text)?
      • How does Stanton describe herself as a scholar?
      • What is her intent in this study?

Week 6 (May 8): Understanding Existing Media & Developing Your Exhibit Themes, Part 2

  • Group Lab Work
  • Special Presentation: Museum Exhibit Design (Langford, Pierson)
  • Discussion: Stanton, The Lowell Experiment (Katy Barber)

  • Readings for Week 7 (Please have the following assignments read prior to class)
    • Serrell, p. 177-236.
      • How do Serrell’s “Ten Deadly Sins” and “14 Helpful Research Findings” build upon the tenets of Tilden, Beck & Cable, & Larsen? Which ones will be the most helpful for you in this course? Why?
    • Stanton, Part 2, p. 45-134

Week 7 (May 15): Developing Your Exhibit

  • Group Lab Work & Project Assistance
  • Discussion: Stanton, The Lowell Experiment (Katy Barber)

  • Readings for Week 8 (Please have the following assignments read prior to class)
    • Stanton, Part 3, p. 135-237

Week 8 (May 22): Developing Your Exhibit

  • Group Lab Work & Project Assistance
  • Discussion: Stanton, The Lowell Experiment (Katy Barber)

Week 9 (May 29): Developing Your Exhibit

  • Group Lab Work & Project Assistance

Week 10 (June 5): Final Presentations

  • Group presentation of final exhibit concept to NPS Park Management



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Last updated: February 28, 2015

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