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DRAFT Module:

Interpreting Critical Resource Issues and Controversy


  • Interpreting Critical Resource Issues

  • Interpreting Controversy

  • Component: Interpreting Controversy


Effective interpretation of controversy requires mastery of the techniques and applications in section III. of Module 340 component "Appropriate Technique: Connecting Multiple Resource Meanings to Multiple Audience Interests and Perspectives" and Module Draft—Interpreting Multiple Points of View.


Upon completion of this component, the learner will be able to:

  • Articulate how controversial subjects and perspectives can present opportunities for facilitating emotional and intellectual connections to the meanings of the resource;
  • Effectively interpret controversial subjects and perspectives.

Content Outline:

  1. What?

    1. Controversy is the result of multiple resource meanings and/or audience perspectives competing for emphasis in presentations or influence on policy and management decisions.

    2. Often new data, policies, theories, or interpretations will cause controversy.

  2. When?

    1. Whenever competing resource meanings or audience perspectives are relevant to the resource and audiences.

    2. Controversy provides opportunity

      1. Controversy means the topic is relevant

      2. Controversy means people care about the resource.

      3. If people care about, there is great potential for them to care for the resource.

    3. Do not purposefully create controversy or avoid controversy that is relevant to the resource and audiences.

    4. When controversy is present, use it to provide opportunities for audiences to make their own intellectual and emotional connections to the meanings of the resource.

    5. Do not attempt to interpret controversy when audiences have a primary agenda of challenging or changing policy, interrupting interpretive programs or operations, or insulting interpreters or management. Those audiences are outside the scope of interpretation. In such cases:

      1. Recognize when facilitating opportunities for audience connections to the resource is no longer likely to succeed and;

      2. Recognize a different service is required for those audiences, for example informational briefings, public hearings, negotiation, political strategy, and;

      3. Provide appropriate service to those audiences (these services are usually determined by and often implemented by management) and/or;

      4. Politely disengage from interpretive efforts and/or;

      5. Respond in a manner as directed by management.

  3. How

    1. Respect and acknowledge the rights of audience members to hold and maintain their beliefs.

    2. Link multiple resources to multiple audience interests and perspectives (Module 340) and interpret multiple points of view (Draft Interpreting Multiple Points of View).

      1. Alternative meanings and perspectives on the resource usually provoke audiences.

      2. Effective application usually disarms controversy, allows for different perspectives to dialogue, and provides opportunities for audiences with a variety of perspectives to make personal connections with the meanings of the resource.

    3. Acknowledge that resource meanings and audience perspectives toward those meanings can conflict.

      1. Encourage audience members to consider alternative perspectives and determine their own "truth."

      2. Acknowledge that some resource meanings and audience perspectives suggest behaviors that are destructive to the resource and/or audiences.

      3. Acknowledge agencies are responsible for making preservation decisions based on scientific observation, research, and scholarship.

        1. Know and understand agency decision making process and positions on resource management and preservation.

        2. When appropriate, articulate and interpret agency decision making process and positions on preservation within the context of differing positions.

      4. Acknowledge that, except for preservation issues, the agency has no official position on the meanings of the resource and that the resource is an appropriate place for the exploration of multiple meanings and perspectives.

    4. Articulate what is known and what is not known and perspectives that conflict.

      1. Articulate the processes by which information is known and interpreted.

      2. Volunteer potential or possible explanations for what is not known and reasons why perspectives conflict—this can be very provoking.

      3. Articulate multiple explanations and point out the complexity of science and history.

    5. Create plan for interpreting controversial issues.

      1. Research all potential resource meanings (KR) relevant to the issue.

      2. Research all potential audience perspectives (KA) on the issue.

      3. Identify specific ways of linking multiple resource meanings with multiple audience interests and perspectives and interpreting multiple points of view.

    6. Communicate about potentially controversial topics with resource management and management.

      1. Advocate for or against the use of interpretation to the degree it can be effective in facilitating opportunities for intellectual and emotional connections to the resource.

      2. Present plan and approach for interpreting a controversial issue.

      3. Request specific instructions on appropriate actions to take when confronted by ideology or politics that lie outside the scope of interpretation.

Suggested Developmental Assignments:

Identify a potentially controversial subject for your resource. Research both the subject as well as the potential audiences. Connect resource meanings to audience interests and perspectives and develop an interpretive product that accurately and without manipulation describes multiple resource meanings and audience perspectives, establishes a mutual environment of respect, and provokes greater understanding of multiple perspectives. Discuss the development of the interpretive product as well as the interpretive product itself with your supervisor.


Editor: STMA Training Manager Interpretation

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