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Component for Module 340

Advanced KR and Resource Liaison

Content Outline l Resources l Suggested Developmental Activities l Next


This component articulates the value of close coordination with resource
management. The component provides tools for establishing mutual understanding and
effective coordination between the two functions.


At the completion of this component the learner will be able to:

  • Articulate the shared mission of resource management and interpretation;

  • Identify strategies by which interpretation can coordinate work with resource management;

  • Access information generated by and work with resource managers and other subject matter experts.


The content of this component is intended primarily for NPS interpreters. Many who do resource management work have the title, resource manager-others do
not. Resource management can be described as any work directed at the preservation and conservation of the tangible resource. Scientists, historians, curators, maintenance, law enforcement, and interpreters often play a resource management role.

The goals and objectives of both resource management and interpretation are more fully realized when there is a cooperative relationship between the two. When the disciplines understand each other and work together preservation and protection can be synthesized and the effectiveness of each profession compounded.

Interpreters and resource managers generally share an immediate experience in and love for the resource. Both also function to protect the resource. Resource management does much of the work that cares for the resource while interpretation facilitates audiences' care about the resource. The degree to which the public cares about the resource determines the success of and level of support for efforts to care for the resource.

Resource Liaison occurs on both the division as well as the individual level. Successful coordination between the functions requires mutual understanding of mission, expertise, and professionalism.

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Content Outline

I. Description of resource liaison.

A. Resource liaison is a role interpreters assume in relation to resource managers and other subject matter experts with the objective of effectively protecting the resource through the coordinated efforts and combined abilities of both interpretation and resource management. (Note: for this component, the words "resource management" will signify work with natural as well as cultural and historical resources.)

B. All full performance interpreters understand and function in this role.

II. Why resource liaison.

A. The effectiveness of both resource management and interpretation is enhanced by an ongoing cooperative relationship that shares interest in information and knowledge and all efforts that promote care about and care for the resource

B. All full performance interpreters should be aware of the most recent and accurate information and be able to use it appropriately and interpretively.

C. Resource management and interpretation bring complementary skills to a relationship that benefits both professions and, most important, the resource.

1. Resource management:

a) Provides expertise and access to accurate, in-depth, and current resource information.

(1) Resource managers are typically authorities on the history and current status of the resource.
(2) Resource managers are usually involved in the most current and ongoing resource projects.
(3) Resource managers' own experience is a valuable resource for information and insight.
(4) Resource managers can provide direction and guidance for finding additional research resources and access to researchers and scholars.

b) Provides access to rich interpretive resources. Audiences who observe the work and understand the process of ongoing research, preservation, or restoration projects are often better able to make intellectual and emotional connections to the meanings of the resource.

c) Provides accurate and in-depth understanding of critical resource issues.

(1) Current threats to the resource
(2) Potential threats to the resource
(3) Actual and potential actions to alleviate threats to the resource

d) Provides a check on efforts, programs, and activities initiated by management, interpretation, maintenance, and other divisions that may be inappropriate and affect the resource adversely. Resource management has a specific responsibility to maintain the resource's physical integrity and accurate story.

e) Recognizes and supports interpretive efforts that sustain both the preservation and audience enjoyment mission.

(1) For park management
(2) For the public

2. Interpretation:

a) Provides an awareness of audience needs, interests, motivation, and relevance.
b) Provokes audiences to care more about the resource so they may also come to care for the resource ( i.e. not feeding wildlife, reporting found artifacts) and support resource management efforts that care for the resource.
c) Interprets critical resource issues to the public. (See Draft Module: Interpreting Critical Resource Issues).

(1) Elevates public awareness
(2) Articulates reasons for preservation actions in the context of respectfully presenting multiple points of view.
(3) Facilitates appropriate in-park and out-of-park behavior

d) Describes the work and value of resource management.
e) Recognizes and supports resource management efforts to sustain the preservation mission.

(1) For park management
(2) For the public

D. Mutual support and coordinated efforts between resource management and interpretation helps dissolve the often-perceived conflict between preservation and enjoyment missions.

1. Public support plays a vital role in preservation efforts.

a) Parks are created and managed as an expression of societal values.
b) Resource management actions are/can be controversial.
c) Understanding audience needs, interests, and relevance is critical for the support and the work of preservation and a key consideration for both interpretation and resource management.

2. Much of the public will support resource restrictions, or at least understand the reasons for such restrictions, if it is clear such restrictions will result in quality visitor experience and resource protection.

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III. How to develop effective resource liaison.

A. Recognize common ground.

1. Resource managers and interpreters possess passion and care for resource.
2. Resource managers and interpreters often share similar significant life experiences.

a) Some type of resource immersion early and throughout life
b) Education background in relevant subject area

3. Resource managers and interpreters both serve a protection and an education function.

a) Resource management works to care for the resource and help others experience and connect intellectually and emotionally.
b) Interpretation facilitates experiences and connections to provoke care about the resource which is necessary for protection.

B. Establish common understandings

1. Respect and recognize resource managers areas of expertise. (Note: Likewise, resource managers can most effectively establish positive relationships with interpreters that benefit the resource by recognizing and respecting their areas of expertise.)
a) Whenever possible, interpreters should know something about the discipline and specific subject before they approach any specialist or expert.

(1) A resource manager's time is not well used by teaching individual interpreters very basic concepts.
(2) Preparation is a gesture of respect and recognition of professionalism.
(3) Prepare a list to generate discussion with the researcher as to what they would like to see interpretation do for further understanding and support of the research.
(4) Speaking the language and concepts relevant to the subject provides the most efficient communication and collaboration.

b) If they know little about a subject area, interpreters should feel free to approach resource managers and/or other interpreters for guidance on how they might learn more.

2. Provide resource mangers with primary parkwide interpretive themes and demonstrate how those themes are designed to communicate resource significance and meanings.
3. Seek to attend appropriate resource management training and meetings and invite resource managers to attend appropriate interpretive training and meetings. The value of understanding both immediate issues and operations as well as building relationships should not be underestimated.
4. Invite resource managers to provide regular issue and foundational training to interpretive staffs. Offer to provide the same to resource managers.
5. Ask resource managers to participate in interpretive planning and interpretive media planning as active participants, not just reviewers.
6. Develop training that combines resource management and interpretation in both planning and presentation.
7. Invite resource managers to make regular briefings to interpretive staffs on resource management projects and issues. Offer to provide the same to resource managers.
8. Contribute to a resource management newsletter or generate a briefing report after learning about or experiencing a resource management project.
9. Request any resource management in-house or contracted reports include a common-language executive summary. Offer to:

a) Suggest what types of information would be most relevant to the audience;
b) Help write the section;
c) Write the section per the approved review of resource management.

10. Suggest and pursue details, job-swaps, and job-shadowing opportunities with resource managers.
11. Request reading lists and bibliographies dealing with relevant resource issues from resource managers. Offer to provide the same to resource managers.
12. Pursue opportunities to share projects and work with resource managers.
13. Become a specialist on a particular resource management issue. Share that expertise with other interpreters.
14. Offer to create interpretive products that educate staff and public audiences prior to the initiation of resource management projects.

C. Accomplish the work

1. Advocate-Regardless of the size of operation, budget, traditions, and personalities involved, advocate and look for opportunities to advance collaborative efforts between interpretation and resource management.
2. Planning and projects-All parks benefit by including both resource management and interpretation in any planning or project efforts.

a) Planning and implementation is most successful when expertise and perspective are respected and all participants and stakeholders are given a meaningful role.
b) Perspectives of both resource management and interpretation allow for a case-by-case decision making process in which both preservation and audience enjoyment may be achieved

(1) Solutions to preservation and interpretation issues are often difficult to find and differ widely from project to project. Policy directs the NPS to preserve first and only when the existing form of resource is inadequate for understanding is restoration and reconstruction considered. A cooperative and balanced relationship between resource management and interpretation is critical for the preservation of both the tangible resource and access to its intangible meanings.
(2) Interpretation must recognize that consultation with resource managers ensures interpretive activities, restorations, and products do not damage the resource and/or mislead the audience. Resource managers must recognize that consultation with interpreters can ensure that resource management efforts do not deny emotional and intellectual access and/or confuse the audience. The resource is best served when two professions use the expertise of the other to strengthen their own efforts.

c) Collaboration at both the planning and implementation level allows for respectful, clear, and persuasive:

(1) articulation of park actions, especially in the face of controversy. (See Draft Module: Interpreting Critical Resource Issues and Controversy)
(2) efforts at ensuring public compliance regarding critical resource issues.
(3) interpretation of ongoing preservation work.

(a) The process of preservation and its activities provides opportunities for the audience to make emotional and intellectual connections with the meanings of the resource.
(b) Interpreting the process of preservation provides opportunities to build support for preservation decisions.

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IV. What interpreters should know about how resource management has changed and ways it applies its professional disciplines.

A. Natural Resource Management in the NPS

1. Ecology-Natural resource management in the NPS has been heavily influenced by the development of the science of ecology.

a) The NPS attempts to manage the resource according to ecologically sound principles.
b) The NPS has changed its position on, among other things:

(1) The elimination of predators;
(2) The level of threat of exotic species;
(3) The stocking of non-native fish in park waters;
(4) Fire management.
(5) Wilderness Management

c) The knowledge and freedom to apply ecologically sound principles varies on a site-by-site basis.

2. Science-based decision making- The following are reasons the use of science for decision making is often described as incompletely implemented due to:

a) Preservation and restoration goals of a resource that sometimes conflict with research conclusions;
b) The perception that the public's primary concern is for "charismatic" mega-fauna, scenery, and not the more subtle and complex relationships of an ecosystem;
c) The resulting lack of funding and organizational commitment;
d) Lack of baseline information.

3. Scientific objectivity-Natural resource management in the NPS must continually balance its advocacy role as protector of the resource (an expression of values), with its use of science in an objective fashion.

a) Scientists may express suggested alternatives for management approaches that are based on values, but;
b) Scientists must "separate value-based recommendations from their factual, scientific analyses of alternative future scenarios." (Dennis, John G.. "National Park Service Management Policies for the National Park System." The George Wright Forum, Volume 16, Number 3, 1999, 7-18.)

4. Sources-The following are especially valuable sources for interpreters seeking to understand natural resource management in the NPS.

a) Naturenet -Provides current policy, issues, publications, descriptions of resource management projects and activities, and more.
b) Park Science: Integrating Research and Resource Management-provides articles and case studies on research and resource management projects in the NPS.
c) The George Wright Forum - Journal of the George Wright Society.
d) Preserving Nature in the National Parks: a History, Richard West Sellers, Yale University Press, 1997-A landmark history on the use of science in National Park Service management. The book also includes valuable discussion of interpretation.

B. Cultural Resource Management in the NPS

1. Public desire for the "spectacular"-The NPS is effected both positively and negatively by the public's perceived desire for entertaining restoration.

a) When restorations are appropriate and accurately rendered, the public's understanding of and attachment to the resource is significantly enhanced.
b) Sometimes restorations destroy the subtle to reconstruct the spectacular and or misrepresent the past.

2. Social History-Cultural resource management in the NPS has been affected by the developments in the field of social history.

a) The NPS has increasingly devoted study and preservation efforts to resources that represent the stories of African Americans, woman, American Indians, workers, immigrants and other under-represented segments of society.
b) Congress (with the addition of sites like Manzanar National Historic Site and Brown v Board of Education National Historic Site), scholars, diverse audiences, constituents, and stakeholders have increasingly called on the NPS to tell different and sometimes conflicting stories. Many of these audiences have an intense desire to define their "truth" about a given event.

3. Public History-The work of NPS cultural resource management and interpretation at historic sites falls in the realm of public history. The work of public history often involves audiences' differing perspectives on the "truth" of a historic description, explanation, interpretation, restoration, or commemoration.
4. Study of collective memory-There is an increasing amount of scholarship devoted to understanding how and why societies and groups choose to remember and commemorate some elements of their pasts and not others. Cultural resource managers and interpreters can benefit from a greater understanding of:

a) Audiences' pre-conceptions of history. (See: "Advanced Knowledge of Audience" component section on prior perspectives on subject matter.)
b) How audiences evaluate and interpret the history presented to them.

5. Partnerships and outreach-The NPS has increasingly devoted assistance to states, nations, local organizations, and individuals that seek to preserve aspects of their own past.
6. Sources-The following are especially valuable sources for interpreters seeking to understand cultural resource management in the NPS.

a) Links to the Past-Website that provides current policy, issues, publications, descriptions of cultural resource management projects and activities, and more.
b) CRM Magazine-The flagship publication for cultural resource management programs that contains articles on the full range of cultural resources management and preservation topics.

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Consolo, Susan L. "Translating Scientific Information into Park Management at the Operational Level." The George Wright Forum. Volume 7, Number 1, 1990.

Dennis, John G. "National Park Service Management Policies for the the National Park System." The George Wright Forum, Volume 16, Number 2, 1999,


Sellers, Richard West. Preserving Nature in National Parks: A History. New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1997.

Kammen, Michael. Mystic Chords of Memory. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1991.

Loewen, James W. Lies Across America: What our Historic Sites Get Wrong. New York, London, Toronto, Sydney, Singapore, Simon and Schuster, 1999


CRM Magazine-National Park Service publication for cultural resource management programs.

The George Wright Forum-Journal of the George Wright Society.

Park Science-National Park Service publication.

The Journal of American History-Organization of American Historians

The Public Historian: A Journal of Public History-National Council on Public History

Journal of Interpretation Research-The National Association for Interpretation


Naturnet -National Park Service website provides current policy, issues, publications, descriptions of resource management projects and activities, and more.

Links to the Past -National Park Service website provides current policy, issues, publications, descriptions of resource management projects and activities, and more.

National Council on Public History

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Suggested Developmental Activities
(Additional suggestions welcomed!)

1. Select a current resource issue and describe complementary ways in which, under ideal circumstances, interpretation and resource management might address the issue. Get in depth to explore why there is often such controversy behind some resource management actions.

2. Prepare a case study or incident analysis on a resource issue from the past. What happened and why? Did resource management and interpretation work together? If they had, how might things have been different.

3. In consultation with your supervisor, implement one personal or divisional strategy for coordinating with resource management.

4. Study the process used for a restoration or preservation project and design ways in which the process might be used to provide opportunities for potential audiences to make intellectual and emotional connections to the meanings and significance of the resource.

5. Volunteer and work with resource management or an outside researcher on a research, restoration, or preservation project. Bring your experience and information back to interpretation.

6. In consultation with your supervisor, determine who within the park is involved in resource management and on what levels. Meet with them to discuss how resource issues are identified and work to develop a system where ideas are exchanged on a regular basis.

7. Create an in-park newsletter or email to keep others up to date on resource management and interpretation issues and projects.

8. Create an audience-participation program (like pulling exotics or planting natives) to involve visitors in the real work of resource management.

9. In consultation with your supervisor, help form an interdivisional team from maintenance, resource management, cultural resource management, interpretation, and law enforcement to create more effective and multifaceted solutions to issues.

10. Create a publication/exhibit, etc., which explains an issue in depth and explains NPS response/policy/actions.

11. Collaborate with a park resource manager or researcher to write an article for a local newspaper or your park's newspaper that interprets a current resource management or research project. Interview your collaborator about the project. Then brainstorm together a list of audience-relevant tangible-intangible links and universal concepts that relate to the project. Develop two or three possible themes from the ideas generated by this list. Write a draft of the article and have your collaborator review it and provide feedback. Continue working with your collaborator through the final draft of the article.

12. Collaborate with someone in resource management to rework an outdated exhibit or publication.

13. Evaluate existing non-personal services such as park based curriculum guides. Is it feasible to update materials with information on resource management projects for students/teachers?

14. Ask a researcher or resource manager to review your interpretive program for accuracy and additional comments.

15. Keep track of the resource management success stories at your park. Network with other interpretive rangers in your region to generate a newsletter/web site aimed at the general public.

16. Include the following objective in your program outline: 60% of visitors will know the objectives of resource management in general or your specific topic (this objective is included in the Natural Resource Challenge).


Next Component

Advanced Knowledge of the Audience

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Editor: STMA Training Manager Interpretation

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