Interpretation and education are activities that help visitors discover why a park exists and the significance of its resources. The National Park Service uses a variety of built structures to carry out this mission, including visitors centers, museums, contact stations, scenic overlooks with interpretive wayside panels, and kiosks at trailheads.
A hierarchy is often developed in which visitors begin their experience at a visitors center where exhibits and introductory films offer a broad orientation to the park. Later on, museums and other contact stations may focus on more specific themes. Finally, resources are interpreted 'on location' with plaques and wayside panels, allowing visitors to experience firsthand the tangible natural and cultural resources the park offers.
Scenic overlooks are a good example of this. They are strategically constructed to capture the most spectacular views of the park, while remaining accessible by automobile and unobtrusive on the natural landscape.
Generally, during the early twentieth century, interpretive and educational structures were constructed to harmonize with the resources they were interpreting. Use of rustic logs and stone were common.
Last updated: September 20, 2018