Abstract - Underground Themes

Rohde, Katherine. 1985. Underground Themes. Proceedings of the 1984 National Cave Management Symposium. pp. 221-230.


Interpretation has always had a special place within the National Park Service. If done effectively, interpretation can increase visitor understanding, enjoyment and appreciation for the Park's resources and through appreciation, a desire to protect those resources. Cave interpretation presents special challenges and problems which are accurately described in "Boredom in Paradise: A Hard Look at Cave Guide Training" by W.T. Austin and Tom Chaney. The cave under the management of the National Park Service are not immune to those problems. Interpretation in the National Park Service has evolved and changed. New techniques are tried, discarded, or adapted to meet the needs of both the visitor and the resource. These techniques, both for training and presentations, can and should be applied to cave interpretation.

Wind Cave has accepted the challenges: 1. To protect this valuable cave resource, and all caves. 2. To motivate interpreters to want to protect the caves and to share their desires and motivate visitors to do the same. 3. To dispel the myth that cave interpreters cannot practice the current techniques of interpretation and have to memorize a spiel.

At Wind Cave, interpretation is based on the theory that motivation produces more desirable results than just education. Motivation is best done by someone who believes in what they are doing and is involved in a personal way with the resource, in this cave; Wind Cave and other caves. As a motivator, the interpreter cannot rely upon a script or canned spiel because each visitor has his or her own personality. However, the interpreters cannot do their job without adequate training and organization. The organizational principle employed at Wind Cave is that of themes. These are the unspoken ideas behind each presentation and are used to "guide" our audiences, on their own, to predetermined destinations. Each interpreter must develop their own theme based upon their feelings, impressions and interests about Wind Cave. Each tour then varies, depending on the personalities and interests of the visitors, blending with the individuality of the interpreter. Yet, each tour is unified by its own individual theme or focus and all of the themes are unified by the basic themes encompassed by the National Park Service.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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