A few weeks ago, as we first learned about the NPS approach to interpretation — complete with tangibles, intangibles, and universal concepts — I talked about NPS master educator David Larsen and the Gun Talk program that he used to illustrate how interpretation can help visitors connect to their own understanding of a park and its resources. Subsequently, we used the text and video series from his Meaningful Interpretation and read his article Be Relevant or Become a Relic: Meeting the Public Where They Are that captured this “new” approach to interpretation in the NPS.
Although he passed away before we had a chance to chat with him via conference this quarter, many folks have begun posting segments of his past programs and talks to the web and I’ve linked to a few below.
I was lucky enough to have been in one of Dave’s first classes where he taught this new approach, and it resonated deeply with me. (Yeah, that’s me live-firing at the left, with Dave looking on behind; we didn’t spend the whole time in the classroom!) That was in ’95 or ’96, and historic site interpretation was still largely information-heavy; lots of facts and details but with little perspective or opportunity for the visitor (beyond the subject matter enthusiast) to connect on a personal level or find relevancy in what was being shared by the ranger. Dave’s work helped change that.
In this first video, be sure to watch past 7:45 when he works with the group to deconstruct his talk.
Here’s a five-part interview with Dave. Part philosophy, part introspective, part retrospective, part education tool, it provides an intimate look into the heart of the new NPS approach to interpretation.
Dave was last in Oregon this past autumn when he spoke in Bend as a panelist at the annual ANPR Ranger Rendezvous, discussing leadership in interpretation. If you’re interested in how the field of interpretation continues to move forward and professionalize, you might find this of interest: