3    Meeting the Mission



National Park Service Statistics

  •    84 million acres

  •    420 million visitors

  •    60,000 archeological sites

  •    40 million artifacts

  •    More archeological sites discovered each year


Mesa Verde, Arizona, 1925


“The national parks have become, in effect, a living part of our democracy contributing in many ways to the stability and continuity of civil society.”

-Rolf Diamant, 2000


Mission of the National Park Service


The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.  The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resources conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world.


(National Park Service Management Policies 2001)


Both archeological research and public interpretation are integral parts of the mission of the National Park Service. Given the extent of land, number of archeological sites, and number of people who visit our National Parks, the importance of both archeology and interpretation is far-reaching. This section provides an overview of the four-module program presented in this manual for effective interpretation of archeological resources, beginning with a discussion of the history of archeological research and developments in public interpretation efforts in the National Park Service.



Interpretation of Archeological Resources


The inventory of cultural resources within National Parks has grown substantially in recent decades to include new aspects of our past. Thus, interpretation is necessary to explain to visitors how this new archeological research contributes to a fuller understanding of our nation’s history. The primary role of the interpreter is to  


 Represent the heritage of the nation reflected in our National Parks;

 Ensure the natural, cultural, and recreational heritage reflected in our national parks is available and accessible to everyone;

 Provide experiences that strengthen the recognition, understanding, enjoyment, and preservation of the nation’s heritage; and

 Create the opportunity for visitors to ascribe meanings to resources, to establish intellectual and emotional connections to those resources, leading to concern for the protection of the resources.


This last point is the seed of resource stewardship and, thus, is the goal of interpretation: revelation based on facts, not simply the presentation of information.




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An Inspiring Guide

I. Introduction

II. Overview of the Program

III. Meeting the Mission

IV. The Public Meaning of Archeological Heritage

V. Archeology and Interpretation

VI. Study Tour of Parks

VII. Interpretive Products

VIII. Credits

IX. References

X. Resources and Links


National Park Service  - Archeology and Ethnography Program  - Distance Learning

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