From the Archives: The National Park Service

Parks and the Shaping of Historical Memory

In a Perspectives article from January 2000, historians Laura Feller and Page Putnam Miller described the 220 cultural sites sponsored by the National Park Service (NPS) as “sources of educational experiences, vessels of historical memory, and sometimes places that loom large in questions about personal and national identity.” Feller and Miller remind us of the NPS’s role in preserving and disseminating history, but they also contend that NPS experiences actually shape how people understand the past and their relation to the past. NPS sites and their interpreters engage and entertain people of all ages, genders, nationalities, and educational backgrounds, connecting them to tangible history, while at the same time introducing them to the research and theories of professional historians. We look now to three articles from the Perspectives archives that expand upon the National Park Service’s challenging role as historical preserver and educator:

NPS sites have a unique ability and responsibility to preserve and promote history. Because of its vast scope, the NPS could be considered one of the foremost educators and shapers of history in America today. The American Historical Association, through Perspectives, has published a host of other articles that discuss the roles and challenges of institutions similar to the NPS and the public history field as a whole. These articles are located online at www.historians.org/info/public.cfm.

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