Keeping up with the US National Park Service

Given my research interest in the inner workings of heritage and conservation organisations (i.e. how they manage themselves and communicate their management role to stakeholders) I used to be a regular reader of the NPS Morning Report. Issued by the Visitor Resource & Protection office, it was very much focused on operational issues, but always gave insights into the way in which the Park operations responded and adapted to different situations and events.

Since the demise of the Morning Report, I now read the weekly NPS Green & Gray Report instead, which is issued by the Office of Communications and is much more focused on wider communication of NPS activities to external audiences as well as internal employees and stakeholder partners.

From an external standpoint, the evolution of the organisation’s management communication has been interesting to see in terms of ‘voice’ and ‘tone’ and of course reflects the NPS’s broader mission for engaging the widest audiences and supporters for the Parks which has grown over the past decade.

National Park Week (USA)

National Park Week logo

National Park Week in the USA has just finished, organised (of course) by the National Park Service and supported by the National Park Foundation. This year, there have been more virtual events unsurprisingly than ever before, along with daily themes around which social media content was focused such as Transformation Tuesday, Earth Day, and Junior Ranger Day. Twitter even rolled out a Covid-friendly Park Ranger emoji complete with mask to accompany the related hashtags for the week #findyourpark

The Presidential Proclamation from the White House noted the healing power of connection with nature, and the opportunities for the NPS as an organisation to engage ever more equitably with the communities it serves.

This year’s Park Week also saw the anticipated launch of the NPS app, which brings together a range of handy visitor information about parks and sites in the National Park System, along with maps and links to interpretation materials. The app takes the design principles of the Unigrid further into the digital realm (Those who recognise our guidebook and signage obsessions on this blog will realise I’ll inevitably be coming back anon on this….).

The app’s first iteration is good and, even though somewhat afar sitting in the UK, I have already lost a number of hours playing with it – and am now mentally planning future trips back to the States to try it out on location.

Park Week details for this year, along with resources from previous celebrations can be found here: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/npscelebrates/national-park-week.htm

A sense of place: stories of stewardship from the National Park Service

In the treasure trove of the US National Park Service administrative history resources which highlight the thinking behind the management processes and development of the organisation I have recently stumbled across a set of podcasts which were originally produced as part of an oral history project with the Association of National Park Rangers (ANPR).

The interviews with retired Rangers and other NPS staff provide fascinating glimpses into personal histories intimately tied into the Service’s activities and more tellingly, ethos, ideas and philosophy – and where individuals see their role in the wider development trajectory for the organisation as a whole. The podcast episodes range across a broad range of management activity in the Parks which is public-facing, but also takes in the work behind the scenes to support that front line activity and lead to overall Park and Service development and ideas of what stewardship means corporately and individuallt.

The episodes are a real pleasure to listen to – not least because one of them touches on my own particular obsession around ‘official guides’ to sites, considering the history of NPS publications and site brochure design principles.

Link to the podcast series: A Sense of Place

Remembering migrants

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Ellis Island © David Gill

The luggage in the hall of Ellis Island is a poignant reminder of approximately 12 million migrants who passed through this entry point for the United States in the hope of a better life. It contains the National Museum of Immigration as part of the National Park.

Proclaim Liberty

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Philadelphia, Liberty Bell © David Gill

One of the abiding heritage images from the USA is the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia with its message, ‘Proclaim Liberty Throughout All The Land Unto All The Inhabitants Thereof’, a quotation from Leviticus 25:10.

The text is a reminder about all, not some, of the people, and in all the land, not just in parts of it.

The bell is preserved by the National Park Service. It dates to 1753 (MDCCLIII).

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Philadelphia, National Park Service © David Gill