Provocation and Personalization: Sharing the History of Manassas Battlefield

By Jeff Martin ’18

This post is part of a series featuring behind-the-scenes dispatches from our Pohanka Interns on the front lines of history this summer as interpreters, archivists, and preservationists. See here for the introduction to the series. 

When I first read Freeman Tilden’s “Principles of Interpretation”, I was surprised to find that provocation was considered essential for effective interpretation. I reread it, to make sure I hadn’t read it wrong or misunderstood. Provocation? Why would the National Park Service want to provoke people? As an intern at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park last summer, I learned that Tilden didn’t mean angering visitors; he meant inspiring the public to want to learn more on their own. To paraphrase, Tilden wrote that instruction and information are not the same thing as interpretation. Interpretation is not a fact-based lecture. Effective interpretation uses information to make broader points. However, the end goal of an interpretive site or program should not be the communication of information, but cultivating an interest among the public. Hence, provocation is key.

Continue reading “Provocation and Personalization: Sharing the History of Manassas Battlefield”

A Summer at FredSpot: Far More Than Answering Phones and Getting Coffee

This post is part of a series featuring behind-the-scenes dispatches from our Pohanka Interns on the front lines of history this summer as interpreters, archivists, and preservationists. See here for the introduction to the series.

By Jeff Martin ’18

Going into this summer, I was not quite sure what to expect at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. Part of me suspected that since I was an intern, I would do nothing more than answer phones and get coffee. I was prepared to accept this; after all, I do want to work for the National Park Service someday, and if the only way to get my foot in the door was to do menial tasks for two and a half months, so be it. What I actually experienced, however, was something far different and far better.

Martin 2
The Sunken Road. Photo courtesy Jeff Martin.

This is not to suggest that all of my experiences were positive; I did have some setbacks, but I like to think I have learned from them. One of the park’s permanent staff went on one of my Sunken Road walking tours early in the summer, and I did not give a particularly good tour that day. Afterwards, we sat down and talked about some areas to improve; for example, my tour went far longer than advertised and I talked about a lot of facts that did not tie in to my overarching theme. I would say that I have definitely improved since then, and even towards the end of the summer, I find that I never give the same tour twice. Continue reading “A Summer at FredSpot: Far More Than Answering Phones and Getting Coffee”