Proceedings of the First Park Naturalists’ Training Conference, November 1 to 30, 1929
MUSEUMS IN THE NATIONAL PARKS
THE PLACE OF THE MUSEUM IN THE PARK ORGANIZATION
By C. A. Harwell
The museum in a national park should be considered as equipment of the educational department of the park necessary to the program of interpreting the park to visitors. The Educational Department is one of several departments set up in each park as units directly responsible administratively to the superintendent. The museum, then, in the park organization is a government plant of greater or lesser extent requiring a budget for maintenance and personnel for operation. Museums thus far have largely been donated to the National Park Service from private funds. Non-governmental boards and individuals have for this reason exerted quite a measure of control over them. Educational work is new and museums are newer in national parks. They must be studied experimentally for some time to come, as for example, in the matter of their centralization or decentralization. For these reasons their exact place in the park organization has not as yet been well established.
The museum at Yosemite is important in the park organization because it is visited by such a large proportion of our park visitors. It is a very important contact agency. Our museum is the hub of our educational organization. It furnishes headquarters for the administration and scientific work and preparation, of our staff. It also furnishes facilities for our Yosemite School of Field Natural History. It furnishes headquarters for park information and sale, of publications. It houses a nature library and general county library for the park.
In addition to all these, our museum contributes in a large way to give favorable advertisement to our Park and to National Park Service as a whole.
Following Mr. Harwell’s paper there was a long discussion on the subject of how museums can best be established and developed and what place they play in the educational activities of national parks. A discussion of the values of a park museum brought out the following:
The park museum is exceedingly important in the program of current administration because (1) it provides for park visitors a medium through which the park is interpreted to them and through which they gain in understanding, (2) it aids in laying the foundation of public understanding and love of out-of-doors which is necessary in furthering the cause of conservation, (3) it is the natural hub of educational activities and is indispensable as a headquarters for the educational staff, and (4) it is an exceedingly important point of contact between the public and the National Park Service and offers unique opportunities for visitors to become personally acquainted with representatives of the Park Service.