Proceedings of the First Park Naturalists’ Training Conference, November 1 to 30, 1929
MUSEUMS IN THE NATIONAL PARKS
DEFINING THE PARK MUSEUM AND FORMULATING A POLICY REGARDING ITS FIELD
By Frank T. Been and Edwin D. McKee
Frank T. Been
Museums are institutions containing labeled exhibits of specimens taken from history, art, and science–arranged to give the visitor knowledge and recreation. The museum is a place for visual instruction, but also a place where the objects of instruction are so interestingly arranged that people are drawn to them as a source for pleasure, and through that motive may obtain knowledge.
According to Bryan, the field of the museum is five-fold: to collect, preserve, study, educate, and entertain. Because the museum is usually intended to attract people from all walks of life, it must be conducted with a view toward stimulating the interest of all people so that the knowledge contained in a museum may be impressed upon the casual observer.
Edwin D. McKee
A national park museum should necessarily be a center for all educational activities within the park in which it is situated. As such a center it should not only servo as a headquarters and place of office for the educational staff, but also as a key for all park visitors. It is well brought out in Yosemite Nature Notes, May 1926, that such a museum is unique among American institutions. These same factors which make it unique, moreover, are the ones which must be most emphasized in order to make its utilization of the highest order. In brief, a park museum should have a very distinctly local flavor–it should present no materials irrelevant to the story of the park in which it is located, and all materials should act as a single unit in telling this story. The exhibits, no matter how excellent, are worth practically nothing when presented in a heterogeneous manner, but when leading from one to another in a definite well define course which will serve to emphasize the greater truths demonstrated by the park itself, they are invaluable.
Every park should have a central or key museum to the park at large–a museum serving to begin the stimulation of interest, to guide people to the important features, and lastly to serve as a means of interpreting these. In some of the smaller parks this museum alone must suffice, but it appears desirable to supplement the central key wherever possible with smaller local museums, exhibits in place and trailside structures. Each and every one of these should bear a very definite relationship to the parent museum, but should be strictly local in nature and in most cases deal with only one definite feature such as archeology, geology, etc.
References: Nos. l, 5, 6, 16 and 22 on list compiled by Mr. Russell, p. 49
Following a long discussion on the definition of the exact field of the park museum, Chairman Hall asked each member of the conference to record his definition of a park museum. These definitions follow:
“A park museum is a key to help interpret a natural phenomenon or some other phase of that park which could not be made available to a visitor in any other way.”
“A park museum is an institution in which are exhibited labeled specimens from art, history, and science as these apply to the park in which the museum is located.”
Frank T. Been.
“A park museum is one housing the educational offices for the department as well as exhibits pertinent to the park, so arranged as to convey to the visitor the spirit of our work and the educational opportunities present in the park itself.”
Dorr G. Yeager.
“A park museum is an institution that portrays the story of the park and its relation to the outdoors and natural history as a whole by means of carefully placed and arranged exhibits of natural science, history, etc.”
Frank C. Brockman.
“A park museum should be a center for educational activities serving both as a headquarters for the educational staff, and as a key to the park for all visitors. It should be supplemented, where possible, by trailside museums of a strictly local nature, principally for demonstrating certain definite features in place. The central museum should attempt to stimulate interest, to guide people to the important features, and to serve as a means of interpreting these.”
Edwin D. McKee.
“A national park museum is that central agency in the park educational department which, through its practice of visual education, lays the foundation of public appreciation of the park. It may also be regarded as indispensable to staff members as headquarters for official labors and personal study.”
Carl P. Russell.
“A park museum is a collection of exhibits so arranged and labeled as to give the park visitor a comprehensive conception of the story of the park as a whole or of that particular section of the park or scientific field covered by that museum. Such a museum should lead the interest of the visitor out to the natural features of the park.”
Ansel F. Hall.