The following suite of competencies is foundational for all interpretation and visitor services personnel.
National Park Service interpretation directly supports the preservation mission. Interpretation is driven by a philosophy that charges interpreters to help audiences care about park resources so they might support the care for park resources. Interpretation establishes the value of preserving park resources by helping audiences discover the meanings and significance associated with those resources.
This competency requires interpreters at all levels to understand the core definition of interpretation, the professional standards for interpretation, the purpose of interpretation, how interpretation can be measured, and how successful interpretation works. These understandings continually evolve and increase in sophistication throughout an interpreter’s career.
Entry level interpreters use this philosophy and best practices to create interpretive products. Full performance interpreters use these philosophies and best practices to refine interpretive products as well as to plan and deliver special events, interpretive media, and other interpretive activities. Supervisors and managers use these philosophies and best practices to articulate, apply, and measure interpretive choices and functions, and to support the work of resource management and preservation. All interpretive applications, evaluation, and training should incorporate the philosophies and best practices contained in Foundations of Interpretation.
Interpretation relies on multi-disciplinary knowledge to provide different audiences with relevant and meaningful connections to park resources. Interpreters at all levels must have a thorough understanding of the underpinning research, tangible features, associated concepts, context, relationships, systems, processes, human values, and other meanings associated with the resource. Interpreters must also understand multiple points of view regarding the resource as well as the park’s past and current conditions and possess the skills to interpret them for all visitors.
Knowledge of the audience characteristics, interests, expectations, and multiple points of view including psychological, social, cultural, economic, political, religious, historical and philosophical influences and perspectives is necessary to develop interpretation that is relevant to a wide variety of audiences. Knowledge of life stages, including varied learning styles of audience members and developmental functioning among different audience members is important to fulfill varied expectations and interests of the audience. Understanding the many motivations for visiting a resource and being cognizant of the existing meanings, present interpretations, and current attitudes that visitors hold about a resource can be important components in making interpretation relevant to as many visitors as possible.
Interpretation relies on the appropriate integration of a wide variety of techniques to foster opportunities for meaningful connections to the resource. The selection of techniques must always be based on specific program objectives and on knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of each technique. In addition, knowledge of both the audience and the resource is necessary to determine the appropriateness of the technique. Possessing and demonstrating the skills necessary to execute the chosen approach must also be considered.