Class Year


Document Type

Blog Post

Publication Date

Summer 7-28-2017

Department 1

Civil War Institute


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.


This blog post originally appeared in the Gettysburg Compiler and was created by students at Gettysburg College.