Class Year


Document Type

Blog Post

Publication Date

Summer 7-24-2017

Department 1

Civil War Institute


I have not been able to escape Freeman Tilden’s grasp over the course of my three summers with the National Park Service. His writings and ideas seem to be everywhere, not out of pure coincidence, but because of the fact that nobody has eloquently and concisely gotten at the heart of what historical interpretation is quite like he has. In Interpreting Our Heritage, a book so ubiquitous that it might as well be hailed as the interpreter’s holy scripture, Tilden asserts that “the chief aim of interpretation is not instruction, but provocation.” This isn’t meaningless fluff; rather, it’s an important concept that guides what I do every day on the job. Visitors should walk away from an interpretive program with more than just a story in their heads, and it’s up to interpreters to make sure that’s the case.


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