Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Different takes on educating the public

Ever since sharing a stage with them at a workshop, I have been very impressed with the professionalism of the US National Park Service. It was not surprising the local authority in a remote corner of China - who were running the heritage management workshop to train their staff - were prepared to fly in three of the NPS' finest. Their presentations were excellent, their manner inspiring and the three of them were charming.

I am not, therefore, surprised to see the quality of their recently re-published Historic Resource Study book for the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal (by Harlan D. Unrau). It consists of no less than 851 pages of detailed information.

In Britain, authorities and entities have dumbed down interpretation to the extent that the best we can expect for canals now are those panels telling us, cartoon-style, how many baths of water it takes to fill a lock. They usually show a picture of a bath in case you have managed to get this far in life without being able to recognise a bath-tub.

The NPS study is just superb: they recognise that their role is to educate and promote learning. It's not just about scrounging every last penny off everyone for everything.

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