More than scenery: National parks preserve our history and culture
Posted by admin on 29th July 2016

On August 25, 2016, the National Park Service (NPS) will celebrate its 100th birthday. But what’s a party without people? In fact, while many Americans think of national parks as places to experience nature, they also preserve unique resources that tell stories about the everyday lives of people and their American journeys.

Along with protecting natural wonders, such as Yellowstone National Park’s geysers, the National Park Service is charged with preserving cultural resources that are relevant to living communities. Many of the more than 400 sites in the national park system are repositories of history and heritages of people and communities – some well-known, others underrepresented – that shape the national dialog. Particularly in recent decades, NPS has worked to showcase a diverse range of human stories that help us understand our nation’s past and present.

Today NPS’ role in cultural heritage preservation – collecting and interpreting stories about people and the many ways they inhabit places – is more important than ever. These stories help us to see our similarities and better understand our differences as a society. And this work helps NPS tell a national story of relevance and significance to all.

Telling diverse stories

Our national park system includes many of our nation’s most important and, in some cases, most contested cultural sites and resources. Examples include Historic Jamestowne, where English colonization of North America began; the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, which commemorates the forcible removal of the Cherokee people from Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee; the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument, which honors Tubman’s heroic work leading enslaved people to freedom; and the Manzanar National Historic Site, one of 10 camps where Japanese-American citizens were interned during World War II.

Most recently, on June 24, 2016, President Obama designated the area around the Stonewall Inn in New York City, where protests sparked the movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in 1969, as a national monument.