More than scenery: National parks preserve our history and culture

  • 2016-07-29
  • The Conversation

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.