Historical Research on the National Park Service: Sources and Methodology

Solicited by the OAH Committee on National Park Service Collaboration
Endorsed by the Society for History in the Federal Government

Friday, April 3, 2020, 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM

Type: Workshop

Tags: Public History and Memory; Theory and Methodology


No pre-registration required 

Multiple sessions at the 2020 Annual Meeting showcase the vibrant scholarship on the history of the National Park Service (NPS), as well as historians’ critical analysis of how the Park Service documents and interprets both its own history and the history of the United States. In this two-part workshop, participants will learn about primary sources available to support scholarship about the NPS and have the opportunity to discuss methodologies and research topics with archivists and historians.
Over the last century, the NPS has collected and produced texts, images, and oral histories documenting the history of the agency, national parks, and the historic buildings, structures, and landscapes of the United States. These collections shed light on a variety of topics, including the environment, recreation, architecture, federal service, federal land policy, the displacement of indigenous people and rural families, public memory, and commemoration, to name just a few.
The first part of the workshop will include presentations on major research collections related to the NPS. Panelists will provide guidance on how to locate and access these collections, and discuss the strengths and limitations of these sources. In the second part of the workshop, attendees will participate in small group discussions about finding and using NPS collections. Some groups will focus on particular types of primary source materials while others will discuss methodological issues such as dealing with gaps and bias in the sources. Participants are encouraged to bring ideas and questions about current and potential research projects, or to listen, collaborate, formulate ideas, and contribute their expertise.
Preregistration is not required, and participants can attend one or both parts of the workshop.

Session Participants

Chair: Dean Herrin, National Park Service

Presenter: Mary McPartland, HABS/HAER/HALS (National Park Service)

Presenter: Nancy Russell, National Park Service

Presenter: Kathryn Gettings Smith, National Park Service, National Register & National Historic Landmarks Program