For more than sixty years, Freeman Tilden’s Interpreting Our Heritage has been widely relied upon by many historical interpreters as a benchmark text for working with public audiences to tell stories about the past. Since the publication of Interpreting Our Heritage in 1957 there have been major changes in both historical and interpretive methods. Nevertheless Tilden’s text is still quite often assigned, shared, and used by public historians in the twenty-first century.
A working group of interpreters from throughout the United States will meet at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the National Council on Public History in Hartford, Connecticut, on March 30th to discuss public history and interpretation. They will seek to discuss both the context in which Tilden’s ideas were called in to “repair” aspects of National Park Service interpretive practices sixty years ago and the state of historical interpretation moving forward. Can the tools Tilden designed in the 1950s and 1960s still be useful today, or are these ideas in need of their own repair?