Back in June, I wrote about the Pend Oreille Basin Heritage Project and the opportunities for using mobile technology to satisfy requirements of regulatory compliance or to serve as creative mitigation. A component of that work was collaborating with the Kalispel Indian Tribe in northeast Washington to both interpret their history and to do so in a way that recognizes the cultural significance of places and the ongoing preservation of the Salish language. This has much broader application than just including tribes as stakeholders in projects and throwing in a few Native American sites to broaden the sweep of historical interpretation: it can aid in the preservation of language and, in a dynamic way, provide tribal communities a way to both tell their stories through their own voices (literally) and promote heritage tourism in the process.
The Upper Swan Valley Historical Society in Condon, Montana operates a small, locally funded and staffed museum in West Central Montana. The Society has been in existence since 1988, but didn’t acquire its museum until 2011. Since then, the organization has collected artifacts and constructed displays about the valley’s Native American, Homesteading and Logging History in the main, log building. It also has collected and restored 5 additional, smaller structures and located them on the museum grounds.
Heritage organizations have an agenda. We want the public to discover historical and cultural sites and value the stories they tell. We also want visitors to support the preservation of cultural resources and the organizations that act as their stewards. While our agendas are certainly ambitious, well-planned interpretation can go a long way toward helping us succeed.