January 2020: The start of a new year, so many possibilities, so many new experiences awaiting, and so many life changing decisions to be made. One of those being the contemplation over a summer internship. Was I going to follow the traditional route and intern at an architectural firm or was I going to stray away from the path and apply to work for the National Park Service? 

February 2020: I received an email from Dalia to set up a pre-phone interview. At first I thought, what is a pre-phone interview? But then I got excited about receiving an update about the internship. And after talking with Dalia I felt inspired and hopeful, despite never working at a National Park or in the field of interpretation and outreach directly. 

March 6, 2020: On March 6th I had a phone interview with Christopher (my current mentor/ supervisor) and 11 days later I was offered the position of interpretive/ outreach intern at the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. He spoke with words of inspiration that colored my mind with the possibilities of projects I could explore and pursue. I quickly grew passionate about a field I had no idea about three months earlier. 

March 16, 2020: Berkeley sent out a city wide order to shelter in place due to the Coronavirus. Internal panic set in about whether or not I was going to get to keep the dream internship after just being offered the position. It was like receiving a bright fresh red rose only to watch it slowly wither moments later. 

May 2020: Despite the Coronavirus, I was fortunate to keep my position. My first day of teleworking began on May 26th. I began to learn more about the ideas of interpretation and community outreach and adjusted the definitions of what those meant during a global pandemic. I started training and read a lot about the trail, but I still felt like I was barely touching the surface of what interpretation was. Yes, I understand the basic definition; a teaching technique that combines factual with stimulating explanatory information (according to webster’s dictionary). But the world of interpretation within the National Park Service was a whole other story. 

June 2020: Staying busy; video meetings in the morning, hikes during the day, computer work in the afternoon. The days go by, the work piles up and I can’t seem to get a grasp on one project. The feeling of not doing enough but doing too much kept creeping in. Trying to check in with myself mentally and physically while processing the state of the world around. Oh yea interpretation… what is that again?

July 2020: Wow two and a half months in and it feels like I just got off that phone call in February. The conversations, work and research I have done about the historic trail are starting to come to life in the projects I am completing. And the further along I get into my internship the more I question the idea of interpretation and what it means within the context of the National Park Service and specifically the Anza Historic Trail. 

When we present interpretative text, what is our goal? What are we trying to accomplish with the way we express ideas about the park or trail or historic site we are writing about? The whole idea behind interpretation is complex and curated. We can question the interpreter themselves and the intentions behind the curation of history for mass consumption. We can also question the style of writing and whether or not it is accomplishing the goals of interpretation and what those goals are. But at the end of the day for me, the goals in my interpretive writing is to get people to question the text I am writing and to think critically about what is being created. I want to provoke the reader to continue to ask questions about the content they are reading or listening to and not take it at face value.

So, what is interpretation? Maybe the definition itself can be interpreted (very meta, I know) but it is an objective form of presenting stories. And a lot of the time these stories are told with little written record or historical context. The little historical text or written records we have comes from the hands of the colonizers (specifically speaking about the Anza Trail). The Anza expedition documentation comes from Anza himself or Father Font, two men who ultimately wrote the story of colonization in the San Francisco Bay area. So, yes interpretation is complicated because there is more than one side of the story, and it’s our decision to choose which stories we highlight and which ones we let fade away. 


August 2020: Content not available yet.

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