Passion! : A gift and a curse.


When I was being trained by Freeman Tilden he emphasized and re-emphasized the importance of passion in the fields of interpretation. But what happens when passion becomes a detriment, or blockage in productivity.
As a historian my primary passion is the past. As the son of a historian, that passion was infused in me through osmosis by my father and his associates. I was mentored that history is important to all societies in order to better understand ourselves, the processes of how we became what we are and to set the foundations of what we will become. It is important that we maintain as true a recitation of all perspectives of our pasts as is possible in order to better know ourselves.

However, the process can also be detrimental to us when we become stuck in an unchanging and
un-reassessing view of the past. In programming we see it when events, displays, and ideas are consistently static; the same presentations and demonstrations being performed year after year without change with the common remark, “ but the people like it.”
Too often, it is just easier to not put the effort forward to better research and present the interpretive materials and programs.

In structural aspects of agencies and organizations we often find ourselves stuck in the history of the system, citing and re-citing the manner is which the organization was founded, developed and brought into action. We often witness ourselves becoming bogged down in the past of how things have “always been done” when we examine the needs of administrating and creating policies of an association in rapidly changing times.
We are an association caught in the flux of dynamical modification. We are needing to reexamine the ‘how and whys’ of what we are and how we can improve ourselves each and every day. The development and recreating of our strategic plan and how the organization functions is part of that change as are how we fund ourselves, conduct business, and provide services to our membership.
We can expect changes in workshops, how we communicate, what services NAI provides and how we recruit and seek new members.
It is a time not to get stuck in the history of the past; to remember it and understand it, yes, but to be flexible enough to understand how to evolve for the future of the organization, its fields, and its life. Let’s use our passions for the love of the fields of interpretation and NAI to better ourselves and not allow impassioned responses deter our growth.

John C.F. Luzader, Vice President of Programs

Fixing NAI’s Past Failure

It was 60 years ago this year when the first group of our elders came together to talk about forming a group that would organize to represent this thing called interpretation. Rey Carlson of Indiana University was the host, and Bradford Woods was the location. This initial meeting led to other gatherings that eventually led a few years later to the founding of the Association of Interpretive Naturalists. About this time, a group of like-minded interpretive siblings on the west coast of the U.S. had similar desires and founded the Western Interpreters Association.

By now, most heritage interpreters, NAI members or not, have likely heard various stories of those early years. Faded photographic images make their rounds in related textbooks, videos and other historical venues giving us an idea of what it looked and felt like in the beginning. So many great names have been associated and identified with those old meetings. So many more names are not so well known, but their contribution to our evolution is real. The reality is that there have been so many that have been a part of our “Tribe”. So many stories about so many adventures exist in our rich history. So many in our past have done so much in this thing called interpretation, which is usually both a vocation and an avocation.   So many good people before us have and so many good people currently are “doing” good, and some great, interpretation.

And yet, looking at our 60th year, and looking at all we have done as an organized group of interpreters, we may have ultimately failed in our effort. We may have done great things “at” our profession, but how have well have we done things “for” our profession? I am afraid, that question might not yield a very gracious picture.

In our 60 years, tens, perhaps hundred thousands of the tribe have motivated, provoked, excited, and advocated for our universe’s historical, cultural, natural and physical resources. We have connected many people with the inherent stories of existence on this earth and emboldened many to broaden their perspectives on their lives.

But what have we done for our profession? Have we elevated the status of our Tribe in our respective work places? How much more are heritage interpreters respected in agencies or organizations? Is heritage interpretation in the mainstream of management objectives of resource agencies? How much in the public lexicon do we find “heritage interpretation?” Do members of the Tribe feel more secure about their status because of NAI?

Here is the question I raise – should we not be better recognized, compensated, or appreciated after 60 years of organized existence? Reality seems to indicate that, despite all of our apparent success, organization and growth, NAI has not been a forceful enough voice for the Tribe.

Do not fret as all is not lost. We can still build on the foundation established by our predecessors. We can and we must take the initiative now and elevate the global status of heritage interpretation. But we must do it now! I propose that we look at the next 60 years and direct our efforts to excel our professional progeny to better the status of the Tribe. We do not want to look back and make the same assessment we are making now. It is time to change.

Here is how we can do it. NAI is actively mapping out the strategic future of our Tribe. I suggest that NAI make a focused, purposeful and directed effort to develop, advance and promote heritage interpretation into the mainstream of everyday life. For this, we must establish NAI as the voice to advocate for heritage interpretation and heritage interpreters. It must be NAI’s purpose to empower interpreters to become a stronger voice as advocates for our cultural, natural and global resources. NAI itself must be empowered to be the advocate and activist source for interpreters and interpretation.

The time is right for us to pull the pin on the proverbial grenade of growth and prominence to enter a new era of what our elders came to imagine in 1954.  It is time to raise our voices! 

May the Tribe increase…. no… May the Tribe Evolve!


Cem Basman, PhD, CIT, CIP

NAI Vice President for Administration

Past and Present

Past to Present

Last week one of my heroes passed from this world into another.

In the 60′s and 70′s I was a “Folkie”; a listener and follower of the Weavers, the Mitchell Trio, New Christy Minstrels, Simon and Garfunkel, Peter, Paul and Mary with a sprinkling of Three Dog Night and Crosby, Stills,Nash, and Young. Leading the pack was Pete Seeger, ‘apprentice’ of Woody Guthrie and mentor to so many of us.

Pete Seeger was a leader in our emotional and actual participation in proactive challenges to the ‘norm’ and instigator and mentor to peaceful protests. I was fortunate in seeing him not only in concert, but in protests actions, not as a ‘star supporter’ but as one with the masses. 

His music transcended beyond just music and into the realms of political and environment activist, humorous, historian, lecturer, and , in my opinion, and interpreter.

I can not adequately describe the emotions and excitement of being in a mass of people, marching on Washington and singing in a syncopated unison, “We shall over come” inspired by the song’s Creator. It is a moment that can never be adequately recreated for the simple fact that we can never clone the emotions involved in the participation of public protests when being watched and surveyed  by law enforcement and the media: fear, excitement, the feeling of being part of a greater whole, and camaraderie.

I shall miss him.

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the entity that represents public media: Facebook. I am still amazed at the ability that organization provided and still provides in reuniting and introducing people, organizations and ideas to people worldwide. It is a resource that I have regularly utilized and that made me better prepared in using other newer media resources. It seems so new and yet now has a decade of history behind it.

Through Facebook I have promoted sites, organizations, and events, and, been reunited with friends four decades after I last saw them. It is something I never thought I would witness.

Both these past and the present experiences offer grand interpretive moments. Each provoked new thoughts, new actions, and new visions. Each proved that there are no real ‘norms’ in the world, but that the world can be changed dramatically by just one person.

“We shall overcome…”.


John C.F. Luzader  Vice President of Programs



What do you know – iChanged!

As the hype and circumstance of this season’s Super Bowl slowly engulfs our lives, I am taken aback by the fact that it was 30 years ago that the legendary and iconic Apple Computer Company aired its one-time commercial introducing the Macintosh computer. It was also the year I recall having hovered over the Macintosh display at my local computer store, harangued by friends who already owned one, until I could no longer resist and caved in to the pull of the cult. I purchased my first Mac. It was 1984 and I knew what I had become an unmistakable Mac-o-phile! 


For thirty years I unabashedly spewed the virtues of anything Apple and eschewed anything associated with a “PC” identity. The latter were infidels to my cozy and familiar iWorld. Being an “early adaptor” type, I pooled available, or at times unavailable, resources to keep up with the latest innovation my brothers and sisters at Apple had newly designed for me. It wasn’t often that you caught me with a past version (v.) or previous model of any Apple related soft or hardware. Once, I even wrote a grant that allowed me to purchase the very first Mac laptop – right off the fabrication line. It cost over $5,000 and had 20 megabytes of storage, 2 megabytes of memory and weighed as much as a toddler. I knew I had the world by its tail. In fact, that laptop was actually faster and more powerful than the mainframe computer at Colorado State University for the first few months I had it. University technicians would visit my office to lust and drool over this piece of masterful machinery.


I went through generations of Mac computers (the short-lived iCube is still the favorite), including the experiment with the third-party manufacturers. Then came the other “i” craze: the iPod (my first generation one still sits in my desk drawer.) By my calculations, my iTunes adventure has now cost me more than a round-trip ticket to Europe. All this was followed by the insanity of the iPhone revolution. With this one, I stumbled a little. It took me a few months to comprehend why Stephen Jobs (Apple Co. founder, genius & CEO) would want to waste time with cell phones.  After purchasing one though, I came around quickly.  Of course, then came the tsunami of the iPad.


I was thoroughly pickled in the serum of Apple’s essence. My snide retort to any non-Apple heathen was “I don’t even know how to turn on one of those PC’s…” I was, in truth, a poster-child of the Apple elite, the ultimate Mac snob.   Then the unthinkable happened…


It started with my daughters Emma and Erica going to the Dark Side. I couldn’t conceive why and how they could be happy with their Android powered cell phones. To my astonishment, they even did things I wasn’t capable of doing on my iPhone. I was puzzled. They weren’t having more fun with their machines, were they?!


Then came iPhone’s new operating system, which felt completely counter to any of their loyal old-guard followers like me, especially those with failing vision issues. Even after writing the Apple CEO and speaking to someone in their executive offices I was unimpressed with their desire to take care of us “original soldiers”.  I felt abandoned. To cut to the chase, after reviewing operating systems, screen sizes, operating options…..I bought my first non-Apple instrument, a Samsung phone!  To my astonishment, I have found it to be a worthy device. My Apple cocoon has been breeched. Today, I am spending countless hours relating to a different world and language with my new hand held friend.


So then, how does this relate to the world of heritage interpretation? Very simple.  I wonder how many of us prevent ourselves from expanding to views, experiences and opportunities outside of our set comfort zones? How many of us keep doing the same programs we have always done, whether they have progressed with the times or not? What was once cutting edge – is it still? Do we ask ourselves if there are adjustments or changes that we could make to keep up with today’s audience? With the evolving boomer audience, have some of them aged out of our old program formats –  due to mobility, vision or hearing loss?  Have we adapted for them? On the other hand, are we reaching today’s younger audience with their swift technological adaptability?


It is always easiest to stay within one’s comfort zone. We all do it. Do we really relate and respond to the needs of our audience? That is the important question. Are we asking ourselves “what can I do to update, change, or energize my programs?” Sometimes, we even have to take a look at what we think as the Dark Side to see new ideas. Don’t be afraid to make a change.


As for me – don’t worry.  At this year’s Superbowl, I still enjoyed being surrounded by my Mac Mini, iPad Air, iCinema Display Monitor. They are still glowing examples of iTechnology that is working for me. But an addition to my iLair  I now have my new Samsung Galaxy S4 phone, just in case someone wants to call, text, or air drop a message about the game. And in the meantime, I’ll be ever vigilant and controlling my emotions to any potential cult-effusing commercials.


Cem M. Basman

NAI Vice President for Administration

Expanding Our Vision of Ourselves


Interpreters, Interpretation, the terms provoke confusion outside the profession. Many of us have joked and commented about how many times we have been approached by folks and asked “what language do you translate (interpret)?” My often stock answer is, “the language of history”. That often as not creates a very perplexed expression on the questioner’s face and then a lengthy explanation on my part. However, we in the field, are often as naïve, (I hope that is the best word for expressing my thoughts) as to who are interpreters and in what fields we might find the same techniques in practice.

When I was first introduced to NAI a number of people expressed that folks in my field of historic costumed interpretation had our own organizations and did not need to be in NAI. I expressed my thoughts on this to Cem Bassman, who was the person who asked me to examine the organization. I argued that if NAI was the ‘national association of interpretation’ and did not include the historic and cultural aspects of the field then the organization had best change its name to the ‘Natural Association of Interpretation’ ( a name change took place later that replaced  the word ’of’ to ’for’). His blunt response, “ Change it.” I took the challenge and did my little part in having historic and cultural  interpretation included in the folds of NAI.  That challenge occurred better than twenty years ago.

Through the years I have been ‘exposed’ to numerous job fields and nearly each utilizes many of the same techniques and tricks of the trade that we, as interpreters use. From teachers to cab drivers, retailers to auctioneers, grocers to contractors,  any and all I have met and dealt with use so many of the practices we, ‘interpreters’, are taught, practice, utilize and teach in our respective specialties. The unique aspect each practitioner has is the fact we all work and serve the public and must learn how best to meet their needs and wants in order to be successful in our own right.

As NAI enters is next generation we are exploring how to better ourselves, how to increase our numbers and how to share the knowledge we have. It behooves us (I love that word) to explore many different facets and fields to invite to share our journeys and our professional knowledge.  It may well be time to truly expand our vision of ourselves.

What is interpretation and who are` interpreters needs to be examined and investigated. Are we limiting ourselves and our organization by only recognizing the ‘traditional’ aspects and fields of interpretation with which we are familiar? Are we ignoring and missing out on a vast amount of potential knowledge and resources by being stuck in our own mindsets, and possibly biases, as to what interpretation and interpreters are and represent?


As we enter the next generation of NAI maybe we each need to reexamine ourselves, our goals, and our definitions of what we do. In the past few months and continuing into the new year a task force is reexamining our strategic plan. They will be regularly requesting input from the membership. It is a process that will bring progressive changes to NAI. My challenge to all of us is, contribute; look for the requests from the task force and allow us all the chance to ‘change it’ for he better.

John C.F. Luzader

Vice President of Programs





First, I wish to apologize for not having provided a blog last month. I had just arrived at the Reno workshop and, as usual, I found myself neck deep in responsibilities and activities that lasted throughout the workshop week.

The workshop did provide the theme for this month’s blog.

I was scheduled to do three sessions throughout the workshop; one as a panel member with two other people, another as a co-presenter and the other as a sole presenter on Saturday morning.

The Saturday morning session proved my most difficult.

I regularly prepare my presentations and the PowerPoint that augment an address no less than two weeks before the actual event. Then I repeatedly run through the material four or five times before a session with the last ‘rehearsal’ taking place usually an hour or two before the scheduled presentation time. Thus it was for my Saturday morning workshop appearance; up at six, a quick breakfast, and then to my computer to check the session file, PowerPoint, and notes, as well as the backup thumbdrive of my session. On went the computer, in went the thumbdrive, quickly I pulled up the file and opened it and then… then my computer crashed. AI quick removal of the thumbdrive took place and then I hastily turned on my mini laptop and stuck in the thumbdrive to check it and to download it to my mini. No files. Not a single file was to be seen, found, explored, cried over at all on the thumbdrive.

Now a new dilemma arose; I had a presentation in less than two hours and all my notes and the program PowerPoint were skittering through the ether of computer lost files and lands unknown. My brain, slow as it is now with age creeping through its gray matter, realized I had but a few options: cry, ( an option that really appeared good at this point), cancel the session, (a poor option for a professional and very discourteous to those who had planned on attending my presentation), or improvise.

Improvisation has been a standard tool in my interpretive ‘tool kit’ for better than four decades. From my earliest programs and activities to , obviously, my most recent endeavors, having an ‘improvisation tool’ tucked away has been a skill I had mentored to me, forced upon me, and accepted by me as an essential skill that every interpreter, no matter the field of expertise, must acquire and maintain. So, here I was, the time clock counting down and I needed to assess the damage I was experiencing with the lack of my electronic support and what skills and materials I had available to me in the hotel room.

First, I had the primary tool, myself. My knowledge of the subject, the preparation I had done for the presentation application, the powerpoint (now dead or lost to the ages), and all the experience I have on the theme. Next I had the workshop booklet with the written material advertising my session. This would ensure I had a foundation which to work from in creating a plan and some viable notes. Lastly, I had a responsibility to provide my audience the best presentation I could, no matter the circumstances.

With panic gripping my internal organs I set


down to begin my task. Now I should explain, on top of the crisis I had with my early morning session I also had the knowledge that I had another session with Dr. Istre immediately after my presentation. This meant I would have to also improvise in that session, blessedly knowing she had that programs visual component tucked safely in her computer, but, I had no notes or images to review beforehand.

A quick program came to mind, notes were written on the mini laptop, a plan devised, and a rehearsed run through conducted the hotel room. I had found the primary ‘tool’ for my presentation: the participants. This would be a session with full audience participation. I gave the session, not my best, I will admit, but, according to the review sheets left by the participants, I had presented a 4+ program that provoked some great comments and suggestions.

So, why do I bring up this bit of my life’s trivia?

With the condition of the economy, the budget cuts found in both national and local agencies, and the proposed further cuts to training and interpretive resources we are going to face in the future, we are in fields that will regularly call upon us to improvise. The standards of support and the resources we now have at hand will be constantly stretched and depleted within the next few years. The formats that we work within will need constant review and , yes, we shall be improvising a great deal, because our audience still deserves the best we have to offer, no matter what our budgets might be or whatever might befall us.

Improvisation still requires accuracy and authenticity. It is not an excuse to just entertain. Our collective missions regularly specify that our sites and agencies are dedicated to conserving, preserving, protecting and providing our themes to the public. It is important that when we find ourselves having to extemporize we still work within the missions we have promised to fulfill.

It will be difficult at times, and it will call upon us to be innovative and dedicated to our fields. NAI may well see more ‘improvisation’ as well. Trainings and workshops may need to change as we see more and more constraints on our membership. It will be a time for us to look at how we can be inventive and still provide quality, ground breaking materials.

It will be a time to improvise.

John C.F. Luzader

Vice President of Programs



While I wouldn’t be able to name a single active player on a current baseball team (sorry Paul Caputo, the biggest baseball fanatic I know…), I certainly can own up to my addiction to American football.  With the current college and National Football League schedule, it is difficult to find time to tear away from a television set. Fortunately, my wife Vicki is understanding of my seasonal obsession and allows for my pigskin indiscretions. Oh yeah, I should also own up to having a maligned proclivity for yelling at the officials for perceived bad calls. Yes, I am a caricature of a football fan that actively engages the television screen as a sentient participant in my sports experience. I am exceptionally vulnerable when Chicago is playing, and yes, I am one o’ doze da Bearz guyz. Yet even in my gridiron hysteria, one thing has continually snapped me back to my social scientist self during October. What is going on with all this pink stuff? Everywhere the players, coaches and the officials are washed in pink garments.


Fighting breast cancer is a very – very – important and relevant cause. Having lost friends to this awful illness, I am very cognizant of the necessary fight against this terrible and serious disease. While I am in absolute support of funding efforts for fighting breast cancer, my academic training tells me that the pink campaign is a bad idea. First, I keep thinking of the cost of all the pink towels, wristbands, shoes, mouthpieces, and all the other accouterments on which the National Football League spent big money. Why not make a direct donation equal to the cost of all this stuff to the cause? Second and foremost, all the research that I know shows that these campaigns do not help a well-known and established cause such as fighting breast cancer. People wearing pink or purchasing pink marked merchandise feel they have supported the cause and are not likely to send any additional funds to support the fight. A basic tenet of persuasion theory asserts that if one thinks there are many others around them that will likely to act on an object, they will likely hold back. Of course there is much more to this that cannot be covered in this blog. I wish the cost of dying items pink would be spent on fighting this awful cancer. It is also another support of Marshall McLuhan’s supposition (medium is the message.)


Don’t get me wrong; I am all about letting people know the valuable causes that one supports. A campaign as the pink deluge is very useful for a cause that is in need of being made a salient identity of the public. An example is the plight of the high volume veterans that are suffering from PTSD. An awareness campaign of this illness, as well as how to help those brave souls who have served in the past and current wars, is a critical need. It is still misunderstood and not a salient issue with most people in the U.S. Having dealt with several students who are suffering from this awful byproduct of their service to their country, I know first hand the lack of familiarity of this illness by most people. A promotion effort on the level of the “pink” campaign could be very useful in attending to those suffering from PTSD.


As interpreters we must be aware of the value and end product of our efforts – and we often do. I know of several programs that present a patch, pin, hat, or jacket for accomplishing a task. Whether completing a volunteer project or identifying a set number of birds, these baubles of achievement are earned after completing a specific task. Perhaps we should only be allowed to wear pink items after we have donated a specific amount to the cause of fighting breast cancer.


In the meantime, I will lament the loss of my Chicago Bears to the Washington Redskins… Redskins – that’s another topic of discussion for later…


Cem M. Basman, PhD, CIT, CIP

NAI Vice-President for Administration 

The Incomplete Whole

As interpreters we are regularly reminded that we are to follow Tilden’s principle and include the “Whole” in our theme selections and presentations. As a historian I am regularly befuddled on how one is to include the ‘whole’ either in publications or historic representation with out requiring the reader or visitor to have a complete brain transplant.

My case in point is the happens to me, my family, my friends, , my neighbors, my community, my state in the past two and half weeks.
I will begin by stating I am writing this missive in the basement of my elder daughter’s home in a cramped and over filled bed room that serves as my wife’s and my sleeping quarters, office, kennel for our two dogs and repository of clothing, computers, shoes, coats, &c. The reason is simple, we are some of the lucky ones to have a place of succor after being forced from our homestead by the now named 500 year flood on the Thompson River.
The blog page is insufficient to describe to you the fears, confusions, humor, depression, fatigue, compassion, community, and guilt that we have been experiencing these past weeks.
I could tell you of the panic of having to load our cars with valuables, animals and ourselves in the middle of the night as the flood waters drew closer and closer to our house, of seeing a chocolate foam covered river expand and heighten in a matter of an hour and a half and the deep penetrating odor of propane, from half a dozen LP tanks lodging near our home, odor so think and nauseating that each breath brought nausea and faintness. I can tell you of then finding we had no avenues of escape and having to spend the night on the road bed above the house in our cars, cats in one car, valuables in my old VW van and wife, dogs and myself in another car as we heard and felt the boulders in the river cascade , sounding like distant artillery, reverberating through the ground and through the vehicles throughout the dark rain washed night. I can tell stories of being stranded for four days at the homestead, no water, electric, and phone, and my sleeping on in two hours stretches as my sleep apnea begged for my Cpap machine at nights.
I can also expound on how we gathered together and watched the destruction of the floods, debris, houses, propane tanks, dozens of basket balls, bits and pieces of peoples lives float by, as we ate a communion tables and wondered on those across the river, totally cut off from the world at the dude ranch. How e found the one sweet spot for our cell phones at the top of the hill and would gather there to contact family and friends, and then share the news with each other.
The recitation of the aftermath, being able to get into town for supplies, the three and a half hour drive to my daughter’s (17 miles) to resettle, seeing and meeting with FEMA, learning that a body had been found near the homestead, the observations after the water receded, the pain of leaving the cats at the house and then checking on them every other day, the kindness of so many caring people expressing their willingness to help clean up, share an office space, and pitch in.
The pain of seeing others less fortunate than ourselves, who lost homes, businesses, personal artifacts, cats, dogs, live stock, &c. I can expound on the fiscal implications of the flooding, loss of incomes, property, business decline, unemployment, and infrastructure disasters.
I can speak of the guilt; yes the guilt that many feel. The guilt of not being able to help the poor woman who had to be left on a hillside, who was washed away to be found near our home 20 miles down river from her home, who died alone in the dark. The guilt in our asking for assistance when so many others need it more than we. The guilt of ‘surviving’ with our home intact and only some minor set backs, when other are clearing their homes of mud, mold, water, or finding they have no homes. The guilt of wanting to do more, when we are so tired and so worn out we do not know how. The guilt of not staying and ‘roughing it’ at the house when our neighbors and others are, all due to my need for a Cpap at night.
I can speak of the elation of seeing friends who I knew were in danger, the unembarrassed hugs, quick jokes and tears as we ‘found’ each other safe and sound.
The excitement of finding the graves of our past pets, not washed away as first believed, but safe and sound under 20 inched of new soil. The complete surrender of joy I immerse myself into when I sit with my granddaughter and play silly games.
All of these I can relate to you, to others, and myself, and it is not the ‘whole story’. The ‘whole story’ is yet to be known. It will be the complete compilation of all the stories of those touched by the floods, those ob site and those , miles away, who cared and were concerned about loved ones and friends. It will be the stories of all who wrote Sparky and me offering help and succor, and words of encouragement. It will be the stories of all those who guarded the cross roads to safeguard communities, it will be the stories of he rebuild, the clean up, the recovery, the new river, its new ecosystems, the stories of the pollution and debris. It will be the stories of Sunny Jim’s candy story and Ida’s determination, after losing everything in the story, to be open by December 1 for Christmas sales, it will be the story as to whether Canyon Collectables will be rebuilt and whether its historic structure will remain. It will be the story of Rusty May’s saddler and whether he will continue to produce saddles or whether they are collectable items. It will be the story of the citizens of Lyons, Drake, Glen Haven, North Platte, Kernsey, and other towns in the flooded areas and how and when they rebuild their communities.
It will be the tale of those who rebuild the bridges, the roads, the schools, the homes, the power lines, and the devastated areas. It will be the tale of those who in future generations will explain to new visitors why all the boulders are gone near the homestead and are found down river, miles downriver.
It will be the tales of new fishing holes and new historic and environmental sites; the rock wall below my neighbor’s home polished smooth by the river and the flood, archeological finds generations from now of the debris of the flood plains, and the assumptions made by those explorers ( “Basketball was the most popular sport of the river occupants. We have found the remains of hundreds of basket balls, but no foot balls and absolutely no baseballs.”)
And our ‘story’ is but a small fragment of the stories of the thousands whose lives were, and are, a part of the tale.
The ‘whole’ of the floods in Colorado and elsewhere in September 2013 is yet to be lived.
It is not always the ‘event’ that is the whole story, it is what the event encompasses and produces that is often the better story.

John C.F. Luzader
Vice President of Programs

A ‘First Person’ account…

I wrote this piece last week and passed it along to some friends. Paul, in his great wisdom, suggested that I put in up as a blog. Here it is, worthy or not.


Fifty years. A half of a century. Five Decades. It all sound so long ago.

Fifty years ago last week I stood under a copse of trees within sight of the reflecting pool in Washington, D.C. I was overseen by my mother and doubly supervised by my sister, all of us dressed in our Sunday best, as we strained to see above the heads of thousands of others gathered in the same locale. I was searching for my father, proud to know that somewhere near the speaker he paced back and forth in his NPS full uniform, as a guardian of ‘our’ parks.

It was hot and muggy under the trees, the mugginess that D.C. and Northern Virginia are renowned for in August where even the gnats and mosquitoes do not like to move. Air so thick with water that it seems un-breathable, and on this day, crowded as we were by the masses of people all around us, pushing and moving in a un-symphonied rhythm of searching souls, thicker than normal and nearly choking.

We had chosen the trees as a locale upon Father’s suggestion. They would offer some protection from the sun, a place where we might rest and linger against their bark, where we might settle upon a blanket (that idea was soon abandoned due to the crowd), and a locale Father could find us after the speech.

The speech. That was our entire purpose in being in D.C. that day. Father had decided that we were going to come in and hear what he believed would be a “historic moment” by a speaker that he fervently supported and admired: Dr. Martin Luther King.

Mother was less enthralled than Father, but Sister was elated that she could hear him speak. I was less than pleased, as it would take away from my summer time with new friends and I would have to wear a tie and be on my best behavior in my best clothing. And it was hot.

Thus, we found ourselves within the copse of trees, after a long and early rising and car ride, and placing ourselves, in the dark, under the trees.

Father did look great in his full uniform. His most recent job kept him out of uniform most of the time and I missed seeing him so attired. I was a bit shocked to see him sans mustache again, not understanding the dress code of the agency at that time and the professional standards it placed upon ‘uniformed’ situations.

However, as the sun rose and the crowd’s strength and size became apparent, we were a bit nervous. I realized that I would not be able to see Father, and Mother and Sister were not used to being among such crowds of strangers, but everyone was very nice and open and soon we became but a small part of the organism of the mass, caught up in its enthusiasm and expectation.

Then, the speaker began.

Now, here I wish I could write and tell you that I was overwhelmed, and that a Hollywoodized epiphany took over my soul and that a beaming ray of light shone down from the heavens and bathed the speaker and his audience. In truth, all I really took note of in his speech was his referring to a time when all children, “black and white” would be playing together. I really would like that part. Virginia had yet to desegregate its schools and children with Jewish names often found themselves in ‘black schools’, a white face out of place and often a target of bullying and derisive abuse for being different. 

Yes, I would like a place where my classmates and I would get along ‘hand in hand’.

And it was hot, and I was bored.

That is the best I can recall as a ‘first hand account’ of being in the masses that heard Dr. King that August day.

The historian in me knows and has learned and taught much of the aftermath of that speech. By the Fall I was no longer part of the segregated school system and Jeanie Dean (Black) Elementary students were integrated with white students throughout the Prince William County, Virginia school system. I was able to sit in class with many of my friends from Jeanie Dean Elementary, and reunioned with others through my school years. I watched as our Junior High and Senior High school teams became some of the first in Virginia’s history to integrate. I ran in track in Junior High on an integrated team just three years after Dr. King’s. I wept with many of my friends, black and white, when JKK was killed that Fall and later with a multi national group of friends when MLK was killed in 1968. I also still watched the bigotry and tensions of segregated minds that applauded the KKK in its marching down the main street during Memorial and July 4th parades. I personally witnessed the riots in D.C. after MLK’s death, and many protests and actions for equality in Washington. I also was part of the protest moment just seven years later against the Viet Nam War, protests that had ‘whites and blacks walking hand in hand for a common cause.

Five decades. Fifty Years. A half of a century. So much has occurred and changed, and yes, some things have not. There is still bigotry in the world. There are still segregated thoughts and beliefs. There are still ‘racial’ issues to deal with…

But there is still “The Dream”.

I was a nine year old boy, under a hot and muggy copse of trees, looking to spot my Father in his NPS uniform, but I still remember the dream.

 John C.F. Luzader

Vice President of Programs


All SET on Interpretion

A couple of weeks prior to this writing, I was sitting in the NAI National Office participating in our latest strategic planning exercise with the NAI Board of Directors and staff. As one would expect in such a setting, we bantered around many a definition, purpose, philosophy or a principle of interpretation. One apparent theme kept emerging as we traversed the steps of organizing our plans for the future of interpreters and interpretation – we tell stories. We are the storytellers that reveal intimacies of our animate and inanimate spirit of our existence on this planet and beyond. All of this discussion of identifying who we are as heritage interpreters reminded me of an exercise I have used in classrooms and training sessions.


A few years ago someone shared the most succinct definition of interpretation with me – tell stories and always tell the truth! I couldn’t argue with that. Having repeated that definition for years, I added one more component and started referring to it as the SET method for interpretation. Today, I still use this concept to define interpretation to those within and outside of interpretation.


SET consists of three basic ideas around which I believe interpretation revolves. First is the STORY. Unquestionably the best interpreters are those that can take any object, concept, or fact and intertwine it with one’s imagination, life experiences and curiosity in a macramé of personal relevance. We may call it themes, objectives, information, cognitive content or anything in-between, but the bottom line is that it is the story that an interpreter reveals to the listener. This certainly is very difficult to do without having EMPATHY for the patron of the story being told. I used to call this an intimacy-specific communication process. To achieve the magic of having each audience member believe he or she is being spoken to as an individual is the achievement of audience empathy. Finally, it can be strongly argued that interpreters have an ethical obligation to always tell the TRUTH in their presentation of their story. I believe that the “Seventh Principle” of interpretation should be that all interpretative efforts must be linked to a personal and professional commitment to being truthful in presenting information to the public. Legitimacy of the storyteller is directly linked to his or her integrity in being trusted by the audience member. I am reminded of the old Sufi saying, telling the truth is always the right choice in life.


As we ponder the many acronyms we are developing for defining and explaining the essence of heritage interpretation, I too am SET to throw in my contribution to the mix. For me the Story-Empathy-Truth conceptualization has been a simple way to define what I do as an interpreter.