Twitter, Facebook, virtual tours. It’s antithetical to think of nature as having anything to do with social media. However National Park Service Park Ranger Lynette Webber just won an award for her interpretive program at Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Keweenaw National Historical Park that incorporates social media.
The legislation that would eventually mark the beginning of the National Park Service described the need to protect the scenery, forests, wildlife, and objects within these designated spaces so they could be enjoyed by repeated generations of the public. So how does social media fit into this, let alone merit an award?
Ranger Webber was distinguished with the 2016 Freeman Tilden Award which recognizes NPS employees for outstanding contributions to the public through education and interpretation. This was for her program, “Missing in the Copper Country,” which takes a fresh look at the Keweenaw Peninsula’s 19th century copper boom when a large deposit was discovered that attracted miners, investors, and entrepreneurs.
Keweenaw National Historical Park is an interpretive site that features preserved mining structures, machinery, and historic buildings laid out in a period setting. Webber’s program uses technology to provide historic overlays in a real-time setting; Pokémon Go players will understand this concept immediately. This includes overlays of historic buildings on modern photographs and ArcGIS maps generated by social media posts that allow self-guided tours with a smartphone, complete with historic building descriptions and narration.
For those less technologically inclined there are traditional paper maps with descriptions and historic overlays. Junior rangers can enjoy scaled LEGO versions of the historic copper mining site.
Webber’s program is recognized as a successful way of melding the modern smartphone-driven world with outdoors education in nature at a historic setting. Praise also focused on her use of social media to promote her program. While she was conducting research she came across many interesting historic photos. She posted these to social media platforms and also used them in illustrated programs and temporary exhibitions.