Cultural Resources Internship Programs at the Centennial

By Special Contributor posted 08-05-2016 11:44


In honor of the 2016 anniversary of the National Park Service (NPS), Preservation Leadership Forum is hosting a series of blog posts highlighting its programs and history. In these posts NPS staff look back and on how far the Service has come and forward to where it hopes to go in the future.

By Paloma Bolasny and Teresa Moyer

The goal for the National Park Service (NPS) Centennial is to “connect with and engage the next generation of park visitors, supporters, and advocates.” As part of that charge, the NPS Cultural Resources, Partnerships, and Science (CRPS) directorate coordinates several internship programs for youth and students. The next generation of heritage professionals, audiences who see the NPS as a critical force in the preservation of diverse heritage narratives, and citizens whose attitudes and choices are informed by NPS sources all participate in these programs.

Latino Heritage Internship Program Intern Karla Morales at Minute Man National Historic Park. | Credit: National Park Service


Currently the CRPS coordinates internship programs with partner organizations or through the federal hiring system. Partners provide expertise and access to resources, and their networks aid with recruitment and program administration. Some of these programs are specifically for youth ages 16 through 35 and are authorized by the Public Lands Hiring Act. Others are for students in degree- or certificate-granting programs. Between January and the end of June 2016—the midpoint of the Centennial—CRPS internship programs employed 195 youth and students across the United States.

Current internship programs supported by CRPS are:

National Council for Preservation Education Interns work with the American Battlefield Protection Program. | Credit: National Park Service


Each of these programs is shaped by particular issues or goals—like developing an inclusive and diverse internship pool to build toward a diverse future workforce that represents multiple perspectives in parks programming. For example, CRDIP and LHIP engage youth who are part of soon-to-be majority populations but whose voices and presence in preservation are relatively small. Other programs, such as the Historic Sites and Structures Documentation Internships, use traditional and modern technologies to document endangered cultural resources. These programs ensure that internship projects are relevant to the 21st-century workforce and sensitive to the social factors that are shaping the nation. This summer our interns are working on engaging communities, planning multi-language programming, and reshaping interpretive text to provide a better historic context. Regardless of their summer projects, we want interns to walk away understanding that historic places matter; that such places are complex and that all perspectives and talents are needed in the pursuit of preservation.

Some interns already pursuing a degree in a cultural resources field seek out these internships because they already know that they wish to join heritage fields, while others find the idea of working with the NPS to be compelling. Most interns come away from the experience realizing how little they knew about the range of NPS employment opportunities. LHIP intern Paola Solis writes, “Its [NPS’] cause for preservation, its diversity initiative, and the happiness it brings to different people are the reasons I want to be a park ranger in the future.” Through real-world experiences that augment classroom instruction, interns become better positioned to join the NPS or another heritage preservation organization. Internships have a unique ability to shape perceptions and hook participants into being lifelong preservationists and conservationists, whether professionally or as informed citizens.

Environment for the Americas interns in Denver in 2015. | Credit: National Park Service


Both authors of this post are proof of the success of the NPS internship programs. We are both graduates of the Historic Preservation Internship Program, which is a partnership between the National Council for Preservation Education (NCPE) and NPS. Now we have come full circle: We both manage NCPE interns, and Paloma Bolasny recently became the manager of the NCPE program.

CRPS Projects

  • For the NPS Centennial, interns have worked with the CRPS Centennial Coordinator to support Centennial activities in the directorate. They have created a social media plan and an outreach plan for graduate students and have coordinated the 2016 NCPE cohort’s sharing of their perspectives on interning.

  • The Urban Archeology Corps is conducting background research and excavations at Frederick Douglass National Historic Site to support future interpretive development. Participants will draw on local research institutions and gain enrichment experience working with various NPS divisions in National Capital ParksEast.

  • Two of the 49 LHIP interns are honing their documentation skills by interning with the Historic American Building Survey (HABS) and the Historical American Landscape Survey (HALS). They have joined teams that are documenting Alcatraz Island and the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial in Belleau, France.

  • And 21 CRDIP interns are gaining work experience with NPS units, programs, and other federal agencies. Their work varies from historical research and surveys for National Register documentation to records, archives, and museum management.
For both of us, who were once part of the next generation of NPS employees, NPS cultural resources internships have played—and continue to play—a critical role in training young preservationists. We believe that these internships provide critical opportunities for young people to gain access and explore the full range of options available to them, to grow intellectually, and to learn empathy for other people and other perspectives—all through joining the workforce of heritage management.

Paloma Bolasny is the youth program coordinator for the NPS Cultural Resources, Partnerships, and Science directorate at the Washington Support Office. Teresa Moyer is an archeologist with the NPS Archeology Program at the Washington Support Office.


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