Standards and Best Practices for Community Engagement, Historical Interpretation, Public Education
These standards attempt to address the diverse areas of responsibility covered by education and interpretation at historic places and by historical organizations, including scholarship, curriculum development, visitor research, and staff training, as well as the broad range of public programs presented by historic sites, from tours and exhibits to publications and the Internet. These resources can be used to:
1. Reinforce best practices among board members, staff, and volunteers.
2. Ensure a consistent high quality of experience for visitors.
3. Assist organizations in developing strategic plans, goals, and objectives.
4. Provide goals for developing and improving the educational programs and historical interpretation.
5. Assess the performance of interpretation and programming.
6. Establish performance standards for vendors, contractors, and consultants.
1. For developing, implementing, and evaluating educational programs, activities, and methods, use:
- “Principles of Best Practice for Education in Museums” in the American Association of Museum Education Committee’s Excellence in Practice: Museum Education Principles and Standards (2005)
- “Teaching” and “History in the Public Realm” in the American Historical Association’s Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct (2005)
- “Audience” and “Interpretation” sections of the Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations (American Association for State and Local History, 2009)
2. For recruiting, supervising, and evaluating staff, contractors, or vendors responsible for interpretation and education, use:
- “Professional Standards for Museum Educators” in the American Association of Museum Education Committee’s Excellence in Practice: Museum Education Principles and Standards (2005)
- American Historical Association’s Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct (2005)
- National Council on Public History’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (2007)
3. For research on people and animals (e.g., oral histories, visitor studies, landscape research, living history farms), use:
- Code of Ethics (1998) of the American Anthropological Association
- Professional Standards for the Practice of Audience Research and Evaluation in Museums (2003) of the Committee on Audience Research and Evaluation, American Association of Museums [11/3/2011: website down]
- Oral History Evaluation Guidelines (2000) of the Oral History Association
4. For the preparation of books, articles, bibliographies, documents, and other text in print or electronic versions, use:
- Chicago Manual of Style (latest edition) for all works except as noted below
- Associated Press Stylebook (latest edition) for communications with the press (e.g., journalists, newspapers, magazines)
- American Heritage Dictionary (latest edition) for word usage and spelling
These standards and best practices are based on generally accepted principles and selected from the codes of ethics of the American Association of Museums, the American Association for State and Local History, the American Historical Association, and the National Council for Public History; the Standards for Accreditation of the American Association of Museums; Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations of the American Association for State and Local History; Standards and Practices for Historic Site Administration by the Tri-State Coalition for Historic Places; and the Museum Education Standards and Principles of the American Association of Museum Education Committee. It is also influenced by the work of leaders in the field of historical interpretation and educational practice, including Lisa Brochu, Charlotte Danielson, Lynn Dierking, John Falk, Howard Gardner, Sam Ham, George Hein, Randi Korn, Tim Merriman, Freeman Tilden, and Sam Wineburg. Furthermore, it is influenced by the practice of interpretation at historic sites (especially those who are National Trust Historic Sites) and current related trends, including consumer marketing, tourism, academic history, and public education.