Freeman Tilden

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Freeman Tilden.

Freeman Tilden (August 22, 1883 – May 13, 1980) was one of the first people to set down the principles and theories of heritage interpretation in his 1957 book, Interpreting Our Heritage.

His work with the United States National Park Service inspired generations of interpreters across the world and continues to be a definitive text for the discipline. According to thematic interpretation expert, Sam H. Ham, Tilden's quotation on page 38 of Interpreting Our Heritage (which was taken from a US National Park Service administrative manual) has become one of the most cited phrases in the interpretation literature worldwide:

Through interpretation, understanding; through understanding, appreciation; through appreciation, protection.


  • Tilden, F. Interpreting our Heritage (University of North Carolina Press, 1957) ISBN 0-8078-4016-5
  • Ham, S. From Interpretation to Protection--Is There a Theoretical Basis?[permanent dead link] (Journal of Interpretation Research, 14(2): 49–57, 2009)
  • Freeman Tilden, 1883-1980 (National Park Service Biographical Vignettes)