The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park (SFMNHP) is a gem hidden amongst tourist traps. Home to some incredible ships, an amazing visitor center, and a lovely view of the Golden Gate Park, SFMNHP is just steps from Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop and the infamous Fisherman’s Wharf area of San Francisco.
The team at SFMNHP decided to reinstall their art collection, so they called us to give some pointers to interpretive staff in a time when they are undergoing some institutional change.
Before we went to SFMNP, we created a program called #HackYourPark, a custom curriculum designed to bring our distinctive audience engagement strategies to National Park Service (NPS) sites.
The curriculum we use for #HackYourPark combines our signature “5 Elements of a Hack” with foundational practices unique to the National Park Service, including a heavy emphasis of the work of Freeman Tilden, author of the landmark book, Interpreting Our Heritage.
Our day at SFMNHP day began with a quick intro about Museum Hack before our staff gave a mini-tour of SFMNHP’s space in our signature style.
To prove that our “5 Elements of a Hack” approach really does work in any location, we created an Instant Hack of SFMNHP.
Here’s how it worked:
Our ranger guides gave us a preview of the space, and then in the span of 30 minutes, we created a three-stop, one-activity tour that we gave to the rangers who had first taken us on their own tour just before.
The quick turnaround of an Instant Hack shows off how beneficial rapid prototyping is: with little prep time, you can craft a minimum viable product that you can then keep testing and refining as time goes on.
The next day, it was the rangers’ turn to show off their new tours – and they did not disappoint.
Using the 5 Elements, the rangers made their own tour prototypes to form the basis of a tour stop. While we always love adding fun and games to experiences, our methods are really about creating a template to talk about any story.
Many of the SFMNHP staff were able to jump right into their work using the 5 Elements structure as a way to address difficult topics, such as relating untold stories about race and class. Our 5 Elements framework helped the rangers tell personally-connected narratives using relatable language to resonate with their audience.
#HackYourPark was a great way to create a framework that NPS staff can use to design unique, reverently-irreverent moments that honor their park’s history.
We loved making a custom curriculum to target the National Park Service’s needs. Want your own tailor-made training for your institution? Email us at email@example.com.