Researchers: Chris Vinson, Rachel Wittmann, Josh Morgan, and Darius Jones
Clemson University and the National Park Service collaborated to create the Open Parks Network, an innovative, ambitious, and interdisciplinary project to digitize 1.5 million pages of literature and over 200,000 rare and unique photographs, maps, and manuscripts housed in the archives of America’s national parks and historic sites. More than 20 national park sites and two state park systems are represented in these diverse collections. The network provides free public access to high-resolution files that are fully searchable through its website, openparksnetwork.org. Before the network, items in the park archives weren’t viewable unless you visited the park itself. Now our website places these treasures in the hands of anyone with an internet connection and inspires a new generation of park visitors, researchers, enthusiasts, and stewards to invest in America’s Best Idea. The network is more than just a digital gallery more importantly, it’s a tool designed to spur and support new research endeavors related to park history, management, genealogy, and public education. Items in the network have been painstakingly described in detail so teachers and park rangers alike can search, find, and use precisely the resources they need in their classrooms or public programs to motivate their students to explore outside and appreciate the rich heritage of our parks.