Employee Profiles - Interpretive Resource Technician
Amanda, Interpretive Resource Technician
Missouri Department of Natural Resources
Missouri State Parks
Watkins Woolen Mill State Park and Historic Site
Working Title: Park Interpreter or Park Naturalist
Amanda has been an interpreter for the past 9 years at Watkins Woolen Mill State Park and Historic Site near Lawson, Mo. Prior to her current appointment, she worked as a seasonal interpreter at Prairie State Park in southwest Missouri. Amanda has worked for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for nearly 14 years in both a full-time and part-time capacity.
Amanda’s primary job duties include:
- Operating the reception desk at the visitor center and museum
- Conducting interpretive tours of the Watkins home and mill
- Providing living history and outreach programming
- Planning, implementing and photographing special events and activities
- Cleaning and maintaining historic buildings, visitor center displays and exhibits, brochure racks, etc.
- Preparing monthly interpretation, attendance and revenue reports for the site, as well as weekly cash deposits
- Assisting with hiring and supervising, as well as training seasonal staff, volunteers and campground hosts
- Overseeing the fiber arts and Foodways programs at the site
- Managing the volunteer program for the site
- Cataloging artifacts into a computer database, labeling and storing artifacts, working with researchers and supervising and assigning collections-based projects for seasonals and volunteers
- Conducting ongoing research pertaining to the history of the site
- Assisting with the souvenir program at the site
As evidenced by the list above, Amanda’s duties are quite varied — a common characteristic of an interpreter position. Amanda has some very specific duties, in particular, her management of the Foodways program and the fiber arts program that most parks do not require. However, each park is different, so whereas Watkins Woolen Mill focuses on historic preservation and interpretation of the cultural resources at the site, other parks might focus more on preservation and interpretation of the natural resources.
When Amanda started full time with the agency, she had previously worked as a volunteer and seasonal employee at Prairie State Park for 4½ years to gather the required months of experience in lieu of a college degree. Amanda’s experience working as a seasonal interpreter helped her hone her communication skills, which are key to all of her daily duties. Taking the time to learn on the job and gather experience was invaluable to Amanda in her quest for full-time employment with the department.
Amanda’s communication skills serve her well in many situations. Working in a park setting can sometimes result in odd scenarios or even emergencies that must be dealt with quickly and calmly. Turning these potentially negative situations into positive experiences takes a special set of skills.
Amanda enjoys many aspects of her job, including the lack of monotony. Every day is different and brings with it new people, joys and challenges. She loves history, and the opportunity to enhance her knowledge of the site – as well as 19th-century life in general — is very appealing to her. Sharing this history with the public and creating positive memories is especially rewarding. Amanda also enjoys being part of a bigger team. Her work goes beyond Watkins Woolen Mill. It influences not only her visitors, but also the whole Missouri state park system, as well as interpretation efforts across the nation.
Even with all the positive aspects of Amanda’s job, the inevitable “dislikes” still exist. She’s not fond of working weekends and state holidays, but recognizes that those are the days when visitors are most prominent in the parks. While state park staff are required to wear uniforms to maintain presence and consistency throughout the state, Amanda welcomes the opportunity to dress in period clothing just to have something different to wear!
What advice does Amanda have for an aspiring Interpretive Resource Technician?
“ Do not be afraid to get your foot in the door by volunteering or working as a seasonal, and gain experience first. This experience will be invaluable to you later, both for personal use as well as in a supervisory capacity. Network and build strong positive relationships with other interpreters. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t land a full-time position on your first interview. Sometimes it takes a while.”
To learn more about the
Interpretive Resource Technician classification, visit oa.mo.gov/personnel/classification-specifications/1259.
Check out the Human Resources webpage for more information on employment with the department.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is an equal opportunity employer.