The Witness Tree Project is a curricular initiative involving Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and the National Park Service (NPS).
Witness trees, as designated by the National Park Service, are long-standing trees that have "witnessed" key events, trends, and people in American history. The Project arranges for fallen witness trees to be shipped from a national historic site to RISD, where students, enrolled in a joint history seminar and furniture studio, interpret the history the tree witnessed make relevant objects from the tree's wood. In addition to classroom study, the Project variously involves field trips, guest lectures, exhibitions of students' objects, and other events that highlight the significance of material culture, landscape, and design in learning about American history.
The Witness Tree Project is a successful example of how collaborative work between historians, designers, and publics - as well as private and governmental institutions - might enhance educational opportunities for students.