Why Now is so good for Heritage Interpretation

Now is a good time to be in this interpretation business.  It’s an exciting time to be a heritage interpreter.  It often feels like the best time in my 30 plus years in the business.

There is a lot of new stuff going on.  We have a lot of new challenges to think about. Which is why James Carter and I are running a brand new course in June that looks specifically at all this new stuff.

If you like thinking, you will like this coures. (This post contains links to a pretty thought-provoking video and an interesting article – the sorts of things James and I like to ponder on.).

There’s a lot for us to think about now, including those two new giants: the Information Revolution (watch the video) and the Heritage Industry. They came into our view about 2 decades ago and they have changed our world. We will definitely think a lot about them and what they mean for us..

The Information Revolution (IR) brings us lots of new toys  –  and a  sackful of stuff to think about.  It has injected a rather breathless sense of excitement, energy and innovation into our world. I like that energy.

I don’t like the fact that it is often led by info-zealots, people who seem to believe that more (information) is better (interpretation). It isn’t. Never was. Never will be. Interpreters need to be immensely clear about that.

IR, clearly a generous sort of chap, also brings us ubiquitous round-the-clock available, off-site information. I can find more data, more quickly, about almost anywhere in the world sitting here at my laptop than I could by going there.

My guess is that, like many others, these people came a long way to be at 'The Theatre of Dreams', Old Trafford, the home of Mancvhester United.

My guess is that, like many others, these people came a long way to be at ‘The Theatre of Dreams’, Old Trafford, the home of Mancvhester United.

So why do more and more of us still want to see the world? We are certainly not in search of information. What is the importance of ‘being there’?  The brag factor?  Authenticity?

Modern interpreters need to think about that.

Twenty years ago we talked of the Heritage Industry even less than the Interpretation Revolution. Now it is big business, driving TV schedules, publishing programmes and significant parts of the worldwide tourism industry.

The Heritage Industry provokes, even enrages, some people (read the article). They see it as cheap, demeaning and about ‘dumbing-down’ and ‘creating theme parks’. Interpreters need to think about where they stand.  How much do authenticity, integrity, authority, experience, imagination matter? Should we be visitor-led or visitor-focused? Or neither? Let’s think about this.

We will. On our new “Interpretation Now ‘ course in Snowdonia, North Wales, next month.

James and I are two of the most experienced people in this business in Europe. We ran our first interpretation training course together in 1988. It was great – for its time.  We have run loads of training courses (usually separately and but sometimes together) every year since then.

We have never run this course. The idea came out of a conversation one summer day on top of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh about ‘ what do interpreters need to know now that they didn’t 25 years ago?‘. We found a lot of answers, and pretty soon after, a new course.

We are excited by this and hope others will be too. We believe it will be a time for facing up to new questions and finding some new answers. You can still book (until 26 April) by contacting Plas Tan y Bwlch.

If you want create interpretation that fits the 21st century, you will enjoy this course.

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About susancrosstelltale

Great visits to heritage and natural sites do not happen by accident. This blog is about the work that make special sites great places to visit. I hope it will be useful to visitors and host alike. Find out more at me and my blog.
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2 Responses to Why Now is so good for Heritage Interpretation

  1. Emma Crowley says:

    Susan this sounds like a great course but I’ll be looking at interpretaion in Norfolk (family holiday!). Are there any plans to repeat the course later in the year?

    • Hi Emma, as a Norfolk native, I think the opportunity for a family week in that greatest of counties caps just about everything else – including probably this course. If it goes as well as we hope, or even half as well, I think james and I will be looking to repeat it or run something like it. There are already whispers of a Scottish venue and I would certainly like to run it in England.
      So enjoy your hols; you haven’t missed a once in a lifetime opportunity.

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