Slug crawling down wildlife sign

The Dying Art of Interpretive Evaluation

Anyone who has worked in interpretation for a while will tell you that evaluations are expensive—they take time and cash and a lot of expertise. Half the battle in any evaluation is just asking the right questions, and it’s amazing how hard that really is. But there are a couple of kinds of evaluation that are dead easy, cheap, and low-stress. And I’m amazed at […]

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southern sky

Who is the audience for your interpretive plan?

A lifetime ago when I studied playwriting, there was a concept that has stuck with me ever since: “point of departure.” In a story, there is a journey along a dramatic arc that is launched when the protagonist is faced with some kind of challenge, after which their life will never be the same. The point of departure is the moment in the character’s life […]

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abu dhabi louvre courtyard

The Louvre Abu Dhabi: A Review

I found myself in Abu Dhabi, UAE in January— the starting point of a contract I was doing. The place is fascinating, in all kinds of ways. I can’t give the city itself a sterling recommendation—there are more interesting places you could support with your tourist dollars, frankly. Maybe some places that don’t still do flogging and stoning, say. But I can tell you that […]

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revolving door

Dear Don: Our staff aren’t sticking around.

Dear Don, I recently read your articles about hiring better interpretive guides and really enjoyed them. I work for a museum that is currently in the process of trying to do just that, hire better guides. The biggest problem that we have incountered is getting the right people for the job to learn/hear about us. Up until this point most of our guides don’t come […]

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A Field Guide to Content Developers

If you’re trying to put together a design project, it pays to know who to hire. I often see “interpretive writer” in an RFP when it’s clear that you’re really looking for a content developer or an interpretive planner. And while it’s not unusual to find someone (like me) who can do all three, the scope of work (and the price tag) for each is radically different.

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Haida Gwaii, rock

Essence of Place and Sustainable Tourism

(This article originally appeared in Legacy Magazine.) As an interpretive planner, I’m always on the lookout for tools that help me in my work. A few years ago, when I was working with the Parks Canada agency, we began to develop a creative model we called Essence of Place. It turned out to be not only a good way of defining a site’s themes, but […]

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we believe

Should parks and museums have free entry?

(This article first appeared in Legacy Magazine, published by the National Association of Interpretation.) When they say “can’t”, we need to re-train our ears to hear “choose not to”. Two years ago, I fulfilled a lifelong dream and visited the Republic of Ireland. Among its many treasures (endless green hillsides, first-rate beer, friendly locals), I discovered that the Irish national museums are free of charge. […]

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What Is Dialogic Interpretation?

… and why on earth would anybody want to do it? It seems that recently, in my travels where I meet colleagues from the USA, the topic of conversation often turns to the rise of dialogic interpretation: interpretive programming that places an emphasis on getting visitors to talk to each other about the subject at hand. Here in Canada, dialogic interpretation isn’t even on the radar. […]

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