retro park ranger

Level Up Your Guided Walks

Those who fail to learn from the 1970s are doomed to repeat them… …and I’m old enough to tell you it won’t be as much fun as pop culture would have you believe, ABBA soundtracks notwithstanding. I was recently transported back to that era against my will, in the form of an interpretive walk. It was a classic stand-and-deliver, interpreter-as-teacher tour. There was no through-line […]

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Hikers on a mountain top

Interpreters in the Experience Economy

Every great travel experience has three parts: the anticipation, the realization, and the recollection. Those of us who deliver interpretive programs—guided walks, talks, workshops, dialogues, and the like—have long placed ourselves squarely in the second of those three phases: the delivery/realization of the visit.  With the shift in recent years to new communications tools, it’s time for interpreters to take our place within the other […]

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person walking away from tree in silhouette

A swing and a miss: NAI’s new definition of interpretation

If I didn’t already know what interpreters do, this definition wouldn’t tell me. The National Association for Interpretation has released their newly-updated definition of interpretation. It’s a project they’ve been working on for three years; I’m going to take a moment to try to describe to you why I think it’s a bit of a, well, a bit of a missed opportunity. Full disclosure: I […]

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Shuttered church, Battleford SK

Interpretive Storytelling and the Problem of Appropriation

“Can I tell this story?” As an interpretive planner and writer, I find I’m hearing this question more and more often: how do we Settlers know when a story is appropriate for us to tell? How do we know if we have the right to tell it? When is interpretive storytelling a form of cultural appropriation? It’s a good question, and in some ways it’s […]

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3d interpretive sign

Interpretive Signs: Don’t Neglect the Base

If you’re not investing in the 3D elements of your interpretive sign, you’re missing a powerful opportunity to connect people to your message. (Note: the visual examples here are not my work. Click to follow through to the presenting agency.) About ten years ago when I started producing interpretive signs, I gave zero thought to the sign’s housing, its 3D design. I wasn’t able to […]

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Do you need a Visitor Experience Strategy?

About ten years ago, when I was an employee at Parks Canada, we identified a need for more holistic planning. We already had tools such as management plans, marketing plans, and interpretive plans: what was missing was something to tie it all together. The Visitor Experience (VE) Strategy was born. It’s an ambitious, high-level kind of plan, but the clients I have worked with who […]

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Can this sign be saved?

This article is an excerpt from the course Interpretive Signs: Attractive, Brief, Clear. I’m offering the course online starting May 4, 2021. Check it out here. What this sign does well This interpretive sign connects people to place; it interprets the scene in front of the visitor and refers directly to features that the visitor can see. That might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s […]

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Taking It All Online

One Year Into the Pandemic It’s hard to believe we are now a year into this COVID-19 world. We got ourselves past the initial panic and have now settled into this ever-shifting new normal. For those of us in the cultural/natural heritage sectors, it has been a rough ride. One of the hardest aspects of it was the panicked call to action from our superiors: […]

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