sculpture

The Art of Constructive Feedback

I had an opportunity to revisit my old stomping grounds this spring: I gave a keynote presentation to Alberta Parks interpreters in Kananaskis Country, where I began my career in 1982. It was a wonderful, nostalgic experience, and it really brought back to me the value of the training I got from that organization. So much of what I know about family programming, theatrical programming, […]

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klondike

There are no meanings inherent in your resource.

Which is not to suggest that your resource is without meaning. I’ve been spending a lot of time lately putting together basic training for interpreters, and one of the first things we always try to do is define exactly what our profession is. You’d think that’d be easy; it ain’t. Every time I try to define interpretation, I come away less convinced than ever that […]

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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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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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