western painted turtle

Mission Creep, Turtles, and You

If your organization has been around for a while, you may discover that you have a few lines of business that don’t fit into your mission, or perhaps fit only in the broadest possible way. How does that happen? Mission creep is the slow and insidious process of taking on activities that don’t belong within your organization. In the non-profit world, these tend to sneak […]

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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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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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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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boy in traditional dress, new caledonia

The Art and Science of Visitor Experience

Visitor experience is 70% art and 30% science. When I was a young park interpreter, we rarely had access to audience research. In fact, I don’t much recall anyone talking about it: if you were in the heritage tourism sector, you simply did your work (exhibits, activities, orientation, amenities) as best you could, based on what you thought it should look like. We didn’t spend much […]

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brown pelican, teetering

Hearts, Minds, and Positioning Statements

Positioning Statements: Simple, Not Easy Sometimes, life takes you in odd and unexpected directions. If you’d told me twenty years ago that I was going to be spending my days helping heritage sites do market research and audience segmentation, I probably would have cut myself. It really isn’t something that comes naturally to me. Target marketing is not the kind of thing I wake up excited about […]

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peacock

To script or not to script? An interpreter’s dilemma

A great presentation requires a great script. We’ve been talking a lot lately about the decline of classical stand-and-deliver interpretation, and the rise of experiential, inquiry-based or dialogue-based programming. I think it’s a healthy dialogue. For decades, sage-on-the-stage programming was the default interpretive medium. You took an interpreter, put her in front of an audience, and made people listen to her. Simple. But it wasn’t always effective. […]

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Sunset, Strait of Georgia

How to Craft a Vision Statement

There’s no sense telling your staff and public that you will be the top heritage attraction in the nation if you can’t craft a strategic plan (and budget) that will get you there. In my previous article, I outlined what I hope will be a fairly simple way to craft a relevant, realistic mission statement. The problem with relevant and realistic mission statements, though, is that boards […]

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