gull in flight

Do you need a new interpretive plan?

If you’re a manager at a park, historic site or other heritage attraction, I’m guessing you know where your old interpretive plans are. Almost every site has them, gathering dust in a cabinet or stacked up on a shelf like geological strata going back decades. Is it time to get a new one done? Here are a few things to consider. Two terrible reasons to commission a new interpretive […]

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Slug crawling down wildlife sign

Branding Your Attraction: It Ain’t About The Logo

There’s no such thing as not having a brand. You have one, even as you read this. Branding is a vague and distasteful term. Particularly in the ecotourism and heritage sectors: nobody really wants to think of your cherished resource as a brand. So I’d like to establish what I mean by branding from the start: it isn’t your logo; it isn’t the look and […]

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Tulips

Profit in a Non-Profit World

In recent years, a lot of my interpretive planning work has been with smaller non-profit and government organizations. And in both of these worlds, I think it’s safe to say that the emphasis on fiscal sustainability (a.k.a. “making money”) is getting stronger. If you’re like me, you’ve probably got some strong feelings about the role of revenue generation in the heritage sector: how much should […]

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mute swan

The World’s Worst Interpretive Themes

Writing great interpretive themes is not rocket science. Why do we make it so hard? In the world of interpretation, we refer to messages as themes. The word ‘theme’ has different connotations and meanings. Sometimes I wish we didn’t use the term at all; it’s confusing, and this is one area that we really need to get right. Let’s see what the dictionary has to […]

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Learning And The New Visitor Experience Paradigm

Let us talk less about learning, and more about connecting with essence of place, about the forging of links, the fostering of emotions and the long-term making of meaning. This is the conclusion of my series on the Visitor Experience (VE) Revolution. You might want to start with the first chapter, here. I consider myself both a champion and a casualty of the new visitor experience […]

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boy

High Horses, Ivory Towers and the M-Word

This is the third instalment in a series, The Visitor Experience Revolution. You should probably start at part one, here.  I will be presenting this topic at  the National Association for Interpretation’s big workshop coming up next week in Virginia Beach. I hope to see you there. As interpreters, we identify ourselves as educators first and foremost. That is not a bad thing. But with that lofty self-image sometimes comes a sense of superiority […]

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Forest floor, lifted.

Visitor Experience: Out With The Old

This is part two of a series; I suggest you start with the first instalment, here. Understanding our visitors’ needs and desires and trying to facilitate their experiences—both internal and external—very quickly become more important than creating didactic panels and programs. Organizations have started creating departments of Visitor Experience and hiring directors of Visitor Experience, and we are suddenly left to figure out where our old interpretive […]

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Demonstration, Bordeaux

The Visitor Experience Revolution

Has it passed you by? I have been in the interpretation business for a long time. 33 years, in fact (I started when I was two, I swear.) During that time, trends and fashions have come and gone, but in all my years I don’t think I’ve seen anything as fundamental as what I call the visitor experience (VE) revolution. This has been a sea […]

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Autumn in Stanley Park

The Interpretive Atlas

Layer upon layer of stories still to be told… As an interpretive planner, I work with parks, museums and similar organizations to help bring their stories to life for their visitors. And I’m always looking for tools to help my clients visualize new possibilities. It’s sometimes hard to make abstract ideas concrete; that’s true for all interpreters, of course, but it’s particularly true in interpretive planning. More than […]

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Canal, Netherlands

Essence of Place: What is it?

How will you know when you’ve compromised yours? Those of us who are lucky enough to live and work in parks, nature reserves, and historic sites tend to have pretty deep emotional and intellectual attachments to them. We feel, at a deep level, what makes our place special. We know what our place is—and what it isn’t—and we understand how all of its wonderful qualities (its landscape, its history, […]

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