a group of men in the street dressed mostly alike

Understanding Audiences: The Downside of “Falk Types”

About twenty years ago, Dr. John Falk and Dr. Lynn Dierking did a body of research on why people visit museums and other informal learning institutions. It’s fascinating and valuable stuff, and if you get a chance to read their work, you really should. They discovered that, broadly speaking, people have a handful of different …

It’s time to give the objects back.

Virtually all arguments against repatriating Indigenous objects are rooted in white supremacy. Hey reader, did you ever have your bike stolen? I have more than once, and while I have never been successful in getting my bike back (thousands of them are stolen weekly in most cities, apparently), I’d like to take you through a …

Let Your Data Tell A Story

Those of you who have followed my writing for a while know that as an interpretive planner, I’m a strong believer in evidence-based decision making. One of my challenges has always been in trying to communicate the importance of data—visitation patterns, visitor demographic information, analyses of program evaluations, and the like—in such a way that …

blue hydrangea flower

Stakeholder is not a dirty word.

As an interpretive planner, part of my job is helping parks, heritage sites, zoos, and aquariums identify the people around them whose lives or work will be affected by what they’re doing. So, early on in the interpretive planning process, I ask if we can sit down and identify their stakeholders. And more and more, …

Mining Online Reviews for Fun and Profit

As an interpretive planner and visitor experience advisor, I’m a big believer in evidence-based decision making. When I start a new project, the first thing I ask for is data: visitor surveys, gate revenue statistics, comment cards… anything I can get my hands on.  Recently I started an exhibit planning project where my client knows …

sunset over water

Consultation: Some Lessons Learned

In the last two years, virtually all of my projects have taken on a consultation component. At some point in an interpretive plan, an exhibit project, or a visitor experience strategy, the client needs to involve the community. These include Indigenous groups, naturalist organizations, historical societies, neighbourhood associations, and the like. Not all of these …

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 …

A Community Advisory Group

It is becoming a well-known—dare I say best—practice in the heritage sector for each organization to assemble a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) advisory group. If you haven’t done so yet, you might really give it some serious thought. Who are these people? A DEIA Advisory Circle (or whatever they choose to name themselves) …

Staring down the rabbit hole of change

I am an interpretive planner and visitor experience advisor. I work with museums, historic sites, zoos, aquariums, and parks helping them evaluate and improve their relevance, revenue, and attendance. In other words, you call someone like me when things aren’t going as well as they used to—or when you have a vision of how much …