“Engaging, unique, and meaningful experiences”

Outcome: Define interpretation as a profession and vocation.
Key terms: interpretation, process, mission, provoke, reveal, relevance

What is interpretation?

“Any communication process designed to reveal meanings and relationships of cultural and natural heritage to the public, through first-hand involvement with an object, artefact, landscape or site.”— Interpretation Australia

Engaging, unique, and meaningful experiences…

“Heritage interpretation communicates ideas, information and knowledge about natural or historic places in a way which helps visitors to make sense of their environment. Good interpretation will create engaging, unique and meaningful experiences for visitors.”—Interpretation Australia

Interpretation takes many forms including guided walks, talks, drama, art, dialogue, sculpture, displays, signs, brochures and electronic media as well as any other way in which ideas can be communicated.

Interpretation helps visitors find meaning in facts or knowledge by giving them context. 

It shapes information to influence people’s perceptions and/or actions.

Good interpretation should:

  • enrich the visitor’s experience by making it more meaningful and enjoyable, throughout the visitor experience cycle (before, during and after the visit)
  • assist the visitor to develop a keener awareness, appreciation and understanding of the heritage being experienced;
  • add value to the local tourism economy;
  • accomplish management objectives by encouraging thoughtful use of the resource by the visitor; and
  • promote public understanding of heritage management organisations and their programs.

Where does interpretation happen? 

This manual will concentrate on interpretation in a park context. Our profession is wide-reaching, though: here is a brief (and not necessarily complete) list of the kinds of places where interpretation is practiced. 

  • Parks
  • Museums
  • Aquariums
  • Historic sites
  • Art galleries
  • Zoos
  • Industrial sites
  • Interpretive centres
  • Botanical gardens
  • Cultural centres
  • Adventure travel sites
  • Nature sanctuaries 
  • Tour companies

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