What is Heritage Interpretation?
Heritage interpretation is a communication process designed to reveal meanings and relationships of our cultural and natural heritage to visitors, through first hand experiences with objects, artifacts, landscapes, and sites. As visitor demand has increasingly focused on the provision of tourism experiences rather than products, the importance of interpretation has increased. Interpretation can be achieved through a range of methods including informative brochures, guided or self-guided tours, interactive displays, signage, media displays, audio information or interpretive information boards.
So why do heritage sites need interpretation to survive?
In some cases, where a heritage site is big enough or well known enough, limited interpretive effort may be required to attract visitors – people will want to see it or experience it because of other benefits the site provides. Interpretation is a “value added” benefit to the total site visit. However, for most moderate to small heritage sites, providing outstanding interpretive programs and services, and having a good interpretive plan will be required for their long-term survival.
- attracts, engages and inspires visitors leading to repeat visitation and word-of-mouth advertising
- identifies what is unique and special about specific places and things.
- makes sense of places, structures and collections by linking them to people
- minimises environmental and cultural damage by explaining the impacts of various actions, thus encouraging visitors to care about the places they visit and to behave responsibly
- acts as a substitute for things we cannot experience directly
- helps to meet the increasing demand for educational visitor experiences
- provides a vehicle for developing understanding and enjoyment of objects and art works
- encourages social cohesion by giving communities a sense of place and belonging
- brings social, environmental and economic benefits.
Presenting the history of a site to visitors is an important part of preserving heritage. Only when people understand the significance of the heritage building or historic site will both the future preservation and present enjoyment of the resource be guaranteed.
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