What is heritage interpretation?

Interpret – verb: To explain or tell the meaning of/present in understandable terms (Merriam-Webster dictionary)

What is heritage interpretation?

Search Google and you’ll find several definitions. 

The one that I identify most with is by Freeman Tilden in 1957:

“An educational activity which aims to reveal meanings and relationships through the use of original objects, by first-hand experience, and by illustrative media rather than simply to communicate factual information.”

I would only add that interpreters are facilitators, not teachers. This is informal education. No one has to attend class and while most people visiting a heritage site are curious and keen to learn, enjoyment is their number one priority. So, the goal of good heritage interpretation is to combine these needs.

As a member and certified trainer of Interpret Europe, the European Association for heritage interpretation, my stance is closely aligned the following key principles which it supports:

• Offering paths to deeper meaning
• Turning phenomena into experiences
• Provoking resonance and participation
• Fostering stewardship for all heritage