I came across the following quote a few days ago:
Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people. Eleanor Roosevelt
Whilst I do not agree with the implied assumptions within this quote the distinction between different focus areas, and in particular the focus on ideas helps to differentiate Interpretive communication. That is, Interpretation is about communicating ideas in addition to communicating information regarding events, people, facts, figures and more ‘objective’ information.
And thus to me an interpretive mind is truly a great mind because they think and communicate about events and discuss people for their inherent value as well as about the underlying ideas associated with the same and /or broader subject areas.
Following on from my discussion above I believe Interpretation complements the process of learning with respect of the fact that learning is more a process than an event. That is, Interpretation is not a sign or walk or other interpretive effort but rather each of these are points along an interpretive journey, and this journey needs to be integrated into the planning of any interpretive undertaking.
What might help define and communicate an understanding of interpretation is to give examples. I recently went for a walk around the inner Sydney suburb of Glebe and found a few signs dotted along the foreshore. Reading these signs help me gain an understanding and appreciation of the history and significance of this area. In this way these signs were different to directional signs or information signs about where i was located with respect to the actual suburb of Glebe.
Likewise with brochures, online media and guided walks if these do the same job as these signs.
Heritage interpretation often seeks to influence behavioural change within an audience – I do not always agree that this is the case as Interpretation can also reinforce behaviour. If some one is doing ‘the right thing’ why change it – and perhaps one could argue then is that interpretation is no change takes place. Anyways a few words of wisdom which are attributed to Freeman Tilden and which generally fall outside his well known 6 principles for interpretation are:
Do not tell people what they must do, tell them what they can do;
Do not tell people what they must be, tell them what they can be.
I’ve included these here as these words of wisdom relate to so many aspects of not just Heritage interpretation but also Leadership.