Interpreting Heritage

Interpreting Historic Heritage Places

Many historic heritage sites throughout Tasmania use interpretation methods to attract visitors and tell the story of the place so they have a positive and valuable experience.

What is interpretation?

The Interpretation Australia Association defines heritage interpretation as: 'a means of communicating ideas and feelings which help people understand more about themselves and their environment'.

The Tasmanian Thematic Interpretation Manual states that interpretation is more than just giving entertaining facts to visitors, but to lead visitors to draw conclusions from those facts and in doing so, to provoke them to think more deeply about the place, its features and the qualities that make it special.

How do you interpret heritage?

The Tasmanian Thematic Interpretation Planning Manual  sets out eight steps towards interpreting heritage:
  1. Develop your inventory
    Gather your information. Why is the place important? What is significant about it? What are the interesting stories? What are the unique selling points? Who visits the place?
  2. Develop you goals
    Goals should describe a kind of benefit or improved condition. Typical goals are: enhancing visitor experience, promoting public support and protecting resources.
  3. Identify your audience
    Are your visitors made up of locals, tourists, families, or possibly a combination? Audiences differ in what they expect from an experience. For example, do locals visit the site for different reasons than interstate or international tourists?
  4. Determine outcomes for goals
    What do you want to achieve? For example, the goal of enhancing experiences at a museum might be to provoke visitors to think about the period or subject matter, and the goal for promoting public support might be that visitors recommend the museum to others.
  5. Develop themes
    A theme is a whole idea that is usually expressed in one sentence. It is the way you express the essence of the message you want to impart to visitors. One way to develop a theme is to complete the following statement: "When it comes to [site], and in order for this audience to reach our outcome, it is really, really, REALLY important for them to understand that..."
  6. Choose your medium
    What is the most appropriate way to reach your audience? It could be a brochure, an interpretative panel, guided tours, or self-guided audio tours. Some options include: panels; guided tours; self-guided audio tours; apps; displays; brochures.
  7. Develop your action plan
    This plan will list who is doing what, your timelines, what your budget is, what resources you may already have available, and any other resource implications.
  8. Evaluate
     This allows you to see whether your interpretation is working.

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