Newsletter 1: January 2015
Professional development in heritage interpretation
Heritage interpretation is a structured approach to non-formal education, specialised in communicating significant ideas about a place to the public. It establishes cognitive and emotional links between visitors and what they can discover at a nature reserve, a historic site or a museum. It reveals deeper meanings, relationships and insights by first-hand experience and by illustrative media, rather than by simple communication of factual information.
In Europe several ten thousands of people are involved in the field of facilitating informal and non-formal learning to visitors at natural and cultural heritage sites, monuments and museums. But probably only a fraction of this group has ever heard about the discipline of 'heritage interpretation'.
Only a limited number of people working in the heritage field ever had training in communication skills targeting non-captive audiences. In many cases guides or curators started with a research oriented academic background in one of the heritage related disciplines such as biology, archaeology etc. and they then learned on the job to communicate heritage to non-experts. They usually are highly respected as experts in the subject matter but often have only little understanding of professional communication principles. This regularly leads to poor quality interpretive products in heritage sites.
Therefore it is high time to focus on the specific qualifications of the professionals in the field of heritage interpretation: what do heritage interpreters offer and what qualifications do they need in order to offer it in a professional way?
InHerit is a Grundtvig Multilateral project aiming to improve the learning experience of non-captive audiences visiting heritage sites and museums by developing the interpretation competences of all relevant professionals on site. InHerit targets managers, guides, media programmers … in heritage organizations willing to invest in better interpretation for better outcomes in terms of connecting with the audience.
In this respect two educational trends are particularly relevant:
- Place-based education & learning: promotes learning that is rooted in what is local, the unique history, environment, culture, economy, literature, and art of a particular place.
- Learning Cities & Regions: a trend to focus on a ‘generative learning ecology & economy’ by locating the learning in more informal, dynamic learning spaces such as work environments, communication media, religious centers, natural recreation spots, heritage and socio-cultural meeting places. Learning Cities stimulate the growth of such learning spaces as well as build the connections between these learning spaces.
It is clear that learning nowadays is no longer confined to schools and colleges. Learning takes place everywhere. Natural and cultural heritage sites, monuments and museums offer the ideal context for learning and interpretation offers ideal techniques to make this learning as meaningful as possible.
The InHerit team wants to create and provide in-service training material and deliver in-service training courses on heritage interpretation to build heritage staff capacity for delivering effective competence-oriented informal learning in inspiring heritage contexts. InHerit will embed heritage interpretation in European adult education and place based learning. The project will also develop a strategy to establish heritage interpretation as a recognised profession in the museum, monuments and sites sector.
The major milestones of the project are:
- Development of a competence profile for heritage interpretation (HI) staff
- Analysing the training needs of HI staff
- Collecting good practices in HI training
- Finding theoretical ground to link HI and European education
- Create a preliminary outline for a curriculum on HI
- Develop an in-service training curriculum
- Prepare course material and a course manual
- Run pilot courses in the UK and in Italy and national training days in each partner country
- Develop a validation system for the competence development of HI professionals and their audiences
- Disseminate and exploit all project outcomes
All material will be available on the project website. Follow the development of InHerit on: www.interpretingheritage.eu
Landcommanderij Alden Biesen (coordinator) (BE)
Interpret Europe - European Association for Heritage Interpretation (DE)
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Univ. of Zagreb (HR)
Istituto Pangea Onlus (IT)
Malopolski Instytut Kultury (PL)
Platform Opleiding, Onderwijs en Organisatie (NL)
Association for Heritage Interpretation (GB)
English Heritage (GB)
Swedish Center for Nature Interpretation (SE)