E-newsletter 2

In this edition: 

Newsletter 2: February 2015

A competence profile for the professional field of heritage interpretation


“What do heritage interpreters offer and what qualifications do they need in order to offer it in a professional way?” This is one of the main questions InHerit, a Grundtvig Multilateral project, tries to answer.

Heritage interpretation can be defined as a non-formal approach to place-based learning for heritage site visitors. In this respect special characteristics of interpretation are:

  • Visitors should normally not perceive interpretation as an educational activity but as an interesting and enjoyable service that enhances their heritage experience. Nevertheless heritage interpretation is a ‘structured approach to facilitate learning processes’, which qualifies as an educational activity.

  • Interpretation works from the specifics of a site or collection towards more universal ideas, i.e. it focuses on site-specific phenomena and facts and reveals the wider and deeper meanings by embedding the specifics in meaningful contexts.

·         Interpretation specialises in motivating non-captive target audiences by addressing their needs, by raising expectations and fulfilling them. Interpretation also tries to actively involve audiences by relating the content to their personal knowledge, interests, feelings and values and by encouraging discovery, engaging senses and reflection.

Many professionals in the heritage sector are aware of the power of interpretive techniques and personal meaning making in catching the attention of the visitor and engaging them in a learning process. Many more though have never heard of interpretation or do not apply it in a structured way.

Therefore the InHerit project wants to contribute to the development of the interpretation competences of all relevant professionals in heritage sites and museums. The project team will create and deliver in-service training material and in-service training courses on heritage interpretation. The team will also develop a strategy to establish heritage interpretation as a recognised profession in the museum, monuments and sites sector.

Competence profile
The basis for the creation of a curriculum for heritage interpreters is the
competence profile, a reference framework for competences in the professional field of heritage interpretation. This field not only includes those who are employed, or self-employed in the sector but also the important group of volunteers who are indispensable for many sites or museums.

InHerit focuses on a competence profile and a competence oriented approach because, in the light of Europe 2020, professional development is due to be presented (and recognised) in terms of validated competence development. This is particularly important in a ‘continuous professional development’ context and a non-formal learning context. So if we want professional development in heritage interpretation to be recognised we will have to turn it into competence development.  Therefore we start from a competence profile, proficiency levels and indicators. It also means that training courses must facilitate competence development i.e. must be conceived as a competence driven learning activity. This goes along with the fact that heritage interpretation is an applied discipline and the professional training and education of heritage interpreters is best organised in concrete real world contexts.

The matrix
For the purpose of this profile we define a competence as a person's ability to perform a particular task or activity in a specified range of real world contexts. In order to become competent an individual needs to acquire a particular combination of knowledge, skills and attitudes (KSA) which is required to perform in the specified of context.

We defined areas of competences which are relevant for the professional field of heritage interpretation as a whole, covering all positions related to heritage interpretation. One can distinguish areas of core competences from additional generic competences which, however, are also crucial for the ability to develop and deliver heritage interpretation. Core competence areas in the field of heritage interpretation are: research, conceptualisation & planning, delivery by media and personal delivery. Additional generic competence areas are: evaluation, publicity & promotion, management and training.

In practice an individual does not need to be competent in all these areas; it depends on the specific position an interpreter holds, which competence areas are relevant at what level in order to be able to perform a range of assigned tasks in a particular real world context.

In each area the competences are described according to context and qualification level. These levels go along with the descriptors in the European Qualifications Framework (EQF). By referring to this framework, the competences a learner has gained in terms of the ability to perform in certain contexts will be transparent and comparable. Competence oriented qualifications and certificates in the field of heritage interpretation referring to this reference framework will then make it easier for employers to compare candidates in relation to their specific job description regardless in which country the competence has been gained and how the qualification will be named. This competence profile also allows those who develop or offer training and education to relate their certificates or qualifications in heritage interpretation to the European Qualification Framework (EQF). It can also be useful to assess an existing programme regarding possible gaps.


EQF level





Personal delivery

Media delivery




























































This matrix does not link competences to interpretive tasks or jobs/roles but links competences to qualification levels. These competences & levels are building blocks. A certain job/role in a certain context will require a combination of distinguished competences at different levels. This combination can differ according to context but the elements at the level of the building blocks are comparable.

E.g. interpretation staff acting as a local guide (G) is supposed to be competent to develop and deliver interpretation of rather low complexity related to one main subject at one place to be delivered personally. He/she would need a combination of competences in 6 areas at distinguished levels (light grey) as presented (as an example) in the matrix above. They are competent to autonomously develop simple interpretation programmes / products in the field of their main subject, and to follow guidance from an interpretive plan/master plan.

Media interpretation specialists (M) who are competent to develop and deliver interpretive products (and programmes) for various sites that are related to one major thematic field / one major subject matter would need a different combination (e.g. dark grey).

This way the matrix has a universal value and offers a common ground for comparable job description and curriculum development which is exactly the aim of the InHerit project and a starting point for further development of training material and courses.



Full text and competence descriptions are available on the project website. Follow the development of InHerit on: www.interpretingheritage.eu


Project partners

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)