The Interpreter's Handbook
Methods, Skills, & Techniques

Developing New Ideas

Looking Ahead

Since the beginning of planned interpretive programs in various parks, forests, museums, and related facilities, many ideas have been advanced to improve their quality and effectiveness. Several of these we still have; others have been discarded for failure to produce desired results. There is little doubt that some of the methods, techniques and devices of today will also be superseded by tomorrow's developments. Thus, it is essential that each interpreter have an open mind, and be constantly on the alert to use ideas as they come along.

New ideas and devices may show up almost anywhere. A visit to a large public display, such as a world's fair, will usually uncover several thought-provoking ideas that, with minor modifications or no changes at all, are worth trying out in your program. For example, at one such fair, Eastman Kodak came up with a simple device for using color projection in out-of-door exhibits; a technique that had not been used before. A museum is also a fertile field for ideas on display, especially if it is a modern, progressive type of facility. However, if you are to have a constantly improving program, you cannot afford to sit and wait for someone else to come up with new ideas and improvements. Try some of your own; they might prove successful!

There are some fields where we can surely anticipate innovations, and we should watch them with more than casual interest. Among these are:

The use of car radios and on-site transmitters. Radio frequencies can now be worked out, and such a device has been very successfully utilized for guided tours.

The use of cassette tapes in cars and on self-guided tours. Several kinds of self-guidance using this device are being successfully used here and there.

The use of videotape. With portable video equipment now in use, interpretive programs can be made and viewed in an auditorium the same day.

The use of closed-circuit television. Here are many possibilities. In a large park, such as found in the National and State parks, an area might develop its own small broadcast studio, and "pipe" programs into the concession lodges and cabin systems during evening hours.

Two-way communication should be used more. A two-way microphone-speaker unit, connected with a monitor at an information desk, would allow visitors to ask questions and receive answers at selected points within a display area. This would be especially effective around historical buildings, archeological ruins, etc. This system can also be combined with a small, fixed T.V. camera mounted to view the area being displayed, the scene being shown on a desk monitor inside the visitor center, museum, etc. This would enable the desk attendant to see the visitor asking the question as well as fix his location.

More attention might well be given to the use of puppets in telling an interpretive story. This is not just a gimmick that children love; adults like it also. A word of caution: not everyone can do this effectively, but when well done, it is a good device.

We might also give more consideration to some of the things we are now doing, hopefully with improvements:

Have more and better demonstrations.

Have devices in our exhibit areas that visitors can activate.

Use better color in displays, and, in most instances, make displays an all-color program. People are used to good color in movies, television, stores, etc.

Plan more interpretive devices for areas away from highways and developed areas.

Make better use of photo points. Usually such points are simply designated as such. These could also contain interpretive messages.

Consider the possibility of using inspirational messages at noteworthy, aesthetic points.

Make better use of museum collections. Too often these turn out to be dead storage. With a little imagination, the collection room can also be used for display purposes.

Devote more attention to youthful visitors. Too many interpretive programs are designed only for adults.

Develop the interpretive possibilities of our streams, lakes, etc.

Develop more underwater facilities for interpretation, such as underwater auditoriums, underwater visitor centers with exhibits, underwater viewing rooms, floating viewing rafts, guided underwater tours, etc.

Obtain a better understanding of the local environment and ecology, and plan ways of presenting this knowledge to the visitor and especially to schools. Environmental awareness is most important today.

Plan ways to make invertebrates better known to the public. Running a "live" interpretive program is a never ending challenge to the true interpreter. You can be sure of one thing: the more you learn about interpretive methods and techniques, the more you will find that you really don't know nearly enough!

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Last Updated: 01-May-2008
Copyrighted by Southwestern Parks and Monuments Association
Western National Parks Association