CRM Journal

Media Review

National Association for Interpretation

National Association for Interpretation; accessed December 12, 2003.


Uniformed rangers and costumed guides are some of the most visible representatives of the interpretation profession, working at state and national parks, house museums, and outdoor museums throughout the country. Other members of this profession provide guided tours at museums, libraries, and archives. They stand at the frontline of the public's desire to learn more about the history of significant places.

The National Association for Interpretation (NAI) is dedicated to advancing heritage interpretation, with an emphasis on professional development and certification. Operating from its headquarters adjacent to Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado, the association serves approximately 4,500 members around the world. Its membership includes those who work at parks, zoos, museums, nature centers, historic sites, and aquaria. Through its partnership with Colorado State University's Department of Natural Resource Recreation and Tourism, the association trains future interpreters through internships and work-study arrangements.

The association defines interpretation as "a communication process that forges emotional and intellectual connections between the interests of the audience and the inherent meanings in the resource." This process begins with experienced and professional interpretative staff members. The process culminates in a more informed public and improved resource stewardship.

The association's website offers information on professional development opportunities, ranging from annual and regional conferences to specialized workshops. It operates a certification program for heritage interpreters, interpretive guides, interpretive managers, interpretive planners, and interpretive trainers. For students, the website provides a list of colleges and universities that offer academic training in interpretation. To keep members current on changes in the field, the website also posts commentaries on evolving issues and policies.

Regional organizations and sections that serve as specialized networks address specific areas of interest. For example, the African-American Experience section addresses the challenges of interpreting controversial topics and inspiring appreciation of the topic. Other sections include a Spanish language website and network, the Council for the Interpretation of Native Peoples, and Interpretation and Tourism.

The website provides resources and information on a field that is sometimes taken for granted, yet vitally important in fulfilling a major purpose of historic preservation. As stated in the preamble to the National Historic Preservation Act, "the preservation of this irreplaceable heritage is in the public interest so that its vital legacy of… educational… benefits will be maintained and enriched for future generations."

Suzanne E. Copping
National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers