I recently attended the 2014 National Association for Interpretation national workshop in Denver, Colorado. Attending sessions and talking with interpreters was definitely inspiring!
One of the most stimulating sessions I went to at the annual workshop was Waking the Dead: Making Meaningful Living History, presented by John Rudy with the National Park Service. In this session, John presented powerful techniques that can be used when doing living history. One of the most important things to remember when doing living history is that you shouldn’t focus too much on period clothing or set design—you can transport visitors back in time with nothing more than a political button and a compelling story.
The Value of Interpretation at Zoos and Aquariums was another inspiring session, and I learned so much! Interpreting at zoos and aquariums can be particularly challenging. Topics such as evolution, climate change, and animals in captivity are sometimes controversial, and interpreters at these facilities are charged with helping the public to learn about these topics and to form their own opinions.
I also learned more about facilitated dialogue. Just like in aquariums and zoos, interpreters at other sites have also been charged with interpreting potentially controversial topics, such as the Civil War, the Civil Rights movement, evolution, and more recently, climate change. Many visitors have strong beliefs related to these subject areas, which can be challenging. As interpreters, we do not want to offend or embarrass visitors, but it is our job to present accurate facts that are accepted by our agencies or organizations. In facilitated dialogue, audience members are encouraged to share their own thoughts and stories, and the interpreter acts as a guide through the conversation. Facilitated dialogue can be used to interpret a variety of topics, and it’s particularly useful when interpreting controversial topics.
Overall, attending the workshop was a great experience. I’m already looking forward to the 2015 workshop in Virginia Beach!