Thursday, October 1, 2015

Interpreter 101

What is Interpretation? Interpretation is a mission based communication process that forges emotional and intellectual connections between the interests of the audience and the inherent meanings in the resource. National Association for Interpretation

Remember, information, as such, is not interpretation. Interpretation is revelation based upon information. Two different things. However, interpretation does include information. 

So, what's the best way to put together an interpretive program? Here, we have included two structures that will help you to put together a great interpretive program. The first is the National Park Service and how they expect programs to be put together. The second way is the way the Maryland Park Service along with some other state parks put together programs. Either one works great. Sometimes, with tours, it's a little harder to use these style of programs simply because there is a certain order that events unfolded. Then the best thing is to put together an old time outline. Be sure to pick quotes that will keep the interests, but at the same time DON"T get bogged down with a million quotes. People will get bored very quickly.  

Fundamentals of Interpretation (National Park Service)
  • Step 1: Tangible Select a tangible place, object, person, or event that you want the audience to care about.
  • Step 2: Intangible Identify intangible meanings.
  • Step 3: Universal Concept Identify universal concepts.
  • Step 4: Audience Identify the audience.
  • Step 5: Theme Statement Write a theme statement that includes a universal concept.
  • Step 6: Techniques Use interpretive techniques to link tangibles to their intangible meanings, providing audiences with opportunities to make personal connections to those meanings.
  • Step 7: Development Use the theme statement to organize opportunities for connections and cohesively develop an idea or ideas.
Many State Parks build programs using themes and sun-themes.
For example using the weather during the Battle of Monterey Pass.
  • Theme: The weather during the battle of Monterey Pass
  • Sub-theme: The storm came in before the battle
  • Sub-theme: Roadways were flooded 
  • Sub-theme: The storm’s impact on the battle
  • Sub-theme: Soldiers using the storm to their advantage
  • Sub-theme: The legacy of the storm and the battle today
  • Conclusion: Tie in your sub-themes to you main theme
Remember! People forget facts. They remember themes. So let’s interpret thematically! 

Here are a few useful tips to keep in mind during your interpretive program or when your putting a program together. 
  •  Introduces self, group, and MPB. 
  • Program started on time.  Program was appropriate length and ended on time. 
  • A central theme was evident, supported, and carried throughout program.  Program was organized with an introduction, transitions, and a clear conclusion. 
  • Subject matter and content related directly to the resource and promoted sense of stewardship.   
  • Mechanics (enthusiasm, eye contact, volume, tone, etc.). 
  • Historical accuracy.
  • Interpreters were available to respond to questions and comments. 
  • Group was familiar with, and implemented Black Powder Safety Regulations. 
  • Group was well organized, well prepared, and professional. 
  • Members/Leaders of group were cooperative during weapons inspections and when following instructions from the historic weapons supervisor. 
  • Group followed park rules and left their camp as they found it, or in better condition than they found it.
Types of Interpreter programs

  • Tours
  • Talks
  • Education
  • Living History
  • Demonstrations
  • Campfire

When dealing with living history, there are three types of interpretive demonstrations that can be given and this depends all on the number of volunteers and the type of demonstration you are putting together. 

  • Individual – This is where one interpreter is used to give a program. Whether it is a tour, talk, or living history demonstration. 
  • Group – This is where you have a group who comes in and demonstrates an activity such as firing demonstrations and maneuvers on the field without an opposing force. 
  • Tactical – This is where you have two groups who conduct programs where opposing sides are used. This is referred to commonly as a reenactment. Although, much smaller in size, and one or two interpreters are used to talk with the crowds. 
This is the basics that we ask that our living history interpreters meet regarding programs. While we stress that authenticity is just as important as the research that goes into building an impression, we do have some basic uniform requirements. We strive for the portrayal of the average Civil War soldier or civilian, and to do so, there has to be a minimum set of standards. No specialty impressions of generals, as our story reflects the common soldier and junior officer. 

Our interpretative programs, guidelines, historic weapons policies, and uniform standards are based upon the National Park Service. If you are the docent on duty and someone wishes to do a living history at the battlefield, please give them the proper paperwork to fill out.  This is to be done and turned back in before ANY permission is granted to participate in living histories.

Remember, stay away from all of those reenactorisms. Many reenactors, sadly to say, do not represent true facts about the Civil War army and soldier life. This is what I mean by reenactorisms. Compare the two photographs of a reenactor fixing his rations.

See the difference? 

The photograph on the top shows speckleware which one can buy at Wal-mart, wasn't around during the Civil War. This was made popular after the Civil War. Grates, can you imagine soldiers carrying them on campaign? Large iron dutch overs, could be period correct, but iron pots are seen more commonly in photographs, but stored on wagon trains. If you look at the soldier under the big camp scene, you'll see a more researched based camp and how a typical Civil War soldier prepared his rations. More and more people are being sold on the photograph at the top and that is not how things were done in the Civil War, period, end of story, unless you were at a garrison. 

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