Interpreters from across the United States, Canada and other international locations met in vibrant New Orleans to share their knowledge and experiences at the National Association for Interpretation’s (NAI) national conference. The NAI conference provides a unique opportunity to take part in a conversation with colleagues for whom storytelling is at the core of their work and who represent a wide cross-section of the field–from nature centers, zoos and aquaria to historic sites and museums.
Not only did hsd attend the conference, but we contributed to the conversations as our very own interpretive planners, Kate Aitchison and Cynthia Roberts, were amongst the accomplished lineup of speakers. Their session, Future-proofing the Interpretive Plan, explored techniques to build-in future-proofing strategies to the planning process—considering what to keep, re-envision or discard.
Taking a critical look at the process itself allows cultural sites and organizations to be responsive to future changes during the implementation phase(s) while preserving the relevancy of the document. Since the interpretive plan is an essential and strategic tool that aligns institutional mandates with the needs and expectations of their audience, the session framed the process of creating the plan as equally important to its outcome, the final document.
Creating the content for this presentation was a thought-provoking and collaborative exercise for our interpretation team. Not only did we review the existing literature and current best practices, but we also reflected on our own professional experience and how our design-thinking approach enhances the interpretive planning process. The Q&A session after the presentation gave us an opportunity to exchange thoughts and ideas with our audience and welcome their practical knowledge—after all, we wanted to start a conversation about interpretive planning.
Conferences are about starting and/or continuing conversations that lead to positive changes. Whether sharing a meal with a stranger (which we did) or attending a session, we were deeply inspired by the passion, collaborative spirit, hard-work and commitment to innovation of our colleagues in the field. We’re also both thrilled and humbled to see projects we’ve worked on being used as benchmark of best practices; such was the case of tactile models developed for the Museum at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri.
As interpretive planners, we look forward to continuing to be part of the conversations and being catalysts for change in our field. Our passion is our driver—to borrow Michael W. Twitty’s words from his opening keynote address, “bring the soul to everything you interpret… make it taste good.”