John Veverka & Associates
Provoke, Relate, Reveal and more!
For the Cutting edge in Heritage Interpretation
Interpretive Planning, Training, Evaluation and more!
5010 Delray Dr. Lansing, Michigan 48910
(517) 899-4548 (we've gone mobile) firstname.lastname@example.org
From interpretive planning for castles in Wales for the National Trust and bird sanctuaries in Michigan for the Kellogg Biological Station, to interpretive training in Alabama for the US Army Corps of Engineers, and museum exhibit evaluation in Wisconsin - (bottom row) and critiquing ancient temples interpretation on Malta for Malta Heritage, prehistoric archaeological site interpretation in Utah for Nine Mile Canyon/BLM, and docent/interpretive staff training for the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, we do that - and more!
Heritage Interpretation: Interpretive Planning, Training and Consultation Services
Serving Parks, Museums, Historic Sites, Zoos & Botanical Gardens, Heritage Tourism Sites and Facilities, Commercial Tourism Attractions, and related interpretive sites and facilities -
Note that for the interpretation to be truly successful, all of the above must happen.
Benefit based planning
This new evolution had led us into new interpretive planning strategies where the most important of our objectives were now the behavioral and emotional objectives or "real outcomes". When interpretive planning begins for a project, we ask ourselves for every objective we develop for an interpretive program, exhibit, media or service:
In other words, how will the visitors benefit from the interpretive program, media or service experience? And, is the cost of the experience (like a self-guiding tour) at least equal to the benefit package that is a product of the interpretation. So, just what are the benefits to the visitors, the resource, and the agency from spending $5,000 or more to develop a self-guiding interpretive trail or $500,000.00 for visitor center exhibits? The sad point is that in the past and even today, this is not often considered. But the question remains if it was "your" money, would you spend thousands of dollars for interpretive "stuff" without first knowing what you got in return for that investment?
The reality test go out and look at any interpretive media/services you may have at your site exhibits, outdoor panel, self-guiding tour, etc. Now ask yourself how is this particular media or service helping us accomplish our mission? Was it a good investment to spend $2000.00 on an interpretive panel with information that the visitors likely quickly forget? How is this helping protect the resource, or instilling a sense of "value" to visitors, or helping the agency accomplish its educational or management objectives? Apply the questions to any of your media from zoo signs, to historic sites, to parks. The answers you come up with will reflect the state of the art of the interpretive planning that produced that media or service at that time.
The Product of the Product and other messy ideas.
I think of the "product of the product" concept as a "messy" idea because it is another evolutionary step for interpretive planning that messes up the way that "weve always done it". Here is how the concept works: By selling the "product" of the product we present the idea in a context that the potential visitor knows and understands. For example:
Are you selling drills or holes? Because if the customer doesnt need a hole, they dont need a drill. The "hole" is the product of the product (the drill).
Are you selling cosmetics or hope? Do the advertisements for both mens and womens cosmetics for example just sell the hair coloring gel or what will happen to you after you use the product (feel younger, happier, more attractive).
Are you selling automobiles or "status"? Watch a car ad on the television who is driving the car were are they driving the care to? What socio-income bracket is being marketed to? What is the "status" of the people in the advertisement?
Now lets apply this product of the product concept to interpretive planning.
What is the product of a self-guiding trail walk?
What is the product of visitors reading your interpretive panels?
What is the product of your visitor center exhibits?
What is the product of your guided interpretive walks or tours?
What is happening now is a new way of thinking about how to do interpretive planning. We clearly understand the outcome(s) we want to have happen (our objectives) before we plan and design the programs or services for a given site. We select locations, media, services, etc. to accomplish and realize the desired outcomes. We do not say "lets put a trail here, or a viewing station there" unless we know what the outcome (product) of that media or service has to be. Our desired product of the product helps form our learning, behavioral and emotional objectives that guide our research and design, and can be evaluated (pre and post tested) to see if we indeed get the "outcome or product" that we originally desired.
Now comes the "Experience Economy" are we ready?
The latest (very latest) formal addition to our interpretive planning philosophies is that of experience based interpretive planning. In their book "The Experience Economy", B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore looked at the value of "experiences" and experience as a marketable commodity. This concept translates very well to interpretive planning. Here is what experience based interpretive planning involves.
When a person buys an experience, they pay to spend time enjoying a series of memorable events that a site or facility stages to engage them in a personal way. Pine and Gilmore
That means that we are not only just planning for outcomes (our objectives being accomplished at the end of an interpretive walk, or completing visiting a museum or visitor center exhibition), we are now doing our interpretive planning for the total experience package.
The total interpretive planning process must focus on the "experience package" a visitor receives from the total interpretive or heritage tourism site, region or facility not just on individual interpretive experiences. For example, walking down a beautiful trail and seeing wildlife and wildflowers is just as important an "experience" for the visitor as the actual "interpretive" experience the self-guided trail offers. Here are some things we now consider in our "Experience Package" for interpretive planning:
Experience Realms Planning the mix of experience packages.
Figure 1 below illustrates the main experience realms we can plan for and the "psychology" of the total experience(s). In general, visitors come to interpretive sites, or attractions for one or more of these kinds of experiences. They are looking for entertainment, such as an evening campfire program; educational experiences such as attending an interpretive program on the historic or natural history of a site or area; esthetic experiences such as valuing the views, scenery, decorations, music or environment; and escapist experiences such as wanting to go out on a wilderness experience, or seeing a movie to "escape".
On the outer realm of the experiences are the various levels of experience participation. They can become absorbed in the experience, such watching a play, or "loosing track of time" while they hike a trail or watch wildlife. They can choose levels of active participation, such as going on a guided walk or tour, trying their hand at gold panning or fossil hunting. They can choose passive participation such as simply "watching" an interpretive activity or attending an interpretive demonstration. And they can chose to immerse themselves into the experience, becoming physically (or virtually) a part of the experience itself. This experience "goes into" the visitor as when playing a virtual reality game or computer activity in a museum or visitor center, or becoming a "historical figure" at a living history site.
Note that for most visitors it is not one or the other many visitors will look for a package of experiences in the course of their visit depending on the nature of your site. They may want to have fun and entertainment in the evening, take a class, watch the sunset, and escape the city walking a quite wooded trail. We need to plan for all experience levels and opportunities
Planning for the total experience begins at home.
What the "experience" based planning tells us is that we need to consider the visitors not just as a passive element at our interpretive sites, but the reason that most of our interpretive sites exist. We must plan not just interpretive media and services, but rather plan for a wide range of experience opportunities for visitors, from active and passive, to entertaining or quiet places of reflection. And the experience planning begins at home. This means that as we do our interpretive planning we need to consider:
So whats the state-of-the-art in interpretive planning for the year 2000?
In doing interpretive planning today, here is a summary of the key things that we now consider and "plan for"!
Moving from "what if" to "what is".
Try? There is no try. There is only do or not do Yoda
The hardest part of being an interpretive planner is in knowing that what worked in planning yesterday may not work today. I believe that the key to successful interpretive and heritage tourism planning for the year 2000 and beyond involves two steps.
Step #1 Always keep learning how to do it better.
Step #2 Implement the things you learned from step#1.
The most exciting thing about interpretive planning for the next millennium is not in what we know about effective interpretive planning today but the things that we will know by next year! It just keeps getting better and more interesting.
For more information:
Carter, James (Editor), 1997. A Sense of Place An interpretive planning handbook. Tourism & Environment Initiative, Scotland.
The National Park Service, Parks and Recreation Technical Service Division (no date), Marketing Parks and Recreation, Venture Publishing, Inc.
Pine, Joseph B. and James H. Gilmore. 1999. The Experience Economy. Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA.
Von Oech, Roger. 1989. A Kick In The Seat Of the Pants. Harper & Row Publishers, New York, NY.
Von Oech, Roger. 1990. A Whack on the Side of the Head. Warner Books, Inc. New York, NY.
Veverka, John A. 1994. Interpretive Master Planning. Acorn Naturalists, Tustin, CA.
Veverka, John A. 1992. "An objective look at interpretation". John Veverka & Associates, MI.