Page 3 - 15annrep.p65
P. 3

Ah, there’s the rub. The fuzzy constructionists are unwilling to specify that they want visitors to take home a message because they might have to justify which message. That’s hard work. Even worse, they might be held accountable for delivering it. That’s scary. Far better to say you just want people to think “thoughts around your theme” and not be confined by any particular thoughts you intend for them. This is constructivist escapism at its best, or interpretive absolution at its worst.
The Interpreter’s Role
Some educators in the field contend that the role of the interpreter can be classified as either a teacher, entertainer, or provoker. But what about facilitator? I thought that’s where the profession began, facilitating a richer experience with a place. “Interpreters” were
those people who shared their understandings and feelings of a place based on
their own firsthand experience with it. Why is that no longer a good model?
A guide is someone who shows people the way, often highlighting and explaining major features en route. Interpretation should be one of the skills of guiding. There are others: sensory acuity, group management, interpersonal sensitivity, first-hand experience, intellectual understanding.
A coach is someone who helps you do something physically, with the intent of getting better at it.
A perennial problem in teaching is that people often don’t have much to do with what they are taught. They “learn” it, usually in the sense of memorizing it, and often never use it again. But a coach provides ongoing practice and advice. A coach helps people refine and polish their own skills.
Properly viewed an interpreter is more of an experiential coach than a thematic presenter. The underly- ing assumption of thematic interpretation is that an interpreter is primarily a presenter, and a presenta- tion should have a theme. That’s become communication theology in the interpretive field, but it’s inaccu- rate and limiting.
Of course, if you use theme, subject, topic, message, etc. interchangeably, it is easy to say a hundred years of communication research supports your position. But a hundred years of communication research does not support themes by name.
An interpreter is both a guide and a coach in service of the mission of a place. In this sense, an interpreter is also a promoter. To promote is to advance something, a cause or event or product. An interpreter is a promoter of a place. An interpreter is not a librarian for people’s interests, nor a therapist prodding them to think. An interpreter is there to show visitors the way, helping them do something to make their experience more meaningful and memorable, while promoting the mission of the place. The interpreter is not there to help them meet their interests. The interpreter is there to explain why the place is worthy of their interest. The place is sovereign, not the visitor.
A good interpreter hooks the visitor’s interest rather than caters to it.
Sharing Skills
A skill is something you can do, and that’s what we want to share with our visitors: ways of perceiving and experiencing that will serve as skills for them in getting to know a place and its products, and prove useful when visiting other places. People remember what they do far better than what they hear or see. Interpret- ers need to tie the understandings and feelings of a place to experiential skills for getting to know it.
Annual Report/3

   1   2   3   4   5