Heritage organizations have an agenda. We want the public to discover historical and cultural sites and value the stories they tell. We also want visitors to support the preservation of cultural resources and the organizations that act as their stewards. While our agendas are certainly ambitious, well-planned interpretation can go a long way toward helping us succeed.
Like any form of interpretation, digital interpretation is most effective when developed with clear goals in mind. It’s important to consider what stories best support the overall message we hope to get across. From there we consider what sites best tell these stories. Taken together, these sites and stories are an experience network—a communication web that forms the overall impression we have on the public. Interpretation at every site should be developed with the overall experience in mind. If a site has many stories, be selective and interpret the story that matters most.
Equally important to what we’re interpreting, is how we interpret it. It’s essential to develop interpretation with the audience in mind and recognize their time and attention constraints. Let the interpretation start the conversation and trust that it will leave visitors wanting more. From there, visitors can not only engage with other sites in the experience network, but they can utilize the near limitless mechanisms for further engagement that digital interpretation affords.
Lastly, selecting the appropriate media to deliver our messages is essential. We want to appeal to multiple senses and individual learning styles. We also want to make the experience fun. In this regard, Next Exit History gives us the tools to make the most of interpretive opportunities. Consider utilizing the app’s language translation capability, add audio narration and music, feature a video, and link to additional resources. Taking the time to incorporate these supporting elements will go a long way towards enhancing the visitor experience, elevating it well beyond the basic historical narrative.
By carefully planning our digital interpretation we improve our communication with the public, strengthen our message, and provide opportunities for visitors to make personal connections with the resource. Most importantly, we increase the likelihood of satisfying our goals and the ambitious agendas we set for ourselves.