On heritage interpretation

Last month the Trust assigned the contract for a new Natural England-funded scheme of interpretation at Caistor Roman Town to a locally-based company, Heritage Destination Consulting (HDC) who will be working in partnership with Jam Creative Studios (JCS). 
As I read HDC/JCS’s response to the brief I actually got excited which is surely a good indication that the interpretation scheme will perform its purpose – which is, in the words of the Association of Heritage Interpretation website, ‘the art of helping people explore and appreciate our world’.
Going through the tendering process for the scheme reminded me of the words of Freeman Tilden, the subject of my MA dissertation many years ago. Tilden, who established his principles of interpretation while writing about the USA’s National Parks in the 1950s, stated that:
Through interpretation, understanding, through understanding, appreciation, through appreciation, protection.
Tilden’s six principles emphasised the need for interpretation to be approached as an art, to reveal themes and stories which relate to the experience of a visitor and, most significantly, which provoke rather than instruct.
Encapsulated by Tilden almost 60 years ago, these principles are at the root of all good interpretation – to move your visitor from knowledge about a particular environment to enthusiasm and appreciation, and then to actively care about that environment. This emotional engagement in a place might be reflected in a reduction in vandalism, higher levels of donation, or committed volunteering. 
Developing effective site interpretation is therefore an important and potentially inspiring aspect of the Trust’s work. The new scheme at Caistor is due to be installed by the end of September – I’m looking forward to seeing it emerge over the next few months.

News in brief

In the newspaper: The Trust was featured in the EDP as a new section of footpath was opened near Horning Hall, as part of the jigsaw to complete the Three Rivers Way walking, horse riding and cycling route. A new interpretation panel funded under the St Benet’s Abbey Conservation Access and Community project has been installed there. 
St Benet’s Abbey Guided tours: Extra tours on Easter Saturday & Sunday (4th & 5th April) at 3pm. Tours start from the Abbey Gatehouse/Mill on site. Regular guided tours will start again Saturday 2nd May 2015. 3pm on Saturdays & Sundays, and 2pm on Wednesdays.
Date for your diary: Saturday 2nd May Horning Boat Show 10am to 5pm. TFOSBA will have a stall at the Horning Boat Show, with an exhibition focusing on people’s memories of St Benet’s Abbey. Do you have any photos and or memories of your visits that you would like to share? If so, please email tfosba@gmail.com
Date for your diary: Saturday 23rd May Caistor Roman Town Fun Day 2015 funded by South Norfolk Council and Caistor Parish Council. Guided tours and cream teas in the church as well as family entertainment. More info in next month’s bulletin
Date for your diary: Sunday 2nd August Mississippi Riverboat trip to St Benet's Abbey to coincide with the annual open air service lead by the Bishop of Norwich. This trip is being organised by The Friends of St Benet’s Abbey (TFOSBA). Tickets are £10 – to reserve tickets please email tfosba@gmail.com (with Boat Trip as the subject), with your contact details and the number of tickets you would like. 
Exhibition and lectures on Gt Yarmouth: Great Yarmouth Library 20th April-2nd May 2015 'This Plot, This England': A Response to St George’s Day. Opening night lectures on Tuesday 21st April 5:30pm-7:30pm by Dr Bart Lambert: Immigration in Medieval Yarmouth and Danny Buck: Politics of Plurality - Great Yarmouth Divided