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Why interpret?


An important process of interpretive planning is gaining clarity over why you wish to create interpretation. Prior to writing an interpretive plan, you should carefully consider your reasons for interpreting the objects, spaces, events or whatever it is you are interpreting, and clearly state these reasons in the written plan.

Thinking things through

By clearly defining why you are interpreting your collection, gallery, or historic space, you are ensuring that your interpretation will be effective in reaching a specific set of goals, and appealing to your target audiences.

You should set aims and objectives in order to define what you would like your interpretation to achieve. It's no good interpreting collections just for the sake of interpreting them. Rather, you should keep these aims and objectives at the forefront of your interpretive planning work and throughout the practical process of interpretation.

How interpretation can help

Interpretation of your collections can help re-enthuse repeat users about your collections, and make your existing collections more accessible to user groups less likely to engage with your museum or gallery. By thinking about interpretation, you are simultaneously rethinking and reavaluating your collections, which helps to ensure that your organisation remains adaptable and relevant.

Before you begin interpretive planning, decide whether you would like to achieve any of the following:

  • Increase visitors’ understanding of your collections;
  • Increase the number of visitors coming to your museum;
  • Encourage visits from new or specific audiences;
  • Increase the length of time visitors spend in your museum, shop or café;
  • Encourage activity, interaction and enjoyment;
  • Build upon or develop a ‘Friends of the Museum’ group or a volunteer team;
  • Support audience development strategies of the museum.

You could set any or all of these as your aims and objectives. Always keep them in focus as your go through your interpretive process.

If you stick to your aim and objectives, then your interpretation should stay focused and on track.


Learn more

What do you want to interpret?

See our interpretive planning pages, or contact our Collections and Engagement Manager to discuss any of this further.

Thanks to Michael Hamish Glen, Principal of Touchstone Heritage Management Consultants for proofreading these pages.