"I walked up to the field and that's all I saw. But by the time the interpreter finished the tour, I didn't see just a field anymore. I could hear the battle cry of Civil War soldiers, smell the gunpowder, and feel the stampede of men and horses. I felt a chill go up my spine...."
And that's what interpreters do. They weave a thread between visitors and the sites they serve, engaging and connecting us to nature and history in a very real and vital way. As we follow along, our world is expanded and enlivened.
More than gifted storytellers and teachers, heritage interpreters are professionals that go through extensive training in order to hone their skills. The result is in-depth knowledge spiced with passion and creativity.
Interpreters have their own professional association, the National Association for Interpretation (NAI). NAI describes interpretation this way:
"Interpretation of natural and cultural heritage must be as old as humans. The shaman, storytellers, and elders of tribal groups carried the oral history of their people forward from generation to generation. Before books and modern methods of recording stories, these oral traditions were key to the survival and evolution of cultures. In the modern context, interpretation is the term used to describe communication activities designed to improve understanding at parks, zoos, museums, nature centers, historic sites, cruise companies, tour companies and aquariums."
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