Ask the Expert Q&A: Association for Heritage Interpretation

The Association for Heritage Interpretation (AHI) will be hosting two on-stand masterclass sessions in the Museums + Heritage Show’s Ask the Expert Zone. Here Bill Bevan, Chair and Jim Mitchell, Vice-Chair of AHI explain more about these masterclasses and what else to expect by visiting them at their Ask the Expert stand at next week’s Show

What is your primary role in the sector?

The AHI is the forum and membership organisation for professionals whose role includes interpretation. Good interpretation is essential to engage visitors with museums, historic buildings, visitor centres and wider cultural and natural heritage. It enhances experiences, deepens understanding and leads to increased appreciation of places, people, events and collections. Our role in the sector is to provide a platform and resources for professionals who are already working in the sector and to encourage and develop people who are just starting out their careers in interpretation.

Through our connections with sector organisation such as the Heritage Alliance we provide input into research and strategy

Why is it important to you to be involved in the Museums + Heritage Show?

The Museums + Heritage Show provides a great platform for AHI to present the work that we do in developing interpretation professionally – to museums and attractions who want to promote their heritage and stories in unique and intriguing ways; and to help people to develop their careers in the sector. At the Show we are within the Expert Area, alongside like-minded membership based organisation so it’s a focussed space/area where people can come along for advice.

What are your goals of participating in this year’s Show?

We want to provide expert advice, for attractions and for professionals who currently work, or are developing their career in interpretation. We want to encourage visitors to become members of our organisation to let them take advantage of the depth of resources that AHI provide

What can visitors expect by visiting your stand?

Our stand will be hosted by experts from across the profession who will be answering questions all about interpretation. We will also be hosting a Masterclass each day on topics which can be used to excite and engage visitors to your attraction.

On Wednesday 16 May at 11.15am, tour guide and interpretation specialist, Nigel McDonald will deliver his top ten tips for making meaningful connections with your audiences to create golden guided experiences.

And on Thursday at 10.45am, Mrs Doig visits the M+H Show from the 18th century to introduce effective and engaging costumed interpretation. This masterclass will introduce you to the benefits of costumed interpretation and what you should take into account in planning, managing and evaluating your project or activity. It will be delivered by Jackie Lee, an experienced practitioner in costumed interpretation. These will be an exciting addition to our presence at the show, and both of our expert presenters will be on hand afterwards to answer your questions.

AHI will also be presenting a paper in the Design Theatre on Wednesday 16 May at 2.30pm on Interpretive planning essentials – a practical toolkit for heritage sites. This session will be delivered by Jo Scott, heritage and interpretation planning expert and one of our MAHIs.

Everyone who attends a masterclass or the presentation in the Design Theatre will receive a copy of the related Best Practice Guideline, developed and written by AHI Members and experts in the profession.

In addition to the Experts who will be on the stand, Committee Members will be on hand to outline the benefits of joining AHI. You will also be able to pick up examples of some of the resources that are available to members including copies of the latest Journal, Best Practice Guidelines, training courses and information about the Annual Conference.

We will be running a special membership offer for the duration of the show. New members who sign up at the show can win a place on one of AHI’s training courses which are run throughout the year in various locations.

What do you think are some of the key challenges professionals are currently facing in this sector?

Interpretation is a varied and exciting field of work, and the challenges can be many and often are specific to the particular area the interpreter is working in. But our members do convey some common key challenges: such as developing interpretation knowledge among others in the wider heritage sector (suppliers, funders, developers), championing the value of good interpretation, acknowledging the skills and time required for effective interpretation and securing funding and resources for planning, delivery and evaluation. In all of these areas AHI aims to play its part and bring together professional interpreters to help overcome these challenges.

What are you looking forward to most at this year’s Museums + Heritage Show?

There is always a buzz at the Museums + Heritage Show and we are looking forward to being part of that. It’s a great place to meet and network with old friends and make new ones, and to spend time in the seminars and exhibition – learning and finding new ideas and products to incorporate into our own work. Most of all it’s an exciting chance for us to talk about how our organisation can help to inspire people in the profession and help make their jobs easier.

Our stand number is X6. We’d love to meet you, so come along for a chat.