Why interpret the environment to. visitors?

Organizations usually have several reasons for engaging in interpretation:

– to increase the enjoyment that visitors gain from their experience, in the belief that an understanding of the landscape and aspects of natural and cultural heritage leads to greater pleasure;

– to increase understanding and appreciation of the area visited and of the great outdoors in general, to lead to a greater respect for it and recognition of the importance of conservation, protection and management (this arises from the first reason);

– to help managers at a particular place by influencing the patterns and habits of the visitors who use it;

– to convey a particular message relating to an organization or its activities in ways that leave a good impression in the minds of visitors;

– to increase sales of souvenirs, literature or other merchandise or to recruit members to an organization.

Some of these reasons tend towards propaganda, but they are not inappropriate so long as they are secondary to the purpose of increasing enjoyment through understanding.

There is no doubt that large numbers of visitors to all kinds of natural, cultural or historical sites enjoy guided walks, visitor centre exhibitions, nature trails and enactments of historical events. Major centres can attract many thousands of visitors, and they can sometimes become visitor destinations in their own right. However, there are some central common

elements to all of these places, as follows.

– The place is special, for a reason that draws people to it. This might be a famous and important historical event, a natural wonder or a unique cultural site. These raise people’s curiosity and thus their appetite for finding out more about it.

– The people who go there tend to be interested in the subject, which is the prime reason for its attraction.

– The people who tend to gain most from their visit are those who are curious by nature and keen on finding out about the world around them at every opportunity.

– A greater understanding of the special qualities of the place may occur if there is engagement with it mentally as well as physically.

– Visitors making a special trip to the place, especially a first or infrequent one, are more likely to want some interpretation than regular, frequent visitors, who are more likely to have their own knowledge and different reasons for visiting.

In order to make the correct assessment of the: interpretative content for an area, an overall strategy should be adopted. For example, Scottish Natural. Heritage in Britain have produced one covering the; sites they manage, National Nature Reserves in Scotland, and for general advice to other landowners.