Interpretation

Can cookbooks interpret history?

A popular fundraising project for historical organizations is a community cookbook. Many of these publications are produced in a standardized format, with predictable contents. But such a project can offer a wider appeal by incorporating local culinary traditions in a presentation that includes historical events. An IHA technical insert (No. 180 [Nov.-Dec. 2012]).,* “Serving Up History with Community Cookbooks,” by Sally DeFauw and Steph McGrath, offers creative ideas about how to plan and produce a cookbook that is both a fundraiser and an addition to one’s local history library. The authors suggest topics and questions that might be introduced. They point to sources of local food history and discuss how to get the project done. They talk about the specifics of recipes and how to create an enduring keepsake. There is a selected bibliography that can point the reader to further sources.

What kinds of interpretive signs can be used outdoors?

 “A Primer on Creating Outdoor Interpretive Signs,” by Diane Gutenkauf (Illinois Heritage Association, Technical Insert 123 [May-June 2003]),* covers some of the basic considerations about creating signs, from content (incorporating them as part of an exhibit, not stand-alone messages) to types of materials, vendors, and online resources. The author describes several types of panel materials, such as photoetched, fiberglass embedment, phenolic resin, outdoor inkjet prints, and porcelain enamel, and mentions both pros and cons of each.

Are there guidelines for interpreting a collection?

Freeman Tilden’s book Interpreting Our Heritage, first published in 1957, has become a classic and is widely used by museum study courses and museum interpreters. His six principles of interpretation still ring true:

  1. Any interpretation that does not somehow relate what is being displayed or described to something within the personality or experience of the visitor will be sterile.
  2. Information, as such, is not Interpretation. Interpretation is revelation based on information. But they are entirely different things. However, all interpretation contains information.
  3. Interpretation is an art, which combines many arts, whether the materials presented are scientific, historical or architectural. Any art is to some degree teachable.
  4. The chief aim of Interpretation is not instruction, but provocation.
  5. Interpretation should aim to present a whole rather than a part, and must address itself to the whole man rather than any phase.
  6. Interpretation addressed to children (say up to the age of twelve) should not be a dilution of the presentation to adults, but should follow a fundamentally different approach. To be at its best it will require a separate program.

The list above appears in Freeman Tilden, Interpreting Our Heritage (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977), 9.*

*IHA Circulating Library