In honor of Historic Preservation month, the videos in May will feature related topics, starting with “The Royal Castle: From Destruction to Reconstruction” by Novina Studio. This 2:28 animation traces the destruction of this historical monument by the Nazis in World War II to its reconstruction in 1974. Simple and dramatic, it provides a quick history of the site.
Although guided tours of period rooms is the most common form of interpretation at historic sites, audio tours, video tours, and virtual tours are growing in popularity thanks to technologies that are lowering the cost of production and increasing access to new audiences. From a short list of examples, the students in my “historic site interpretation” class at George Washington University developed a list of ten best practices for different types of tours of historic sites. You’ll discover that many of their suggestions emphasize the need for a plan, themes, and a focus–and projects that failed to have these elements were weaker and less effective.
A. Guided Tours of Period Rooms
- “Historic House Furnishings Plans” by Bradley Brooks in Jessica Donnelly’s Interpretation of Historic Sites (2002)
- “I Wish You Could Take a Peek at Us” by Nancy Bryk in Donnelly (2002)
- “Guidelines for Preparing Historic Furnishings Reports: an Annotated Sample of Contents” by the National Park Service (retrieved September 2, 2012)
- “When Values Collide: Furnishing Historic Interiors” by Carol Petravage in Preservation of What, for Whom? edited by Michael Tomlan (National Council for Preservation Education, 1999), pp. 151-158.
- “Historic Furnishings Report: William Johnson House” (NPS, 2004).
Suggested Best Practices
- Develop an interpretive plan and themes
- Consult primary sources for the property
- Decide whether to have reproduction or original pieces Continue reading
This week I was fortunate to spend two days in Baltimore with 400 persons representing museums, libraries, archives, and research organizations from 40 states at WebWise, the annual conference hosted by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. This is always one of my favorite conferences and despite a rapid sell-out, I was able to snag a seat.
There seems to be a growing number of history museums and historic sites attending WebWise, and perhaps that’s due to increased recognition that digital technologies are no longer a fad but an essential part of a successful organization (indeed, one of the presenters remarked that staff with technology in their titles are rising up to senior levels with more frequency). Among the history organizations represented this year are the American Continue reading
Last week I had a chance to visit Bill Adair, director of the Heritage Philadelphia Program and one of the co-authors of the new book, Letting Go?: Sharing Historical Authority in a User-Generated World. As usual, we had a wide ranging discussion which included his interest in the work of The Goggles, an award-winning Canadian design group headed by Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simons. He was particularly taken by “Pine Point,” an interactive web documentary about a northern mining town that closed in 1988 and was demolished. Through oral histories, documents, video, and artifacts, the story of this ghost town is told in a mesmerizing scrapbook style. If you’re looking for a way to interpret a place in a new way on the Web, this might provide some inspiration.
Yesterday I had lunch with Tim Grove, the Chief of Interpretation at the National Air and Space Museum and author of the History Bytes column in History News, to catch up on various things. We were discussing my current puzzling out of methodologies for my book on interpretive planning for historic sites and discussing Howard Gardner’s “multiple intelligences,” when he mentioned that I might be interested in joining his staff meeting that afternoon. Andrew Pekarik in the Office of Policy and Analysis at the Smithsonian was giving a presentation on a new theory for visitor engagement–would I like to come? Absolutely!
Andy’s presentation was a short 30 minutes but was incredibly intriguing. It’s based on dozens of evaluations on various exhibits at several different Smithsonian exhibits and is currently being independently verified, but the framework is public and was published with Barbara Mogel in the October 2010 issue of Curator as “Ideas, Objects, or People? A Smithsonian Exhibition Team Views Visitors Anew.” Here’s the new framework in a nutshell: Continue reading