As Interpreters, we often joke about the seemingly ridiculous questions we get asked.
(While paddling at a summer camp lake-) "How do you keep the fish out of the swimming area?"
(At Yellowstone National Park) "Where do you keep all of these animals at night?"
(Observing a calf being born-) "How fast do you reckon that little cow was running when it crashed into that big cow?"
While these may cause us to pause and question our educational systems, without a curious public, we would be out of work. The very survival of these places we hold dear depend on a population that wants to know more, and that come back to our sites because we can offer stories that slake thirsty minds.
Beyond that, it behooves us to inspire the wondering and wandering of our visitors. What can we do to create an ever growing audience, to reach people who don't even know why our parks and sites exist? As Apple prepares to unveil some new product today, I am reminded how the company thrived on the idea of providing people with something they didn't even know they needed until they saw it. Today, practically all of us carry something in our pocket that wasn't even on our radar screens 10-15 years ago, but is a valuable part of our lives. Can we move an audience to need a park they didn't even know they owned (or even existed)?
So, what is one of the best ways to create an atmosphere that instills in others the desire to learn more? BE someone who desires to learn more! One of the fundamentally important traits of a good interpreter is an insatiable curiosity. Never stop learning- from your site, from your research, from your peers, and from your visitors! When they see you asking questions, getting excited about some new observation or idea, and constantly adding to your repertoire of stories to tell, the enthusiasm is contagious. While it is good to have extensive knowledge and facts, the desire to know everything is much more important than thinking you already do!
“Our instinct may be to see the impossibility of tracking everything down as frustrating, dispiriting, perhaps even appalling, but it can just as well be viewed as almost unbearably exciting. We live on a planet that has a more or less infinite capacity to surprise. What reasoning person could possibly want it any other way?”
― Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything