Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Tilden revisited

Years ago, in our fervor to cut costs for students, it was decided that Interpreting Our Heritage by Freeman Tilden was no longer needed as a required textbook for Interpretive Methods class (now called "Interpretive Guide Techniques").  The book was originally written in 1957, and never intended as a textbook.  The examples presented are a bit dated, and the photographs are amusing and quaint.  They hearken to a time before the computer, internet, cable television, smart phones (or cell phones of any kind), and immediate gratification.

While we still use the 6 "Principles of Interpretation" outlined in the book, and students are required to at least recognize them, the words of Mr. Tilden have been paraphrased, updated, modified, and expounded upon.   The class is offered to students from many different programs, and the meanings have different significance for an NR Law student aspiring to be a Park Ranger, and an Ecotourism student wishing to own a dive shop.  Perhaps the exposure to the ideas is more important than the original intent.   In my own way, I have come to understand the application of the principles as they relate to my interests and experiences, and taught them filtered through that lens.

For those of you who aspire to inspire, however, there is nothing like the original writings of Freeman Tilden.  His observations of good and bad techniques are timeless, and his reference to classic literature and other authors is moving.  Interpreting Our Heritage is a book that every interpreter should re-read on a regular basis.

Straight up.


Like the childrens' "telephone game", the original message may get lost along the way. Go to the source, and find out what has inspired interpreters for several generations, and why the name "Tilden" is still spoken with reverence within our circles.  It is a great way to recharge, and to place your work in a context that will inspire you, and hopefully your audiences.

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