What Do We Mean by Interpretation?
Some define it as an educational activity that reveals meanings about our natural and cultural resources; others define it as a method of communicating ideas and feelings that help people understand more about themselves an their environment. Whatever your definition, interpretation is more than just a plant label.
There are many different ways of communicating ideas and concepts using, for example, guided walks, talks, drama, displays, signs, brochures and electronic media. Interpreters can draw on a wide range of experiences, stories, ideas, inspirations and beliefs from both art and science. In today’s climate, interpreters have the added challenge of ensuring that the design and delivery of environmental interpretation addresses plant conservation and the maintenance of biodiversity.
To promote and raise awareness of sustainability and biodiversity issues, interpretation needs to be strong and long lasting, for example by providing a moving and meaningful experience in the place to be interpreted. If not, it may be that the information people acquire is transitory. It is also very important to evaluate interpretation to ensure it fulfils its designed role – please see the section on evaluation for examples of evaluation methods and outcomes.
Interpretation is an important consideration for botanic gardens. By enriching visitor experiences, interpretation can help encourage people to develop a keener awareness, appreciation and understanding of the value of plants in their everyday lives. Innovative interpretation will also help accomplish a botanic garden’s management objectives as it can encourage a thoughtful use of the garden by visitors and promote the understanding of the role of botanic gardens in biodiversity conservation and sustainability. Some of the articles below give examples of ways in which interpretation can be used in a botanic garden with some practical examples and resources to help you with your own interpretation.
(Lucy Sutherland, Editorial, Roots 24)