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An Interpretive Revolution

Number 24 - June 2002
J. Roff

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Résumé

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Plagued by the lack of public interest in our wonderful plants and their stories, disappointed by the interpretive inadequacies of plant labels, and thrilled by the prospect of a new challenge, the staff of the Natal NBG set out on a quest. Our goal: to find the ‘perfect’ plant label to make our gardens and their plants accessible and interesting to the majority of our visitors.

We began our adventure with a new and exciting theme garden at the Natal NBG - the ‘Useful plants garden’. Filled with plants used for all sorts of purposes, from making beer to curing headaches and crafting sleeping mats, this garden has the potential to be interpreted in a very different and appealing way.

Spurred on by suggestions and examples from Mark Richardson (from Alice Springs Desert Park, and part of the NBI External Review panel), and quotes such as the one below from the introduction to ‘A popular dictionary of Botanical names and terms’, published in 1912, we proceeded to trial many types of plant labels, and finally settled on the one shown below. What do you think?

Members of the public are so far very happy with them, and I have seen a visitor read about ten of these labels in a row - a practically unheard of event with most labels and signs. These ‘Interprelabels’ are presently produced in a temporary ‘trial’ format, printed on an attractive beige paper, laminated and stuck with double sided tape to label stands.

QUOTE

'This little dictionary is intended for the use of lovers and students of plant life in garden, wood and field, and as most botanical names and terms convey so little meaning to those who are not linguists, it is hoped that the intelligent botanist will find a useful companion in this book on his or her rambles through wood and field, and that likewise the lover of the garden will be helped in finding without trouble the English equivalents of the botanical terms he may meet with.

'Professor Earle has said 'Why should we allow a pile of heterogeneous names to stand as a barrier between our people and the fairest gate of knowledge (botany). These strange names are all but barren of interest in themselves; what interest they possess springs wholly out of the objects they represent'

'It is the primary objective of this dictionary to make these strange names more interesting by giving their equivalents in our own language'

From G.F.Zimmer (1912) A popular dictionary of botanical names and terms. Routledge and Kegan Paul ltd, London.

Interpretation Text

Herbal tea made from the leaves of Wild Mint is used to treat coughs and colds

Mint Family (Lamiaceae)
Mentha longifolia
Ufuthane Lomhlange
Kruisement

We’d love to hear your comments, positive or negative. Please write to John Roff: interpret@telkomsa.net with suggestions and comments.

Une Révolution Interprétative
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Tourmentée par le manque d’intérêt du public pour nos merveilleuses plantes et leurs histoires, déçue par l’inefficacité des étiquettes des plantes pour l’interprétation, et exaltée par la perspective d’un nouveau défi, l’équipe du Natal National Botanical Garden en Afrique du Sud est partie pour une quête! Notre but: trouver l’étiquette de plante parfaite pour rendre nos jardins et les plantes accessibles et intéressantes pour la majorité de nos visiteurs.

Cette aventure a commencé avec la création, au Natal NBG, d’un nouveau et extraordinaire jardin de plantes utiles. Il est rempli de plantes ayant toutes sortes d’usages: de la fabrication de la bière, à la guérison des maux de tête, en passant par celles utilisées pour confectionner des nattes artisanales. Ce jardin offre de nombreuses opportunités pour concevoir une interprétation variée et attractive. Notre mission s’est poursuivie en essayant plusieurs types d’étiquettes, et finalement et en choisissant celle illustrée ici. Le public semble si satisfait, que cela en est pratiquement incroyable! (nous avons vu un visiteur lire 10 étiquettes à la suite!) Ces ‘étiquettes-interprétatives’ sont actuellement produites dans un format d’essai temporaire, imprimées sur un beau papier beige, plastifiées et collées au piétement avec du double-face. Nous aimerions avoir vos commentaires, donc, s’il vous plait écrivez à John Roff, National Botanical Garden Natal, PO Box 11448, Dorpsruit3206 South Africa. Email: interpret@telkomsa.net.

Una Revolución Interpretativa

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Acosados por la carencia de interés del público en nuestras maravillosas plantas y sus historias, desanimados por las insuficiencias interpretativas de las etiquetas, e ilusionados por la perspectiva de un nuevo desafio, el personal del Jardín Botanico Nacional de Natal en Sudáfrica se planteó un reto. Nuestro objetivo: encontrar la etiqueta perfecta para hacer que nuestros jardines y sus plantas sean asequibles e interesantes para la mayoría de los visitantes.

Comenzamos nuestra aventura con un nuevo y exitante jardín de plantas útiles, lleno de plantas con todo tipo de uso - desde plantas para hacer cerveza a otras para curar los dolores de cabeza o para tejer tapetes artesanos para dormir. Este jardín tiene el,potencial de ser interpretado de una forma diferente y llamativa.

Se trataron muchas maneras de ilustrar los nombres de las plantas, y finalmente se decidió utilizar el método ilustrado. El público se ha mostrado muy satisfecho - y hemos observado como uno de ellos leía diez etiquetas seguidas - ¡algo casi desconocido con la mayoría de las etiuquetas y carteles! Estas ‘etiquetas interpretativas’ se están produciendo - por ahora - en un formato de prueba, imprimidas en un atractivo papel de color beige, plastificadas y pegadas con cinta adhesiva doble a las porta-etiquetas. Nos gustaría recibir comentarios sobre estas, así que por favor envíenlos a John Roff, National Botanic Garden, Natal, P.O.Box 11448, Dorpsruit 3206, Sudáfrica. Email: interpret@telkomsa.net.

About the Author

John Roff is Head of Education at the Natal National Botanical Garden, National Botanical Institute, Mayor’s Walk, Pietermaritzburg, P O Box 21667, Dorpsruit 3206, South Africa. Tel (27) 0331 44 3585 Fax: (27) 0331 44 1284 Email: interpret@telkomsa.net

 
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