A heritage interpretation strategy is the first step in the planning process when considering a heritage site. A heritage interpretation strategy is a high-level approach that explains the vision for a heritage site and communicates the main story to be told. The heritage interpretation strategy outlines the central story line and defines other key themes that organize the story and help visitors find meaning in it.

The heritage interpretation strategy also begins to describe the on-site experience – those things that visitors might see, hear, feel and do while there. Finally, it outlines those key messages visitors will take home with them.

Audiences

  • Who will use the site?
  • What are they most interested in learning about or doing?
  • What will be relevant and meaningful to them?

Intangible heritage resources

  • What events, discoveries, stories, cultures, and personalities are associated with the site?
  • Which are the most important and interesting?

Tangible heritage resources

  • What archaeological remains, found artifacts and objects, images and archival resources can tell these stories?

Core message

  • What is the central message that will be communicated to visitors?

Organizing framework

  • How will the story be organized?
  • Chronologically?
  • Thematically?
  • Based on the spaces or buildings on the site?

Communication objectives

  • What should visitors learn and feel when visiting the site?
  • What will be the impact of visiting the site?
  • How can messages be delivered?

Historic sites and museums use heritage interpretation strategies to plan permanent exhibits, temporary exhibitions, educational programs, tours, apps, activities, and events. Everything done on a heritage site relates back to the central storyline, key themes and core messages, which are incorporated in the heritage interpretation strategy.

Different audiences, uses, and programs will impact the types of spaces needed to deliver them. It is important to first develop an interpretive strategy to ensure that the master plan includes the necessary spaces, functions, and resources to tell the story in the most dynamic, efficient, and effective way possible.