FREE and Easy Ways to Brush Up Your Interpretive Game

Icon of dollar bills with red circle and cross-out barLooking to build your interpretive skills? There’s no need to pay for tuition or fees to get the latest and greatest interpretive learning. So much of it lives right here in the Common Learning Portal!

From workbooks and activities you can explore, to books and blogs you should read, there’s so many resources to help you keep your interpretive muscles in shape. The best part about all the resources listed on this page? They’re entirely FREE.

Audience Centered Experience (ACE) Workbook

The ACE Workbook is the companion guide for the popular week-long Audience Centered Experience course. Though a workbook can never replicate trying the skills in person, it still is a powerful self-study guide. The workbook is designed to take you through the basic skills of ACE, practicing them on your own and working with your peers to get feedback on your choices.

The Interpretive Wheel

Need to learn a bit more about what “interpretation” is and how it works? The Interpretive Wheel is a human-language description of our work. It’s also an easy-to-spot explanation of what it looks like when good interpretation is happening.

The Wheel’s key innovation lies in the stem statement: “Everybody…” For good interpretation to be happening, everyone should be active in all the elements. The voices at play are not just the interpreter’s or the institution’s; everyone has a chance for self expression and engagement in EVERY moment of an interpretive experience.

Interpretive Learning Activities

Want to practice your skills and learn by doing? The Interpretive Learning Activities can help you! These short learning bites – each takes about 20-30 minute – focus on some of the basic interpretive skills. They do require you to login to the CLP, but even if you’re a volunteer or intern, an NPS employee can sponsor an account for you.

The Roots of the Revolution

The recent shifts in interpretation haven’t happened in a vacuum. The NPS has been paying attentions to trends and new best practices throughout the field of interpretation and museums. And so much of what has inspired the Audience Centered Experience curriculum is easy and free to read as well.

Nina Simon – former director of the MAH in Santa Cruz – began her discussions of interpretive theory on her blog Museum 2.0. But the wave only grew from there. Her blog and the experiments it inspired blossomed into two books. And Simon has released both books under Creative Commons licenses, which means they’re entirely FREE to read. The Museum 2.0 blog is still active too, now headed by the equally brilliant Seema Rao.

The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience was a key inspiration for the shift to dialogue in interpretation in the NPS. Since 1999, the Coalition has been spearheading dialogue and discussion as meaningful ways for visitors to engage with a site and with each other. Though their model looks slightly more formal than ACE at times, it includes fundamental skills focused on curiosity and inquisitiveness that any interpreter would be lost without.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is a leader in not only helping museums and libraries survive in the world, but thrive as vibrant centers of communities. The IMLS has undertaken deep study and thinking about the role of cultural institutions – just like the NPS – in our society today. The result is the “Museums, Libraries, and 21st Century Skills” report, a groundbreaking document that tries to imagine all the amazing benefits cultural institutions like ours can provide for people across the country and around the world.

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  1. So many great online learning products have been created in the last couple of years, this web page is a fantastic “one-stop shop” of all the ACE material located on the Common Learning Portal. Kudos!


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