Be Relevant or Become a Relic – Meeting the Public Where They Are


This presentation entitled Be Relevant or Become a Relic – Meeting the Public Where They Are was delivered at the George Wright Society Conference on April 19, 2001 at the Stephen T. Mather Training Center. In this talk, George Larsen addresses current issues in the Interpretation field.

From the Presentation

Loren Eisely once wrote, “Life is a series of shooting sparks—all the rest is interpretation.” Most readers who are scientists or resource managers know science is capable of measuring, describing, and explaining much if not all of Eisely’s shooting sparks. I agree with them. For the scientist, some truths exist. Sure, attaining certainty is not easy. Those who know science understand that data requires interpretation and that explanations are challenged, refined, and change with the passage of time. Yet science assumes that if verifiable questions are asked and appropriate tests conducted, unified explanations, laws, schemes, models, and theories regarding nature are possible.

In the 21st century, the resources we have been charged to protect and manage will come under increasing pressure. I used to think I wanted to be a superintendent. Not now. It’s an incredibly difficult job. A manager has so many people to answer to—so many perspectives to consider. Most of those stakeholders do not have the scientific literacy of most resource professionals. What’s more, scientific explanation holds little relevance or power for many, even when they comprehend. People understand, value, and order life and nature in an incredible variety of ways for just as incredible a variety of reasons. Regardless of whether science does or does not provide the best explanations of the physical world, its boundaries do not contain all, or even close to all, constructions of meaning.

Read Dave’s full article from the Journal of Interpretation Research [PDF]

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  1. This is a great article that clearly describes the foundations of interpretation- you could potentially teach Foundations of Interpretation from this article and the examples provided. “Be relevant or become a relic”- this statement should be the theme for all interpretive sites and programs.


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