Long before the National Park Service (NPS) was born in 1916 interpretation was sought out by the public and they were willing to pay for that service. This was the case at Yellowstone and Yosemite, long before they became national parks. Military troops had responsibility for protecting the land. A few troops found themselves in the position of interpreting these sites to visitors. However not everyone was as conscience in sharing their information as the troops. Some stagecoach drivers and “guides” at the hotels told clients all manner of stories hoping for good tips. Interchange Cruise Lines with Yellowstone or Yosemite and it is easy to understand that National Parks Service, cruise lines and other entities appreciate professional, ethical guidelines or principles.
The National Park Service (NPS) is first recognize as the entity that sought to find common guidelines or principles which could be taught to rangers in the field who were imparting information to the public. What NPS discovered in the 1950’s were some rangers were great in engaging the public, other rangers left people yawning and leaving the campfire and park tours. Freeman Tilden was hired by NPS to find the common denominators of interpretation that could be taught to rangers. He visited scores of national parks. He visited state parks and private historical areas. He visited living history or craft demonstration areas such as Colonial Williamsburg. He engaged in discussions with those who interpreted their sites for the public. He gave interpretative talks. He looked at brochures, signs, and displays to find common principles among the written and spoken word. He pondered what the guiding principles for interpreting information were. In 1957 he wrote Interpreting Our Heritage. He found six principles that an interpreter must use when sharing information with an audience. These six principles have stood the test of time. In 2002 Larry Back and Ted Cable expanded on these six principles into fifteen when they wrote Interpretation for the 21st Century.
The art of interpretation is now used by those involved in the interpretation of natural and cultural resources in settings such as parks, zoos, museums, nature centers, aquariums, botanical gardens, historical sites, historical societies, corporations and cruise ships.
A professional organization, National Association for Interpretation (NAI), with over 5,000 members, has various levels of training for those interested in this profession. At one time there was a cruise line that only would hire those trained by NAI for their programs aboard their ships. This cruise line is no longer around, although they did realize the need for speakers who could connect information to their audience using the interpretive guidelines.
The same principles NAI promotes are the same the principles that the cruise lines expect. However unlike the cruise line that discovered Certified Interpretive Guides or speakers, most cruise lines are not aware of a program that would enhance their speaker programs. You have the advantage of learning these principle and guidelines and putting them into practice to help secure your place as a speaker on various cruise lines.
In the next postings we will look at a couple of Beck and Cables fifteen principles and how they apply to cruise lines.