Sunday, 13 February 2011

Heritage interpretation

copyright John Hackston

I spent two days last week on an English Heritage course learning how to 'present' historic properties - in other words how you decide on the significance of a property, its value and how then to intepret it and present it to your audience. Sounds straightforward but of course many historic properties by their very nature have more than one significant period, event or personality that you may wish to celebrate and then communicate this to your audience. And of course audiences are extremely diverse. We were given many interesting examples - abbeys which became family homes (do you give greater attention to the religious significance or what might be an important historic family home?) or somewhere like Boscobel House (associated with Charles II but now a fine example of a Victorian farm).

We also learned about the significance of vegetation, garden and landscape in the presentation and interpretation of historic sites. Hailes Abbey was presented as a good example: the tranquil and atmospheric setting is as important as its religious significance. It is also a place where the ruins themselves have been planted with grass in order to protect the fragile stones and meet the expectations of visitors who want to see ruins with romantic planting over the walls. 

I will be bearing all these points in mind as I contribute to the interpretation of the garden at Chastleton.

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