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Interpretive Aims and Objectives

Setting your aims and objectives for interpretation is an important part of your interpretive planning. Your aims and objectives should be influenced by why you are interpreting this content, what you hope to achieve from this interpretation, and who your interpretation is targeted at.

Deciding your interpretive aims

To help set your aims you should consider the following questions:

  • Why you want to develop your interpretation: do you want to increase visitor understanding of your exhibits, provide a fun and rewarding day out for families, or increase the length of time people spend in your museum?
  • What will you interpret: what is special or interesting about your collection, museum, or site?
  • What do you want visitors to take away from your interpretation? What do you want them to know, feel, or do because of your interpretation?
  • Who are you interpreting for? Do you want to attract new visitors? Do you want to improve provision for existing visitors? Are you able to better represent marginalised audiences? Consider whether you need to carry out more detailed research into who is visiting and who is not, what they like or dislike, or who your primary audiences are.

Setting objectives and outlining your plan

Once you’ve considered and defined your interpretive aims, you should work on the objectives and start planning for the bare bones of the physical interpretation process.

Consider and finalise:

  • How you will achieve your aims and objectives.
  • The interpretive medium you will use: Will there be interactives? Will it be primarily digital? Will you use interpretive text or will you rely solely on recreations or reconstructions?
  • How you will define your target audience. Make sure that your plan works with a clear target audience in mind.
  • Could you ‘stagger’ your interpretation: consider including more family-friendly, accessible information in the museum, followed up by optional special interest information on the website? What preparatory work will you need to do to achieve this, and do you have adequate provisions and resources to do so?
  • Have you set a timescale for the project? Would it be useful to coincide the opening of whatever you are interpreting, be it a gallery, building, set of objects, or outdoor space, for example, with a relevant date such as a commemoration or local, national, or international event?
  • Tie up any budgetary issues, confirm and finalise any sources of funding, and make sure you complete contingency plans should any funding streams fall through, or anything unforeseen occur.

The aims and objectives should be defined and stated in the interpretive plan. Strategic work in a museum will need to be planned, and any change in interpretation can have a clear impact on the strategic direction of a museum.

Your strategic plan will direct your interpretive work. If you have a clear interpretive aim with a set series of objectives to show how to achieve this aim, your interpretive plan should be a useful and practical document.

Why Interpret?

By clearly defining why you are interpreting your collection, gallery, or historic space, you are ensuring that your interpretation will be effective in reaching a specific set of goals and appealing to your target audiences.

How interpretation can help

Interpretation of your collections can help re-enthuse repeat visitors and deepen their experience of your collections. It can also make your existing collections more accessible to groups who experience barriers to engaging with your museum or gallery.

You can use objects and Intangible Cultural Heritage to explore narratives from marginalised or underrepresented peoples. By thinking about interpretation, you are simultaneously rethinking and revaluating your collections, which helps to ensure that your organisation remains adaptable and relevant.

Before you begin interpretive planning, decide whether you would like to achieve any of the following:

  • Increase visitors’ understanding of your collections
  • Increase the number of visitors coming to your museum
  • Encourage visits from new or specific audiences
  • Increase the length of time visitors spend in your museum, shop or café
  • Encourage activity, interaction and enjoyment
  • Build upon or develop a ‘Friends of the Museum’ group or a volunteer team
  • Support audience development strategies of the museum.

You could set any or all of these as your aims and objectives. Always keep them in focus as your go through your interpretive process.