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Interpretive aims and objectives


Setting your aims and objectives for interpretation should be 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 you are aiming your interpretation towards.

Deciding your interpretive objectives

Before you begin writing your interpretive plan, make sure you’re clear on:

  • 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 are you going to 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 as a result of the meaning you are interpreting to them?
  • Who are you interpreting for? Do you want to attract new visitors? Do you want to improve provision for existing visitors?

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 audience is.

Next steps

Once you have decided and finalised your reasons, and have defined and stated your interpretive aims, you should then 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. (See Interpreting for your audiences for further information).
  • 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. As long as 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.

Learn more

Scottish Natural Heritage have some good advice around Interpretive Policy.

South Western Federation of Museums and Art Galleries

Interpretive Planning- Paths for All

If you’d like to discuss any of this further, please get in touch with our Collections and Engagement Manager.

Thanks to Michael Hamish Glen, Principal of Touchstone Heritage Management Consultants for proofreading these pages.