Association for Heritage Interpretation

AHI is the key UK forum for anyone interested in interpretation: the art of helping people explore and appreciate our world. AHI aims to promote high standards in the provision of interpretation and to gain wider recognition of interpretation as a professional activity. The Association was founded in 1975 as the Society for the Interpretation of Britain's Heritage and Puy du Fou Cinescenie.

We run events where you can meet other interpreters, publish a lively journal three times a year that will keep you up to date with current thinking and practice, and run a respected awards scheme.

News

Interpret Britain and Ireland Awards


All entries for the 2020 Awards scheme have been received and judging is taking place. The results will be announced in the autumn. Details of the 2020 Awards scheme will be posted here in spring 2020.

The vital spark of interpretation


The Vital Spark is an international heritage interpretation conference taking place in the Scottish Highlands from Sunday 30 September to Wednesday 3 October, 2021. It is also AHI’s annual conference and AGM.

International speakers include Susan Strauss, the pre-eminent storyteller, and Sam Ham, from the USA, Jane James and John Pastorelli from Australia and Jette Sandahl, the new director of Te Papa Tongarewa in New Zealand.

Joining AHI

The AHI aims to promote high standards in the provision of interpretation, and to gain wider recognition of interpretation as a professional activity. Join us and help achieve these goals!

When you join the Association you get:

Interpretation keeps you up to date with new developments in interpretation through case studies and features, and provides a lively forum for discussing ideas and techniques. You can read sample articles from back issues on our Journals page.
There are three categories of Individual membership. You can join immediately as an Associate, or apply for election to Full membership (giving you the right to use the title MAHI). Fellowship (with the right to use the title FAHI) is for those who have made outstanding contributions to the field of interpretation. Corporate members can select the number of copies of publications they wish to receive.

Click here to download a membership leaflet and application form.

Membership rates within Britain are as follows (please ask about overseas rates):

Individuals

Associate membership £45.00
Full membership £55.00
Fellow £65.00
Student membership £15.00

Organisations

corporate membership (one copy of publications) £65.00
corporate membership (two copies) £95.00
corporate membership (three copies) £125.00
corporate membership (four copies) £155.00
corporate membership (five copies) £185.00

How to contact AHI

You can contact AHI by e-mailing us at ahi @ heritageinterpretation.org.uk
or by letter to:
The Administrator
AHI
18 Rose Crescent
Perth
PH1 1NS
UNITED KINGDOM

As many replies will involve material which has to be sent by post (and also because not all officers of the Association have e-mail addresses), please do include your name and 'real world' address with your enquiry. A daytime or evening telephone number may also be useful.

Most requests for information will have to be forwarded to the responsible officer, so please expect some delay in getting a response. However, all e-mail messages will be acknowledged on receipt.

Members Directory

This directory details products and services supplied by many of our members. If you are looking for someone to work on an interpretation project, you may find them here! The Association does not endorse or guarantee these services: you should ensure that contractors can meet your requirements through normal tender procedures.

We have listed companies alphabetically and by category, but depending on the take up rate we will create a full database system, logging all products and services supplied. If you would like details of how to include your own company or service here, contact us.

While we are building up the directory we have coloured the links with no entries in them light grey to save you time when looking.

1) Archaeology/industrial archaeology
2) Architecture/building services
3) Arts/environmental arts
4) Audio/visual production/services
5) Audio guides/systems
6) Building conservation
7) Business planning
8) CD-ROM production
9) Collection conservation/management
10) Community regeneration/involvement
11) Conservation planning
12) Copywriting/scriptwriting/editing
13) Costumes/figures/tableaux
14) Display systems/equipment
15) Educational services/materials
16) Evaluation and monitoring services
17) Event and activity organisation
18) Exhibition design
19) Exhibition construction
20) Feasibility studies
21) Graphic design and production
22) Guided walks
23) Heritage management services
24) Illustration
25) Interactive systems/animatronics
26) Interpretive design/production
27) Interpretive planning/development
28) Landscape design/management
29) Leisure/recreation/tourism services
30) Live interpretation/performance
31) Market research and evaluation
32) Marketing/public relations
33) Modelmaking/replica production
34) Museum/collection services
35) Nature conservation/countryside
36) Photographic services
37) Project management
38) Publishing/print production
39) Research services
40) Oral History
41) Storytelling
42) Training courses/materials
43) Website design/management
44) Historic Sites

The Association's journal is Interpretation, published three times a year.

We publish selected articles from back issues of the journal on the web site. These are reprinted as they originally appeared: information such as the people working on projects, or contact details, may no longer be current.

You can get current issues of the journal by joining the Association.

Vol 4 No 3: November 1999 Visitor Services and Interpretation
Full Contents List
- Volume 4 Number 3
Getting to Know Your Visitors
- Paulette McManus
Claude Monet, from a Visitor Services' Perspective
- Christian Waltl

Vol 4, Special Issue: February 1999 Education
Full Contents List
- Volume 4 Number 3
Editorial
- by Mike Corbishly
Consistency at Culzean
- Gordon Riddle describes the education service provided at Culzean Castle, Ayrshire
Where Marvellous Things Happen
- David Erskine on the Roald Dahl's Children's Gallery

Vol 4 Nos 1 & 2: May 1999 Sacred Places & Military History
Full Contents List
- Volume 4 Numbers 1 & 2 (combined issue)
Editorial (Sacred Places)
- by Brian Bath
Tourist or Pilgrim?
- The Rev Dr Robin PP Gibbons explores the theological issues that arise when religious sites become tourist attractions
Sacred Performances
- Issues surrounding Aboriginal land rights and their links to sacred sites, explained by Dr Susan Pfisterer
Editorial (Military History)
- by Brad King
The Churchill Exhibition at the Cabinet War Rooms
- Documents can draw a crowd. Phil Reed explains the background to this fascinating exhibition
Museum War Exhibits: Propaganda or Interpretation?
- Guy Perkins discusses the place of the war exhibit in museum history and tells a cautionary tale for the unwary curator

Vol 3 No 3: April 1999 Public art
Full Contents List
- Volume 3 Number 3
Editorial
- by Gill Binks
Whispering or shouting
- Eileen Adams discusses the roles and definitions of Public Art
Where does this adventure go to?
- James Carter discusses how the arts and interpretation can work together

Vol 3 No 2: March 1998 Access/Interpret Britain Awards 1997
Full Contents List
- Volume 3 Number 2
Doing Things the Wrong Way to get it Right on the Night
- John Lindsay gives a frank and honest account of creative improvements at the Scottish Fisheries Museum
Access to the Sussex Downs
- Julian Gray, setting a standard for countryside access

Vol 3 No 1: January 1998 Outdoor Interpretive Panels
Full Contents List
- Volume 3 Number 1
Editorial
- by Neil Diment
Rules of Engagement: The Forest Experience
- Bob Jones distils 25 years' experience into 10 rules
The Tip of An Iceberg
- Susan Cross makes words work

Vol 2 No 3: July 1997 Historic Houses
Full Contents List
- Volume 2 Number 3
Editorial
- by Marion Blockley
"A dry shell of the past": Living history and the interpretation of historic houses
- Andy Robertshaw provides an overview of principles and best practice
Breaking the Mould? No 2 Willow Road, Hampstead
- Maggie Goodall challenges preconceived notions of the historic house

Vol 2 No 2: December 1996 Carrying Capacity and Sustainability
Full Contents List
- Volume 2 Number 2
Editorial
- By Marion Blockley
LAC Applied in the Severn Gorge
- Some practical reflections on Limits of Acceptable Change (LAC) by Jim Waterson.
Urban Conservation - Positive Action for a Sustainable Countryside
- Stephen Rumble turns the problem on its head to provide a solution at source.

Vol 2 No 1: August 1996 Multimedia
Full Contents List
- Volume 2 Number 1
Editorial
- by Marion Blockley
Multimedia for the Terrified Luddite
- Some key concepts in communicating with visitors
Guidance on Briefing a Designer
- A checklist of points to consider
Idiot's Guide to Computing and Multimedia
- A glossary of useful terms
Lessons from America
- Suzanne Spicer appraises educational multimedia in the USA
Digital Networks at the Science Museum
- David Patten gives some sound advice on multimedia interactives
The Digital Landscape
- Brian Bath on English Heritage's use of multimedia at Stonehenge and elsewhere
The Sussex Heritage Coast Interactive Project
- Michael Danks discusses a digital terrain model of an important heritage area
Wroxeter Access to Archaeology Programme
- Sally Biswell on interpreting one of the largest Roman sites in Britain
Lifetimes: a Multimedia History
- Sally MacDonald describes development of Croydon's award-winning Lifetimes Gallery
TechnoSphere
- A 3D virtual world housed on a computer in London
The Exploratory of the Past and Future City
- Norwich City Council's imaginative millennium scheme
A Thousand Threads: Linking People and Place
- The National Trust links a nationwide network of visitor centres
Quay Stages in Fathoming the Past
- Rob Powys-Smith goes overboard at the National Maritime Museum

Vol 1 No 3: July 1996 Visitor Centres
Full Contents List
- Volume 1 Number 3
Editorial
- by Carl Atkinson
A Beginners' Guide to the Planning, Design and Operation of Visitor Centres
- Carl Atkinson summarises a new publication from Scottish Natural Heritage
Some observations on the design of visitor centres
- Ken Moth considers issues arising from building design
Centres Fit for Visitors
- Brian Bath discusses internal space requirements
Visitor Centres : Financial Planning and Management Issues
- Graham Barrow answers some financial questions

Vol 1 No 2: February 1996 Enabling Access
Full Contents List
- Volume 1 Number 2
Editorial
- by Marion Blockley
Planning for Accessibility
- Dennis Fearns explores the issues in implementing access for all
Audit Access and Action - At Once!
- Yvonne Hosker outlines conducting access audits at countryside sites
Access in Museums
- Mandy Haeburn-Little on the Scottish Museum Council's access roadshows

Vol 1 No 1: May 1995 Multiculturalism
Full Contents List
- Volume 1 Number 1
Editorial
- by Marion Blockley
Environment, Heritage and Multiculturalism
- Julian Agyeman considers how wider ethnic participation in Britain's heritage can be promoted
The Public Archaeology Revolution: Archaeology in a Multicultural Society
- Karolyn Smardz on the role of the public archaeologist in a multicultural world

Association events

The Association's one-day events are a great way to hear about innovative projects, discuss current issues in interpretation, and meet other interpretation professionals. We will be posting news of forthcoming events here shortly; meanwhile if you have an idea for an event, or would like to host one, get in touch.

The vital spark of interpretation
30 September to Wednesday 3 October, 2021

The Vital Spark is an international heritage interpretation conference taking place in the Scottish Highlands from Sunday 30 September to Wednesday 3 October, 2021. It is also AHI’s annual conference and AGM.

International speakers include Susan Strauss, the pre-eminent storyteller, and Sam Ham, from the USA, Jane James and John Pastorelli from Australia and Jette Sandahl, the new director of Te Papa Tongarewa in New Zealand. She previously ran the Museum of World Culture in Gothenburg. UK-based keynote addresses will come from Alastair McIntosh, a leading environmental campaigner, Shonaig Macpherson, the chair of The National Trust for Scotland and Dr James Hunter, historian, writer and recent chair of the Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

The Vital Spark will be based at the Aviemore Highland Resort, 30 miles south of Inverness, and is easily reached by air, by direct buses and trains from major cities and by car. There is a choice of exciting pre- and post-conference tours to choose from and, over the coming months, more and more information will appear on the web.

Other events and training courses

This listing covers the next few months, as well as major events later on. For further information on these events, contact the relevant organisations directly.

The Art of Teaching Interpretation to others
29 May – 1 June 2021
Venue: Plas Tan y Bwlch, Snowdonia National Park Study Centre

Increduloos Interpretation – interpretation and storytelling at a unique location
6 June 2021
Venue: Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre

Interpret Britain and Ireland Awards

AHI’s Interpret Britain and Ireland Awards recognise the very best examples of interpretation throughout Britain and Ireland. The Awards Scheme is open to any organisation or individual in the public, private and voluntary sectors involved in interpreting a theme, place, site, collection, event or other topic for the benefit of the general public. We are looking for demonstration of innovative, inspirational and provocative interpretation in projects or programmes of any size, from small local endeavours to major investments.

The award scheme, now in its 22nd year, is currently supported by English Heritage, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Countryside Council for Wales.

2019 Awards

All entries for the 2021 Awards scheme have been received and judging is taking place. The results will be announced in the autumn. Details of the 2020 Awards scheme will be posted here in spring 2020.

2020 Awards

Loyd Grossman, Patron of the AHI, presented the 2006 awards at a ceremony on 30 November at the SS Great Britain in Bristol. Ten awards and six commendations were made to projects ranging from modest local schemes, to nationally significant visitor attractions with budgets in excess of £1m.

Smaller projects included Barton Broad Restoration Project in Norfolk and the War & Peace exhibition at Aberystwyth Castle in Wales. On the other end of the scale were the SS Great Britain in Bristol and the Yeats exhibition in the National Library of Ireland.

In addition, five awards and commendations were made to projects which showed excellence in their inclusive approach to people with disabilities, ethnic minorities, and socially or financially disadvantaged people.

Click here to find out more about the 2006 Awards.

Previous Awards

Click on the links below to find out more about previous Awards.

2005 Interpret Britain and Ireland Awards: winners.
Interpret Britain/Ireland 2003 award winners.
Interpret Britain 2002 award winners.
Interpret Britain 2001 award winners.
Interpret Britain/Ireland 2000 award winners.
Interpret Britain/Ireland 1999 award winners.
Interpret Britain/Ireland 1998 award winners.
Details of the Interpret Britain 1997 award winners.
Details of the Interpret Britain 1997 commendations.
Details of the Interpret Britain 1997 special category winners.
Winners in the Interpret Ireland 1997 competition.
Listing of awards given in previous years' competitions.

Interpretation on the web

The web is full of sites that might interest interpreters: here are some of them. Clicking on any of these links will open them in a separate window in your browser. Let us know if any links don't work, or if you'd like to suggest others. We've divided the listing into:

organisations

Interpretation organisations

Interpretation Australia Association

Interpretation Canada

National Association for Interpretation (USA)
NAI runs a lively annual conference as well as producing a regular journal.

Interpret Scotland

Scottish Interpreters Network
SIN (what a wonderful acronym) has some useful documents on the site, including 'A Sense of Place', an interpretive planning handbook in .pdf format that gives a clear, applied guide to interpretation. Note that this is a 3.7 Mb file.

Visitor Studies Association
The VSA conducts and publishes research on visitors' expectations, needs, and interests. Much of their work is concerned with the museums sector.

UK organisations with an interest in interpretation

The Heritage Lottery Fund The source of most of the capital for many interpretation projects, and a key influence on the way heritage management and interpretation is developing in Britain. The recent report on 'Developing New Audiences for the Heritage' is available on their site as a .pdf file.

Natural Environment
Natural England
The Countryside Council for Wales
Scottish Natural Heritage SNH have recently posted a guide to interpretation planning on their site, which includes a detailed case study of interpretation at a flagship geological nature reserve.
The Forestry Commission

Historic Sites
English Heritage
Historic Scotland
Cadw (Welsh Historic Mounuments)

Both England and Scotland have interesting programmes of 'Open Days' that offer a chance to see properties not normally open to the public.

Museums
The Museums, Archives and Libraries Council has many interesting reports in the 'Information' section of the site.
The Museums Association
The Scottish Museums Council
The Campaign for Learning in Museums and Galleries
The Group for Education in Museums

Other interpretation resources on the web

Carl Strang's site - an interesting site administered by a US based naturalist. It includes several thought provoking essays.

Biodiversity stories, an intriguing collection of stories about Scottish wildlife. They concentrate on the folklore and cultural significance of the natural heritage.

Stacy Roth works as a first person interpreter, and has some thought provoking comments on this technique.

Examples of sites that 'interpret' a place or collection
This section could be empty, because some definitions of interpretation maintain that is only concerned with experiencing 'the real thing'. If you adhere strictly to this, there can be no such thing as 'virtual' interpretation. Or it could be impossibly long (since so many museums, national parks, historic houses and nature reserves have a presence on the web). As a compromise, here's a small taste of the web's possibilities.

Kilmartin House Museum.
An independent museum that interprets a range of prehistoric sites spread across a whole valley in the west of Scotland.

The Natural History Museum.
One of the bastions of the nineteenth century drive to educate the public, now alive and well in the twenty-first century.

Other Sites which may be of Interest

The Local History Magazine website has recently been updated and revamped. There are now links to over 70 universities and colleges offering local history courses and details of all the major county local history associations. There are also links to over 300 websites about family and local history and related subjects.

The University of Leicester Department of Museum Studies has launched a new online journal, Museum and Society, an independent peer reviewed journal which brings together new writing by academics and museum professionals on the subject of museums. It aims to be both international in scope and at the cutting edge of empirical and theoretical research on museums. Museum and Society will appear three times a year and is open access and free to all individuals and institutions.

The Nexus Web Directory Archaeology Pages contain archaeology related news, books and web resources.

The Remote Sensing & Photogrammetry Society Concerned with acquiring information using remote devices and measuring by means of images. Applications include archaeology, geology, GIS, digital terrain modelling and aerial photography.

Books on interpretation

Acorn lists many interpretation related publications