The Secret Ingredient

“________ is the essential ingredient for powerful and effective interpretation-________ for the resource and for those people who come to be inspired by the same.”

Principle 15. Cable and Beck The Gifts of Interpretation

Perhaps most important, interpreters should have a _________ for their work.

-Freeman Tilden Interpreting Our Heritage


In the field of interpretation we are constantly studying how to make the profession better.  We are always looking at new ways to engage audiences, expand our voice through the incorporation of new technologies or best practices from individuals who are practiced in the field.  While all of these skills are needed to move our profession forward, we must first look to see what makes interpretation great already.  Refine the enthusiasm already present in order to make ourselves better interpreters.  When scrutinizing us we must not forget the secret ingredient to good interpretation.  The element needed above all else.  One critical cog present within all interpretation that makes it great.  What is this elusive component?  How can we find it?  Can it be mined?  Is there a learned equation that can provide us the answer?  Why is it such a secret if this part is so desperately needed?

“Well…what is it author?!”

“You can tell me!  I promise to keep it between us!”


Ok I will tell you.  However, you have to promise to NOT keep it a secret.  You must share this element with everyone.  Incorporate into every program.  To have it burst forth from you in both voice and in action.

“Ok I promise!”

You ready?

“YES!  I was ready half a page ago, just saying…”


“Passion?  Really?  Well that makes sense, but how is that a secret?”

Passion is not included in Freeman Tilden’s six principles of interpretation, yet he says it is the most important aspect.

“Why if it is so important did he not include it as a principle?”

Excellent thought, here is mine; because it is a secret feature of every interpreter.  Tilden wrote the six principles to help guide us to developing better interpretation.  Due to the inherent passion for the rocks, trees and history within his soul, Tilden believes the interpreter has same within their own body.  Since the trait already exists inside you, why then make it a principle?  Such a redundancy is not needed when people are naturally passionate.  Without that desire an individual would not be sharing how rocks beneath our feet were formed over millions of years or how integral moths were to pollinizing prairie plants before the introduction of European honey bees.  Passion is the crucial element to making any interpretation powerful, meaningful and successful.  It is a superpower that resides inside us all.  Interpreters just choose to share it with the world, every day of the year, through interactive educational experiences.

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