Interpreting Peatlands for People
Interpretation is a particular form of communication. For sites which have heritage value, interpretation is often used to share stories, information or images which can convey some aspects of that value to visitor, viewer, listener or reader.
Discussions through the LEADER+ project workshop in Co. Offaly, Ireland in September 2005 showed that where you interpret peatlands will depend on the nature of the site, the story of the site and the people you want to reach.
The way you connect people with peatlands should reflect their cultural associations and perceptions of peatlands. Within the project, partner countries differed in these aspects.
Take it or leave it?
Basic decisions about location of interpretation can be made by considering how sensitive a peatland and its wildlife might be to human disturbance. If the site is very sensitive - for example because of its small size - it might be best to interpret the peatland off-site. In other words, aim to Take the Peatlands to the People.
Where a site is more robust - perhaps because it is large and can cope with visitors in one part while leaving other areas undisturbed - there can be opportunities for on-site interpretation and access. You can Take the People to the Peatlands to give them first-hand experience of the resource.
Whether your focus is on-site or off-site, good planning of interpretation should be a key part of your work
Design, delivery and review of any project can be assisted greatly by good planning. This can apply as much to interpretation as to work which involves provision of infrastructure, such as the installation of peatland boardwalks.
Before you decide where and how you are going to interpret your site, you need to assess what you wish to interpret. How might this affect your site and for whom do you wish to interpret it?
Here is a basic checklist of things to consider:
- Understand the site's cultural, historical and natural significance; what aspects of these make this peatland important?
- Identify any areas that are fragile or sensitive. If these amount to much of the site, then you might wish to Take the Peatlands to the People.
- Identify areas that are robust enough to support visitors on sites where you can Take the People to the Peatlands
- Identify your visitors. What range of ages do you wish to reach? Where do you think they will come from, at local, national and international scales?
- Understand the needs of visitors. This will mean thinking about their safety, their enjoyment and the quality of the experience you may offer.
- Identify a vision for your site (an ideal view of what the site could become).
Management for People
There are many resources available to help you plan your interpretation. Management for People (SNH 2004, Module 2) provides a toolkit for planning for people. It follows a sequence of 'Plan, Do, Review' through different stages of project creation, delivery and assessment. Where possible, this sequence has been used within this Connecting People with our Peatland Heritage website to describe key aspects of work within different partner countries.
Once you have clearly identified the needs of the site and the visitors, you can begin to match the type of interpretation you can provide to meet these needs. The arts can provide a creative way to engage communities with their peatland heritage. Go to our Hints and Tips page to find out more about working with artists, photographers, designers and craftspeople to develop your site.
Click on pictures for larger image.