Interpretive Themes and Objectives
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In This Issue

Using interpretive themes and objectives will make your program planning easier and more effective
Featured Course
2020 Course List Updated
Conferences and Meetings
Using interpretive themes and objectives will make your program planning easier and more effective
John A. Veverka
Perhaps two of the areas where there is often the most confusion in planning for
interpretive programs or services is that of developing interpretive themes and interpretive program or services objectives. Here are a few ideas and examples that may help making this part of the interpretive planning process easier and more effective.
What is an Interpretive Theme?
A theme is the central or key idea of any presentation. When communicating with your visitors, the audience should be able to summarize the main point of the program in one sentence. This sentence would be the theme. Development of a theme provides organizational structure and clarity of purpose of the program. Once the main interpretive or story line message theme has been decided, everything you do in presenting the program or service to the audience falls into place. The main strategy then of the interpretive program is to illustrate the theme statement.
Themes should:
  • Be stated as a short, simple, complete sentence.
  • Contain one main idea if possible.
  • Reveal the overall purpose of the program or activity.
  • Be interestingly and motivationally worded when possible.
Here are some examples of themes:
-          Exploring caves is a sensual experience.
-          We manage our habitats to benefit both people and wildlife.
-          Backyard wildlife needs your help.
-          Our forest has many plants that heal.
-          Living in the Smith homestead was full of daily challenges.
-          We need to preserve wetlands for five reasons.
-          Steam engines changed our lives in three ways.
It is important not to confuse themes with topics. Examples of topics that might be mistaken for themes might be:
-          Birds of the Park.
-          Seasonal Wildflowers
-          Bird migration.
-          Cooking with native plants.
Be sure your themes are "complete sentences" - and meet the other criteria noted above.
Interpretive Objectives
Many interpretive programs or services are planned without objectives or "real" outcomes. I find it hard to successfully plan any interpretive program, service or media without clearly understanding just what it is the interpretation is supposed to accomplish.
Objectives vs. goals
There is often some confusion between the two. I usually don't use goals, as goals aren't measurable, like "it is my goal to go to Florida someday".
Objectives are outcome driven and measurable. For example, if we had the interpretive theme: "Wetlands benefit us in amazing ways." Then we need to develop interpretive objectives that would help illustrate that theme, such as: At the completion of this program all participants can identify three ways that wetlands benefit us.
This objective statement can be pre-tested with visitors to see if they already know or can name three benefits, and then post-tested after the program to see if they can name three benefits. If they can't -- the program didn't accomplish its objectives. You can't really evaluate the success of any interpretive program or service without first understanding what the outcomes - objectives - of the program or service were.
Excerpt from MS 272: Exhibit Rehab - Breathing New Life Into Old Exhibits. To learn more join John Veverka for this course starting January 6, 2020.

John Veverka has been a consultant in interpretive planning, training, and heritage tourism for 40 years. This work takes him all over the world to teach interpretation and consult on interpretive projects. He is the author of several interpretive textbooks and is the publisher of InterpNEWS, the International Heritage Interpretation e-Magazine. 
Featured Course: The Volunteer Handbook
Volunteers should be considered unpaid staff and, like a staff handbook, a
strong volunteer organization should have a volunteer handbook. This course goes beyond understanding various aspects of a volunteer program to putting the volunteer program to paper. Create an outline and some draft text for a handbook providing consistency within the volunteers as well a legal support if ever needed. 
If you have a volunteer program or are thinking about starting one this is the course for you.  A Volunteer Handbook is an essential part of any museum volunteer program.  Join Instructor Karin Hostetter for MS259 The Volunteer Handbook starting January 6, 2020.
Early Bird Discounts Available for Full Length Courses
An Early Bird Discount is available for anyone who signs up for a full length course from 30 days prior to the start of that course.  
Sign up for a full length course up to 30 days prior to its start and save $100.00!
For our course list or to sign up:  
To take advantage of this discount, you must enter coupon code EARLYBIRD at checkout at
The Early Bird Discount deadline for February Courses is January 2, 2019   
2020 Course List
Confirmed courses for 2020.  New courses have been added!   
MS010: Condition Assessments January 13 to 24, 2020     
MS 103: The Basics of Museum Registration January 6 to February 7, 2020  
MS 259: The Volunteer Handbook  January 6 to February 14, 2020
MS 101: Introduction to Museums February 3 to 28, 2020
MS 104: Introduction to Collections Preservation February 3 to March 6, 2020  
MS 235: Scripting the Exhibition February 3 to 28, 2020
MS 001: The Problem with Plastics April 13 to 17, 2020     
MS 223: Care of Metals April 6 to May 8, 2020
MS 234: Archives Management April 6 to May 1, 2020
MS 011: Gallery Guides May 4 to 15, 2020
MS 211: Preservation Environments May 4 to June 12, 2020
MS 212: Care of Textiles May 4 to 29, 2020  
MS 226: Care of Furniture May 4 to 29, 2020
MS 267: Museum Ethics July 6 to 31, 2020
MS217: Museum Cleaning Basics August 3 to 28, 2020
MS 236: Education in Museums August 3 to 28, 2020
MS 262: Moving Collections August 3 to 28, 2020
MS 219: Opening and Closing Seasonal Museums September 7 to October 2, 2020
MS 233: Matting and Framing September 7 to October 2, 2020  
MS 268: Creating Interpretive Gallery Tours September 7 to October 2, 2020  
MS 238: Design and Construction of Exhibit Mounts October 5 to November 13, 2020
MS 014: Education Collections November 9 to 13, 2020
MS 211: Preservation Environments November 2 to December 11, 2020
MS 212: Care of Textiles November 2 to 30, 2020
MS 218: Collection Inventories November 2 to 30, 2020
Conferences and Meetings
Archaeological Institute of America/Society for Classical Studies, Washington, DC
January 2-5, 2020
Society for Historical Archaeology, Boston, MA
January 8-11, 2020
California Association of Museums, Los Angeles, CA
March 4-6, 2020
Texas Association of Museums, Bryan College Station, TX
April 13-16, 2020
Museum Store Association, Cleveland, OH
April 23-27, 2020
June 21-25, 2020
Association of Midwest Museums, Milwaukee, WI July 22-25, 2020

Museums Association New York, Albany, NY
March 29-31, 2020
American Alliance of Museums, San Francisco, CA
May 17-20, 2020
Colorado-Wyoming Association of Museums, Alamosa, CO
April 15-18, 2020

Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, Edinburgh, Scotland
June 7-13, 2020
Association of Academic Museums and Galleries, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
June 17-20, 2020
Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums, Boston/Sturbridge, MA
Society of American Archivists/Council of State Archivists, Chicago, IL
August 2-8, 2020
Mountain-Plains Museums Association, Sioux Falls, SD
September 1-4, 2020

Oklahoma Museums Association, Enid, OK
September 16-18, 2020
Smithsonian Institution and Office of Protection Services
National Conference on Cultural Property Protection, Los Angeles, CA
September 21-23, 2020
American Association of State and Local History, Las Vegas, NV
September 23-26, 2020
Western Museums Association, Portland, OR October 8-11, 2020
Southeastern Museums Conference, Louisville, KY
October 19-21, 2020
New England Museum Association, Newport, RI
November 18-20, 2020
National Association for Interpretation, Saint Augustine, FL
November 10-14, 2020
International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection
Dates and Location coming soon
Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums, Wilmington, DE Dates TBA
American Alliance of Museums, Chicago, IL
May 9-12, 2021
National Association for Interpretation, Palm Springs, CA
November 3-December 4, 2021
American Alliance of Museums, Boston MA
May 19-22, 2022
National Association for Interpretation, Cleveland, OH
November 29-Decemver 3, 2022
American Alliance of Museums, Denver, CO
May 19-22, 2023

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Northern States Conservation Center (NSCC) provides training, collection care, preservation and conservation treatment services. NSCC offers online museum studies classes at in Collections Management & Care, Museum Administration & Management, Exhibit Practices and Museum Facilities Management.
Helen Alten, Director
Peggy Schaller, Publications Manager