5. Interpretation should encourage visitors to get involved and give them opportunities to take control of their own experiences.Exhibits and signs that are interactive or require visitors to participate in some way help to personalise the information being presented. Visitors become involved in the activity, and as a result, tend to really think about and respond to the materials being presented. Good interpretation makes the topic 'come alive' and may also impact on the emotions, attitudes and values of visitors.
Interpreting emotional and/or controversial issuesIn the past, great care has been taken to present controversial and/or emotive issues (such as wars, cultural heritage, environmental/industrial conflicts) from a factual or neutral perspective. For example, war museums often interpret the weapons or 'toys' of war rather than the human impacts of the conflict. Recently, however, there has been a trend towards using a more emotive approach to interpret controversial topics. Such interpretation is referred to as 'hot' interpretation because it engages visitors' emotions and challenges their values. It is specifically designed to provoke emotive responses, and goes beyond simply relaying neutral, 'cold' facts.
The key to designing effective 'hot interpretation' is to confront rather than avoid emotive and controversial issues. Thus, by presenting different perspectives, interpreters can:
It is argued that this form of interpretation can contribute towards reconciliation, healing and community development. To do this effectively, however, interpreters must be sensitive to the ideas and values of both their visitors and the different interest groups and stakeholders. Wherever possible, interpretive content should incorporate community views. Furthermore, the themes, stories and facts should be negotiated with community groups prior to implementation. It is particularly important that any cultural restrictions on dissemination of information be respected.
Below are some examples of hot interpretive signs - note how contentious issues have been confronted rather than 'glossed over'.