Interpretation: welcome to our world – #NAIINNZ

As I reflect back on the NAI INNZ International Conference that was held in windy Wellington last month, I come to the realisation that I am yet to meet an interpreter I didn’t like.

Over 130 people from all over the world gathered in one place. They came from parks; they came from museums; from India, American Samoa, Hawaii, Mongolia, Australia and the UK, nature guides and educators, designers, researchers and practitioners. They were there to share their passion for interpretation.

Our opening powhiri at Te Marae in Te Papa set the welcoming tone that permeated the rest of the week. Keynote speaker Ethan Angelica from Museum Hack was personable, entertaining and inspirational as he shared his experiences delivering bespoke museum tours to Millennials. I loved that he got us out of our chairs to do activities, including creating our own ‘meet cute’ between googled artists. Puawai Cairns, Curator Contemporary Maori Culture at Te Papa started her presentation with the words “this is my first keynote and I feel quite flash!” She then took flight with words, switching between reading her formal paper and throwing out some kiwi slang as she explained the duality of being “on both sides of the contact zone”, “attached and detached, an inside double agent.” So many of her words resonated throughout the room, as she described how she used interpretation as a the tool to represent the importance of Maori participation, not just content but Maori ways of thinking; sometimes by stealth;

“”I look at the museums as a reflection; if they can’t see themselves in it, then we are not doing enough.”

The huge breadth of presenters meant making a choice on which session to attend very challenging. I do believe those kiwis that presented held their on in this international forum and I was personally inspired by Rachel Keenan from Otago Museum. Other personal highlights was Lisa from Delaware’s thorough and informative session on Digital Storytelling- social media for interpreters where she regaled us with facts such as “the average person has a 0.7 of a second attention span, a goldfish has 0.8” and Cal from Canada’s session on Interpreting other people’s heritage, which despite describing experiences from the other side of the globe, was the same familiar fears that we all face whenever we try to tell a story that is not our own; “cultures are not homogeneous, talking to one person is not going to give you the whole story.”

And weaving us all together with song, story and prayer was the amazing, talented Joe Harawira.

Knock and door will open
Seek and you will find
Ask and you’ll be given
the keys to this world of mine’

The conference finished with a World Café style session on the idea of creating and International Federation of Interpretation. It was a great chance to brainstorm with like-minds bursting with ideas on how to make this concept a reality. One thing’s for sure, it definitely needs its own theme song!

Thank you to our partners in this event, NAI, who chose to bring their annual international event to Aotearoa. It was a great experience to collaborate with you and surreal to finally meet in person people that I had only met over social media. Until next time, ka kite ano.

International Heritage Interpretation Organisations
Association for Heritage  Interpretation
National Association of Interpretation (NAI)
Interpretation Australia Association (IAA)
Interpret Europe
Interpret Canada
Bulgarian and Romanian Interpret Heritage Association
Associação de Interpretação do Património Natural e Cultural
Asociación para la Interpretación del Patrimonio

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Interpreting the heritage of New Zealand