Without even trying, I managed to fit in a couple of interpretation hotspots over the Christmas/New Year break. One in Whangarei and one on Aotea/Great Barrier Island.
The first was in the Whangarei Town Basin which my friend Susan and I explored one hot sunny day. We discovered the ‘Heritage Trail and Art Walk’ there, which runs alongside the waterfront out to the end of the Hīhīaua Peninsula.
The array of interpretation panels along the walkway give a detailed background of the rich Maori and European history of the area. This includes the history behind the name Whangarei (involving twins from the Waikato and a kārearea/falcon), and the other name which the area is also known as – “Te Terenga Parāoa” or “the gathering place of the sperm whales”. From missionaries first explorations into the area by boat in 1823, to 1985 when French agents moored their yacht ‘Ouvea’ at the Basin, prior to sinking the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland. Check out the story boards on the Whangarei District Council website.
From an interpreter’s perspective it was difficult to take in so much information along a walkway. The text-heavy panels had fantastic content, but I wondered about your average visitor’s attention span.
Also along the walkway were some interesting council ‘don’t’ signs, which I thought were a novel use of colour and font.
A key part of the trail were a number of unique sculptures worthy of the twenty minute stroll. The “acclaimed Waka and Wave” sculpture was certainly a drawcard at the end of the walk, with stone used to imitate huge waves and the journey of the waka, also made of stone.
A couple of weeks later Susan and I traveled to Aotea/Great Barrier Island. And the best interpretation treat awaited me there! Susan has spent the last couple of years as a ‘SLIPs’ Project Manager (small local improvement projects) for Auckland Council on GBI and Waiheke, working with the local boards. She was keen to show me her proudest interp project which was carried out with the help of Jan Ramp from Snapper Graphics (who also said it was one of his favourite projects of 2013).
As we wandered through the stunning reserve behind Okiwi School we discovered the interpretation that lay waiting. Jan had asked the school to supply some images around the themes the students had decided on after a site visit. But what came back was so fantastic that they decided to use the artwork outright, and simply display it fittingly. Local artist Raymond Brough made wooden ‘books’ on stands which open to reveal an artwork. There are an number of the books on stands placed around the reserve in a way that leads you alongside the stream, stops you beneath mature native trees, and invites you to look, listen and enjoy. The drawings and text are delightful, heart-warming and impressive. Check out Jan’s blog on Behance for more!