Philosophy & Practice
Ron has a varied portfolio divided between interpretive planning and preparation of interpretive media including writing and editing exhibit content, interpretive trail sign content, interpretive brochures, and interpretive audiovisual programs.
Ron’s clients are equally diverse. He has worked on interpretive projects for more than 80 units of the National Park Service; completed jobs include more than 60 Long-Range Interpretive Plans. He has worked with multiple exhibit designers to provide interpretive text for more than a dozen museum exhibits with both natural and historic storylines. More than 50 wayside exhibits, in place along interpretive trails from New York to California, have content that Ron provided.
Ron often works as a member to a larger planning team, providing interpretive expertise to landscape architects, city planners, publishers, state and county parks, and historical societies.
For each interpretive medium—whether it is an exhibit, audiovisual program, or publication—Ron focuses on the qualities that make the technique effective.
Ron works with each client to define interpretive storylines and express them in practical objectives that provide a blueprint for implementation. Interpretive text for museum exhibits, publications, and waysides exhibits is rigorously concise and descriptive, written in active not passive voice. As interpretive principles advise, Ron’s written copy provokes visitor interest and makes both emotional and intellectual connections with readers. All of Ron’s interpretive content links storyline to contemporary relevance—interpretation always answers a basic spoken or unspoken question. So what? Why should readers care?
For many interpretive projects, Ron suggests visual content that complements the words he writes. Large images attract the attention of casual viewers walking along a trail. Sidebars, short stories with human interest, illustrate the primary message with an engaging example. Image captions reinforce each exhibit’s expressed objectives. Because all components of an interpretive project like a wayside exhibit must function as a unit, Ron prefers to stay involved from beginning to production.
Ron’s approach to each project is highly collaborative. For example, he uses a step-by-step approach for all interpretive planning projects. He gathers input and feedback from a client and the client’s stakeholders and partners early in the process and along the way to project completion.
Step One involves the collection and review of existing planning materials and basic resources.
Step Two engages the client, stakeholders, and partners in discussions that define a project’s stories, audiences, and audience experiences and activities.
The planning proceeds to Step Three—development of recommendations—only after a firm foundation exists.
The Final Step creates a roadmap for action with a projected schedule that is easy for a client to track and update. If the interpretive plan is well done, it provides a framework that will guide decision-making over several years. As opportunities arise, even unexpectedly, a Long-Range Interpretive Plan should function as a yardstick for measuring each new idea.
Although planning documents require a different voice, many of the elements of style used for interpretive writing apply. Ron’s plans are concise with bulleted actions that stand out for easy review and use. Ron keeps specialized language to a minimum, preferring to express ideas with words that are accessible to all readers.
Ease of use, enjoyable but provocative reading, and tightly defined messages are hallmarks of good interpretation, and touchstones for all of the interpretive products in Ron’s portfolio.