The Centre for Environmental Interpretation, in Britain, offers the following explanation for interpretation: “Interpretation is the art of explaining the meaning and significance of sites visited by the public.
There are three elements:
- A specific site of natural, historical or cultural value is involved and is being, or will be, experienced at first hand by the visitor.
- The visiting public, whether tourists, day visitors or local residents, are making a recreational visit.
- The organization or individual interpreting the site aims to generate a concern for its conservation and/or to encourage an understanding of the process and activities taking place.”
Interpretation leads to an increased understanding and appreciation for the site visited. This increased respect aids in the conservation, protection and management of the resource. It is also believed that an increased understanding of the landscape and its natural and cultural heritage leads to an enhanced experience for the visitors. There are three basic conditions for a successful interpretive site:
- The site is unique and authentic.
- The site is capable of sustaining visitor pressure.
- The potential exists for substantial visitation
Fort La Tour – Courtyard & Interpretation Centre
All three conditions exist for interpretive development at Fort La Tour. The story is world class in appeal, documenting a critical juncture of cultures. Aside from the historical significance, the story also has human intrigue laced with interesting personal relationships. The site is very capable of sustaining visitors without destruction of the resource. Saint John is already a tourism destination for those looking for a heritage experience. The development will elevate the site from its present obscurity.
The more graphic, visual and interactive the Fort La Tour experience, the more likely it is that visitors will remember it and promote it through word of mouth. The following interpretive programme has been proposed to make the experience memorable and worthwhile:
- Commemorative cairn – National Historic Site
- Grass footprints of building sites on the mound
- Reconstitution of the fort complex with buildings, courtyard and palisades
- Displays and exhibits of the trading post in the fort
- Artifact exhibits at New Brunswick Museum
- Special events programming – concerts, celebrations, picnics, re-enactments, guided tours
- Potential for Aboriginal peoples experience through storytelling, dance or sale of crafts
- Demonstrations of cooking/baking, craftsmanship, lessons on proper etiquette from the period, experience a trading exchange for goods