Pilot Regional course on Interpretive Planning at World Heritage properties completed its second module

The WH-Interp training course on interpretative planning on World Heritage properties held its face-to-face workshop in Kotor, Montenegro, from 11-15 October 2021. The workshop, as an essential segment of the training, convened professionals from 11 countries across South-East Europe, to develop their competencies on interpretive planning for World Heritage sites, using the natural and culturo-historical region of Kotor as a case study. 

The pilot training course on interpretative planning on World Heritage properties, a ground-breaking initiative launched in 2021 by the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe in collaboration with Interpret Europe, sheds light on how heritage interpretation can help transform the direct experience of World Heritage properties into an opportunity for personal development, and thereby enhancing the role of heritage in societies.

Overall, the aim of the course is to enable participants to contribute to the formulation and/or improvement of the holistic interpretative planning of their respective World Heritage properties, leveraging heritage interpretation to support broader site management objectives. The course particularly intends to promote a fact-based, people-centred and value-oriented approach of heritage interpretation, revealing how to lead audiences from heritage phenomena into deeper meaning. In the context of World Heritage, it is crucial to connect the implicit multi-layered values of a property, spanning from its core Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) to broader values underpinning UNESCO’s mission, such as building peace and fostering sustainability.

To achieve these objectives, the pilot course developed an extensive programme merging a variety of learning modalities through 3 progressive Modules: a preparatory phase; a face-to-face training workshop; and a post-workshop assignment for participants to start applying the acquired knowledge at their own sites.

Module 1 of the course kicked off with a 2-day introductory webinar on 17-18 May, followed by individual exercises over 4 months, starting from June to September. The online sessions introduced the core concept of heritage interpretation in the context of the aspirations, obligations and processes of UNESCO’s World Heritage Programme. Subsequently, the exercises familiarised participants with the methodology of heritage interpretation through a set of thought-provoking questions structured around the 4 qualities of heritage interpretation, namely, experience, participation, stewardship, and meaning.

The 5-day in-presence training workshop of Module 2 was the core of the entire course. Despite the challenges due to the pandemic, the workshop took place successfully in Kotor, Montenegro, from 11-15 October, with the generous support of the City of Kotor and the Montenegrin National Commission for UNESCO.

The Kotor old town, with two World Heritage inscriptions, proved an ideal case study for the workshop. The inspiring heritage context, combined with local hospitality, created conditions for participants conducive to acquiring the extensive theoretical knowledge imparted by trainers and trying out new approaches to interpretative planning in a real case study.

In return, the host city also benefited from the immediate outcomes of the workshop, consisting of interpretive planning proposals put forward by participants in their final presentations. Within the constraints of a short-term training exercise, the proposals reflected the knowledge, efforts and enthusiasm of the group by combining the information gained from the workshop activities with participants’ personal skills and experience.

This training was all that I was searching for during the last years! I understand from the Course that a World Heritage site should not only be well preserved but also be lived, promoted and shared by the entire world; this training should be replicated across the region and the concept of interpretative planning could be adopted by all sites, museums, etc.,” Klodjana Gjata from Albania.
I will apply what I learned during the Workshop by developing an interpretation plan and try to convince the managers to implement it or at least parts of it. I will certainly apply the interpretive approach in my next guided tour,” Rayna Pashova from Bulgaria.
Though many of us have already been using some segments of interpretive planning in practice prior to the workshop, we did it without any systematic theory and methodology. With the new learnings we can make the processes more specifically orientated which will lead to better final products,” Miha Varga from Slovenia.
We are designing a Heritage Center to offer visitors and the community a different way to approach our World Heritage site. The Course gave me a more complete theoretical vision to outline our project and our strategies,” Mariangela Busi from Italy.

Currently undertaking the third and final Module of the course, participants in WH-Interp are assigned with the task of drafting an interpretive planning outline for their respective World Heritage site(s), building on the knowledge gained in the previous stages, which will be further developed with distance support of experienced trainers from Interpret Europe. 

The WH-Interp course directly contributes to the implementation of the World Heritage Capacity Building Strategy, which includes interpretation among the principal learning areas for communities and networks.