Her career in interpretation started accidentally, but what a happy accident! Having studied Biological Sciences and spent six months on a rainforest conservation project in Vietnam, she found that ‘Millennium Money’ was being spent on a new visitor attraction in Bristol, UK, which would house a tropical botanical house as part of a biodiversity exhibition, along with hundreds of live animal exhibits and an innovative mix of multimedia and hands-on exhibits to interpret life on earth. It was due to open in 2000 and sounded like the most exciting place. She got a job helping with the final stages of research and installation, which happily led on to other things. During nearly eight years there, Marie gained experience in all areas of the visitor centre business, from front of house as a guide, to training as a zoo keeper and working with the learning team to deliver engaging activities for schools and families. She worked her way to become the Exhibition Manager of an attraction that received nearly 200,000 visitors per year and developed a suite of travelling exhibitions for a family audience and some specifically for the Under 8s age range. The most important experience for her was a secondment to the fundraising team where she successfully secured over £2million for a redevelopment project and then led the team to develop the interpretation plan and implementation of it. This gave her more of an insight into the world of interpretation and how powerful it can be to engage people.
The At-Bristol Science Centre (of which the Wildwalk biodiversity exhibition was a part) made the tough decision to close Wildwalk in 2007 for sustainability reasons and Marie then moved on to become a consultant for the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT). WWT is a charity which manages ten reserves with visitor centres around the UK and Marie’s job in the consultancy was to apply her operational and interpretation experience, along with that of WWT’s more than 70 years’ experience, to help others all over the world to develop visitor centres and interpretive programmes to engage people with the natural world whilst minimising disturbance to wildlife. For nearly nine years, Marie got to travel the world and help to deliver some great projects, including the Cors Dyfi 360 Observatory in the only UNESCO Biosphere in Wales, Ballycroy National Park and Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre in Ireland, a trail for the Vallee de Mai UNECSO World Heritage Site in Seychelles, and masterplans for sites in the UAE, Kuwait, Oman, South Korea, China, the USA, Uruguay and many more countries. During this time, Marie delivered training workshops in visitor centre planning and interpretation and kept her own professional development topped up by attending sessions through the UK Association for Heritage Interpretation (AHI), Visitor Studies Group (VSG) and Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP). She was very happy to mingle with like-minded interpreters at the IE conferences in 2015 (Krakow, Poland) and 2013 (Sigtuna, Sweden) and the US National Association for Interpretation (NAI)’s international conference in Sokcho, South Korea in 2009.
Marie now runs her own company, called Zebraproof, and offers proofreading and copyediting in addition to interpretation planning, exhibit design and installation. Having previously volunteered to assist with proofreading for IE conference material and newsletter articles, she is pleased to have accepted the official role of News Coordinator and looks forward to hearing from you all and helping to keep you all up to date with IE news.
When not at her desk, Marie will most often be found visiting museums, zoos, wildlife parks and heritage sites or outside enjoying a walk, mountain biking or floating above it all in her hot air balloon. You can contact her at [email protected]
To cite this article:
IE Management (2016) ‘Marie Banks is IE’s new News Coordinator’. In Interpret Europe Newsletter 3-2016, 21