For interpreters, learning never stops

Interpreting along the river course in the exhibition, Image: Ivana Zrilić


A CIG course was held at the Between Two Waters Visitor Center and we share perspectives from the conservation manager as well as the IE trainer.

Firstly, from Mihaela, who is the conservation manager at the Between Two Waters Visitor Center in Križovec and who attended the CIG course in spring:

Although I have been involved in heritage interpretation for more than 15 years, the IE Certified Interpretive Guide (CIG) course has given me a new perspective.

As a geographer, I have travelled intensively since my student days. I like to discover new regions and interpret them to others as a tourist guide. Over time, I became more and more focused on my region’s heritage, my doctoral thesis in geoheritage interpretation, the creation of the Between Two Waters Visitor Center, and the training and support of new tourist guides for my region. At the same time, I visited more than 20 U.S. national parks, 100 visitor centres and interacted with National Park Service park rangers. In 2018 I completed the IE Certified Interpretive Planner (CIP) training course, but the CIG course that I attended with my colleagues this spring confirmed how well designed it is – both for someone who has experience in interpretation and interpretive talks like me, and for someone who is new to the heritage interpretation profession.

For the experienced, it confirmed the essence and for colleagues with no prior experience, it gave a very good foundation for further work in heritage interpretation. Our trainer motivated us to interpret our heritage in even more creative and interesting ways. All participants from Between Two Waters Visitor Center agreed on one thing – It is the most useful training in which we have participated. We casually learned the relevant terminology and improved our skills. Today, we actively use the new-found knowledge and skills both in the Between Two Waters Visitor Center as well as on educational walks in the Međimurje nature region. Feedback from our visitors confirms our quality upgrade!

And, what did Ivana, our IE trainer, feel about this CIG course?

When I got the phone call from Between Two Waters Visitor Center (Winner of BigSEE Tourism Design Award 2021 – Architecture and design as experience, interpretation center Med dvemi vodami, Međimurje Croatia) asking if I was interested to provide an IE training course, I was excited and I accepted the challenge, thinking it would be an honour to be a part of this group of nature oriented professionals. Since I was born in Zagreb, I have always been surrounded with monuments and always worked in cultural heritage sites and now it was time for nature. I spoke with another IE Certified Interpretive Trainer, Kristian from Norway, and heard some brilliant advice: relax, the participants won’t all be experienced professionals. We have to make nature heritage relatable for ‘normal’ people, for the world. And I knew that the IE CIG course teaches us to facilitate the techniques of interpretation and the phenomena for interpreting are always around us, no matter where we are and who our audience is and who the participants of the training course are.

The visitor centre is located in the old building of a former lodge. The main topic is the interpretation of nature and the location where two rivers – Mura and Drava – intersect. The exhibition displays interactive mechanical and multimedia content and illustrations presenting the natural phenomena and cultural heritage of Međimurje. The scenography of the exhibition is set to present a stylised landscape of the course of the river, whose parts function as interpretative exhibits. A log cabin named My Oak Adam is located outside the centre together with a playground, holding toys and games along a fluid promenade reminiscent of the river course.

We discovered animals, plants, a hotel for insects. We played in the green area surrounded with forest and rivers and it was really nice to be active, challenging ourselves, and I learned so many things about snakes, beaver, deer, and more.

During the course, we visited several locations, such as Dr Rudolf Steiner Center, important for bio dynamic agriculture, Waldorf education, anthroposophical medicine, architecture and painting. We went to the Mura River and in the area around the mill on Mura, found out about the interesting nature that surrounds it. We had some time to visit an endangered breed of Međimurje horses and we visited the old house (hiža) in Frkanovac, which was built more than one hundred years ago in the spirit of the tradition of the Međimurje region. It is a well-preserved example of rural architecture in Međimurje. Reconstruction and conversion of the house, the associated farm building and land, created an educational and research centre dedicated to butterflies and significant habitats of plant and animal species of the upper Međimurje.

In the Kajkavian dialect, the word matul is used for the word butterfly, and the word grunt for a property. Therefore, in the spirit of Međimurje Kajkavian, the centre was called Matul’s grunt. It is located in an area of Natura 2000 ecological network, not far from the Bedekovićeva graba site. Matul’s grunt contains a space for living and creative work, a permanent art exhibition about the meadows and butterflies of upper Međimurje, as well as a space for lectures and workshops. The old house in Frkanovac is a place of residence for naturalists, researchers and artists.

Providing this CIG course was such a great experience and I am pleased they have discovered some new techniques to incorporate into their life and work and new visitors are happy. One family reported that after three hours in the centre their children still didn’t want to go home. That is why a modern centre and interpretive guides with new skills can help make unique experiences. The spirit of any place is important and will leave a mark on the visitors.

Our education really never ends.

Mihaela Mesarić is an applied geographer working as conservation manager at the Between Two Waters Visitor Center (www.med-dvemi-vodami.info). She also teaches touristic geography to students and new tourist guides at the Polytechnic of Međimurje in Čakovec. You can get in touch with her at: mesaric@medjimurska-priroda.info.

Ivana Zrilić is an IE Certified Interpretive Trainer. She is a licensed tourist guide for several Croatian regions and since February 2017 has been working as a mentor/ teacher in the Lifelong Learning of the Baltazar University in Zagreb, sharing her knowledge and more than 20 years’ experience in guiding with new generations of tour guides. You can contact her at: ivana_zrilic@yahoo.com.

To cite this article: Mesarić, Mihaela & Zrilić, Ivana (2021) ‘For interpreters, learning never stops’ in Interpret Europe Newsletter 2-2021, 17-18.

Available online: https://interpret-europe.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Newsletter-Summer-2021.pdf

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