Interpret Europe’s subject coordinators are responsible for specific fields of interest that play an important role in the development of heritage interpretation in Europe. At present there are seven subject coordinators leading their own teams:
- Geological Heritage Coordinator: Cristina Toma (Romania)
- Cultural Heritage Coordinator: Nicole Deufel (Germany)
- Live Interpretation Coordinator: Éva Birkás (Hungary)
- Natural Heritage Coordinator: Vida Ungar (Croatia)
- Tourism Coordinator: Vasilka Dimitrovska (North Macedonia)
- Architects Coordinator: Angus Forbes (Germany)
- Freelancers Coordinator: Igor Ianachi (Croatia)
- Gastronomic Heritage Coordinator: Max Dubravko Fijačko (Croatia)
Cristina Toma (Romania)
Geological Heritage Coordinator
Our Geological Heritage Team has the mission to inspire fun geological heritage interpretation. We bring together passionate professionals from the geological heritage interpretation field and share best interpretation experiences, create opportunities to learn and help each other.
I am Cristina Toma, born and raised in Bucharest, Romania, currently doing a PhD in geoconservation; to be specific, interpretation of geological heritage. Since 2015, I have worked in the Geopark field, first in the Buzau Land Aspiring Geopark as an interpreter, local community facilitator, sustainable development specialist and more – as it usually happens in the geoparks world. In addition, the case study for my PhD is related to the Buzau Land Aspiring Geopark. However, my first love was the Hateg UNESCO Global Geopark which inspired my dissertation paper in 2015, about the interpretation of natural and cultural heritage of an ‘industrial park’ from 100 years ago. Currently, I am working for the Hateg UNESCO Global Geopark and teaching a course on Sustainable Development in Geoparks within the geoconservation master’s programme at the Faculty of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Bucharest. I am the secretary of the Geological Society of Romania, Bucharest Branch and the secretary of the Romanian Geoparks Forum.
Nicole Deufel (Germany)
Cultural Heritage Coordinator
We research and comment on recent developments in cultural heritage theory and practice to provide commentary and information as relevant for interpretation. We aim to raise the profile of Interpret Europe and heritage interpretation as a key tool for engaging individuals and communities with our cultural heritage.
I hold a PhD in Archaeology/Heritage Studies from University College London. My doctoral research examined the impacts of the philosophy and practice of thematic heritage interpretation, using a comparative study of two sites in England and Germany. Prior to that, I completed the MSc course in Interpretation Management and Practice at UHI/Perth College, Scotland.
I first encountered interpretation in the USA, where I worked at a historic property as a tour guide and educator. After relocating to the UK, I worked in various heritage and museum contexts with a focus on audience development, community participation and social inclusion. Since my return to my native Germany, I have worked in the museum sector and am currently the Managing Director of an educational organisation, focusing on cultural education.
As a founding member of Interpret Europe, I served on its first Supervisory Committee. I have also served as Research Coordinator for IE and one term as Vice President for Policy for ICOMOS’ International Scientific Committee for Interpretation and Presentation of Cultural Heritage Sites. My research interests continue to focus on the role cultural heritage plays in (imagined) communities, how cultural heritage is ‘made’ by heritage communities, and what this means for the philosophy and practice of cultural heritage interpretation.
Vida Ungar (Croatia)
Natural Heritage Coordinator
Heritage interpretation can be a powerful tool to engage people with conservation. We aim to be a voice for people and projects who advocate for nature protection and collect examples of best practice in this field.
I have been immersed in nature all of my life: I was born to nature-loving parents and made my first steps in the hills and mountains of Croatia, expressing joy and fascination with the wonderful world that surrounded me. In the city, my natural oasis was the Zagreb Botanical Garden, where Grandma worked as managing director. She was a botanist who knew everything about plants and Grandpa was a landscape architect born to be a storyteller. Their home was in a romantic cottage inside the garden gates. Owning the key to those gates felt like being privileged to enter a magical portal where the world of nature and the world of humans met in harmony. That was the emotion that led me to choosing landscape architecture as my major at the Faculty of Agronomy. I also got a degree in Portuguese language and literature, probably answering to Grandpa’s storytelling gene. But botany remained my first love and, as I grew older, my garden expanded to the vast mountains and plains, rocks and caves, rivers and seas … And so, I found myself ‘translating’ the language of trees and rocks, rather than that of Portuguese writers. Only years later I learned that it was called interpretation: natural heritage interpretation.
As a nature guide, I started interpreting natural heritage in 2004, gradually broadening my views and scope of work through education and experience. Over the years, I’ve been working as a freelance expert on various heritage interpretation projects, collaborating with national and nature parks and the Croatian National Tourist Board, as well as regional and local tourist boards. In 2019, my passion for interpretation and learning led me to the Interpret Europe CIG training course, and I was immediately hooked. The IE approach to heritage interpretation has perfectly resonated with my personal intuition and I decided to start my own company dedicated to heritage interpretation.
I strongly believe that heritage interpretation can be a powerful tool for nature protection and for re-creating a world where humans and nature can live in harmony.
Éva Birkás (Hungary)
Live Interpretation Coordinator
Many visitors say that interaction with a costumed character at a heritage site transformed their visit and memories of the experience. Our team is a hub for experienced and budding live interpreters to share best practice and discuss techniques. Historical costume tips are also welcome!
I am a museum educator. After I finished my master’s studies at the University of Pécs, in the Department of Classical Philology and the Department of Literature and Linguistics, I began working at the Department of Classical Antiquities in the Museum of Fine Arts Budapest. Later I did a course in drama in education and became a drama teacher. I came into contact with live interpretation in 2005 when I had the chance to go on a study tour of the UK. Soon after that, Past Pleasures (UK) delivered a course in live interpretation in Budapest, in which I took part. Then, in 2008, I introduced live interpretation programmes to the Museum of Fine Arts. Given my training, I first developed Ancient Greek and Roman characters, but since then I have expanded these programmes to include other periods and collections of the museum.
Since 2015, I have been a student in the Doctoral School of Education at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. I plan to write my dissertation on how live interpretation sessions can change children’s attitudes to past people’s lives and ideas.
In 2018, I completed Interpret Europe’s Certified Live Interpreter (CLI) course.
Vasilka Dimitrovska (North Macedonia)
The Tourism Team explores fresh ideas and creates new projects in which interpretation inspires the tourism industry, highlights cultural authenticity, fosters sustainability and strengthens the interaction between visitors and local communities.
I am an archaeologist, research scientist, cultural manager and heritage consultant and have worked abroad for many years. After I finished my archaeology and art history studies at the University in Skopje, I obtained my Ms. Sci. at the University of Belgrade. My area of expertise is prehistory and I write, and publish, scientific and popular articles on heritage issues. I also participate in public debates and symposiums, giving professional consulting and heritage training to institutional, private and non-governmental sectors.
I had considerable experience in the interpretation and creative industry sector as a content creator, project and team manager even before I founded HAEMUS, the Center for Scientific Research and Promotion of Culture based in Skopje, North Macedonia, where I work as a creative director and project manager. Heritage interpretation and tourism have been a large part of my life since my university days. I love to travel and to experience places so, while I was studying at the University in Skopje, I obtained a professional licence for tourist guiding. I applied some of the main principles of interpretation to the heritage tours I have created many years before I was professionally introduced to Interpret Europe. Joining the IE crew, you could say that I finally found the roots that feel like home.
For me, interpretation is about storytelling and personal feelings, the way we remember things, irrespective of the official facts. My personal perception of interpretation, along with my vast experience and parallel working in both heritage academic circles and in heritage tourism, gave me a deep insight and helped me to establish several long-term sustainable projects such as: Scupini Romani, Grandma March Day (HAEMUS is safeguarding this tradition inscribed by UNESCO on WHL), Educative Skopje tours and last but not least, HAEMUS Travel, a social enterprise which is a creative tourist brand of HAEMUS that inspires the community through experience excursions led by heritage professionals in order to take care properly of our common heritage.
Angus Forbes (Germany)
The architecture group is interested both in the interpretation of architecture and in architecture or landscape architecture as interpretation. Our aim is to share inspiration and increase awareness in these areas.
I first became aware of heritage interpretation while running an explorers’ club for my eight-year-old son and his classmates in 2012-13. In retrospect, I can see that our excursions were just as much about me trying to put down roots and find connections in my new home-land, Berlin and Brandenburg – so different from Kenya and Scotland where I grew up.
I have a degree in three-dimensional design and another in landscape architecture. Since graduating in 1998, I have been working as a landscape architect in Berlin. After attending three or four Interpret Europe conference as an interested outsider, I began to see ways in which the philosophy of heritage interpretation could be applied to my work. In some respects, it was already there, but the overriding feeling was, and is, of lots of untapped potential. It is also challenging trying to introduce interpretation into a field where many clients have heard little or nothing about it. So, there is work to be done, both internally and externally, and I am happy to be teaming up with others who feel a similar enthusiasm for bringing architecture and interpretation closer together.
Igor Ianachi (Croatia)
The Freelancers Team is creating a network of freelance interpreters, practitioners and consultants who earn at least some of their income through contract work. You may be self-employed, employed on short contracts or just do occasional freelance jobs to supplement your main income.
You can pick from literally hundreds of reasons to become a freelancer: free to work anywhere, choose the projects you want to work on for the most common reason — being your own boss.
For past 5 years, I’ve been a freelance tour guide and founder of sibeniktour.com where I have had to balance organizational and productive relationships between tours, agencies, tourism, and other activities. Later, I become a Certified Interpretive Guide and Certified Interpretive Trainer with Interpret Europe. This helped me to add heritage Interpretation within my freelancer career.
I am three-quarters Moldavian and one quarter Ukrainian but my mother tongue is Russian; I live in the Dalmatian region of Croatia. Life is full of contradictions and mess! But like a typical Dalmatian, I like long sleeps, a ‘will do tomorrow’ approach, slow food and a glass of wine before bedtime. I can describe myself as person of three countries. I was a born, grew up and finished university in Moldova at the Faculty of Finance with a BA in finance and insurance. I started my professional career and met different cultures and people in Ireland. I became a tour guide, interpretive trainer and manager of a small hotel on the Adriatic coast of Croatia where I’ve been living since 2005.
Why a freelancer?
Some people are keen to break away from the traditional 9-5 routine and to find a work-life balance that suits them; for some this means running multiple projects. Probably, for some of you, the best thing about being freelancer is that when you talk to yourself, you can call it a staff meeting! As the Freelancers’ coordinator, I would like my team to develop its activities. A lot of your work at the start probably came through word of mouth via your friends and colleagues. We can call it networking at the start. Therefore, the best thing you can do for yourself is to meet other freelancers. There’s a real community feel within Interpret Europe and, in my experience, every person that I’ve reached out to or spoken to has been endlessly helpful. I also think that it helps if you have an area of expertise or a sector that you’re really passionate about.
Interpret Europe, with tour guides, writes, trainers, planners, interpretive consultants and heritage lovers, acts as a European platform for cooperation and exchange. With all the uncertainty that freelancing can bring, these professionals can share invaluable advice about how to build a better future successfully in freelancing within Interpret Europe.
Are you feeling inspired by the journey into the world of freelancing? If so, it’s time to consider how you can become part of a freelancer database! I believe we are never too old to reach another goal. Plato said, “Ideas are the source of all things.” With ideas, creativity, motivation, passion and experience we will help, support and advise all who are working in heritage interpretation and bring together a network of subjects for exchanging among us in our future freelancer platform at Interpret Europe.
Max Dubravko Fijačko (Croatia)
Gastronomic Heritage Coordinator
Our team would like to inspire all those who are looking for deeper meanings in our tradition, customs and food culture. We want to share experiences and good practices to find ways of meaningful interpretation through food (a great opportunity to combine tangible and intangible heritage, all in one).
From an early age (born and raised in Croatia), I considered myself a real Foodie. As far back as I can remember, the first flavours and first dishes, I have always liked to explore new food but also traditional recipes. My grandma was a chef and that had a really big influence on me. Plus, my father is a wine producer… Today, I strongly believe that food is much more than just the necessary nutrients. Food is, perhaps, the most universal element of our shared humanity.
I have been a tour manager and tour guide in my own travel agency for the last ten years. I love to share with all guests my fascination with food heritage, new flavours, practical experience in preparing homemade food and my enthusiasm. Prior to that, I used to work as a radio host and in the field of creative marketing (in the creation of videos and slogans) at several marketing agencies. I hope all these experiences have shaped me in a way that the right ingredients can make a delicious soup.
A few years ago, I discovered Interpret Europe’s approach to heritage interpretation. Wow! That really made a difference! I completed the Certified Interpretive Guide (CIG) course and then the IE course for Certified Interpretive Trainers (CIT). I have always understood tourism as a kind of ‘industry of experience’. Now, all my knowledge, special education (like WSET, 1st level diploma) and experience in enogastronomy have been taken to a higher level with deeper meanings. My enthusiasm is even greater now!
The story of food, in so many words, is the story of us. Interestingly; food is the only intangible and (at the same time) tangible heritage with which we communicate on a daily basis. It is one of the few things on Earth that one can connect with from any angle, from any background and at any level of experience.
I look forward to working with the Gastronomic Heritage Team to develop interpretive methods, exercises and approaches to the interpretation of food.
“With good friends…and good food on the board … we may well ask, When shall we live if not now?” – M F K Fisher, The Art of Eating