As we prepare for the 2017 Annual Meeting in Austin, the Educators and Interpreters Affinity Group Committee is trying an experiment. We’re giving presenters who are chairing sessions with education and interpretation themes a chance to give readers a little more information about them – a teaser, if you will. We’ll share two to three sessions each week. We hope this will be helpful to prospective conference attendees and presenters alike. Please share your thoughts and comments with us!

(If you haven’t heard from us and you’d like to share a post on your workshop or session, drop a line to Sarah Jencks at [email protected])

Session: Open the Door! Approaches to Interpreting Historic Landscapes
Friday, September 8, 2  3:15 pm
Chair: Sean E. Sawyer, Washburn and Susan Oberwager President, The Olana Partnership, Hudson, NY

Olana, the country’s most intact artist’s designed environment, was created over the course of 40 years by celebrated landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church. For 49 years, Olana was presented as a historic house museum. In 2016, for its 50th anniversary, The Olana Partnership introduced regular public tours of its 250-acre historic landscape as a fundamental part of the visitor experience. Already, we have seen dramatic positive effects, including deepening the visitor experience, broadening audiences, expanding community engagement, and enhancing the site’s sustainability.

If you are interested in learning more or are already engaged in historic landscape interpretation, come join the discussion at our session in Austin. We’ll consider how historic landscapes can be key resources for addressing some endemic historic house museum issues.  Starting with a broad view of “whole place” preservation, we will discuss the planning tools that lay the groundwork for active interpretation, including historic landscape and cultural landscape reports. We’ll conclude by looking at how we launched historic landscape tours at Olana, including funding and pricing strategies, marketing,and operational issues including pricing, guide training, interpretive technologies, accessibility,and weather concerns.

Every site, no matter whether it has 250 acres or ¼ acre, has a landscape that holds keys to unlocking its deeper meaning and relevance for contemporary audiences and funders. I hope that those attending our session will look at their own sites with fresh eyes and appreciate historic landscapes as integral, rather than supplementary, to historic structures and collections.


Check out other sessions and workshops listed in our Annual Meeting Program Guide!