Friday, May 23, 2014

Tools of Trade: Interpreting the Tools or Interpreting With Tools?

One of the biggest challenges facing historical interpreters in the field are the tools we use to interpret our stories.  Often we get hold of the latest new fandangled tools and we allow those to dictate what or how we interpret.  In other words, we have a tendency to interpret to what's in our hands - be it a weapon, or a camera, or a computer, instead of using what's in our hands to help us interpret broader stories.

We see this all the time with historic weapons programs  at federal, state, and private sites all over the country.  It happens with social media too - there's a new trend, service, program, hashtag, or a new meme and we tend to want to jump on board with it "just because" that's what you do.  Like kids at Christmas, we decide to create that new Instagram or Twitter feed.  Next thing you know we're just posting because it's there and not using it to interpret or reach new audiences.

The tool that we (I) are perhaps most guilty of doing this with are our cameras.  We fall into two traps.  The first is that we either think that we cannot create interpretive content for our web presence because we either (1) don't have the right equipment or (2) the talent.  Or the second trap is that we allow those cameras and software to drive what we do instead of using these tools to interpret. 


The first trap is easily overcome.  You have the tools.  We all have the tools.  You have a camera phone or a point-and-shoot camera.  You can get freeware video or photo editing software.  Heck - Elizabeth shot, edited, and shared this video entirely from an iPhone using the less-than-$5 iMovie app.  It can be done.  If you're an interpreter, simply take the interpretive things you're saying or doing and put them on film!

The second trap we fall into is probably easier to slip and more common.  We get that nice camera or software and we suddenly forget how to interpret.  Our tools become a crutch.  We take a pretty picture and our interpretation becomes "LOOK A PRETTY PICTURE!"  I am guilty of it, too.  For evidence of my guilt in doing this see Exhibit A - the quintessential, non interpretive, look-a-pretty-picture post.  We get that new camera - maybe it's a GoPro and it turns into lets just post cool pictures or video from new locations.  And then we keep doing it because people like it.  It's ok to do this occasionally, but what if we make this pictures interpretive?  If I could go back in time the caption for that photo post might read: "While we may enjoy the pretty fall colors, it was a different story in 1864.  The changing of the seasons brought more death as healthy prisoners were evacuated.  Both leaves and men fell by the score."
 
Even an aesthetically-pleasing photograph
can incorporate meaning.
We can overcome these traps.  The technology is available to us.  We can take our content, even the pretty content, and make it interpretive. As interpreters, what if we approach creating videos or photos with the same interpretive goals and language that we would in our formal talks and programs? 

Stay tuned, as we will be using the next several posts here to uncover ways we can use audio and visual resources as interpretive tools.


*As always, all content on here was developed and written on my own, personal time. All opinions shared are my own.
          

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