Can interp open your eyes?

Guest post by  Sue Hill, Senior Ranger, Northern Parks, Auckland Council

When my father turned 80, my partner and I flew off to the UK to celebrate with my family. We then spent the next three months travelling around Europe, mostly by train.

Concentration Camp Gate. We’re not photo people. But whenever I could tear my eyes from the view from the train, I scribbled in a book that is now as well-travelled as I am. And among those scribbles were my thoughts and impressions of some of the ‘hard to tell‘ interpretation we encountered.

I took a special interest in the huge variety of interpretation we came across. Jorvik in York was fun but almost like Disneyland with animatronics and slightly bored humans dressed as Vikings. The SS Great Britain display in Bristol took us under the hull of the ship thanks to a plate glass “ceiling” with 10cm of the River Avon above our heads. The sounds of scurrying rats and creaking decks and migrants’ voices made us wonder how whole families managed to remain sane in the weeks it took to get to Australia.

Prague was stunning. Paris was  cold. I’d live in Hamburg. Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp made us ashamed of humankind.

Anne Frank diary. Anne Frank’s house hit us like it must hit everyone and invited us to express our opinions about human rights and freedoms.

But the Warsaw Uprising Museum left us reeling. A heartbeat thuds from a central pillar reaching up through the converted factory building. All of your senses are assaulted. Machine guns, explosions, photos, film. The voices of ordinary people, who did not discuss whether or not it was wise to resist the invading Nazis, but just resisted – men, women and children alike. Then when the war neared its end and the Allies began to split Europe between them, Poland was handed to the Soviets and they endured even worse horrors.

The museum does indeed assault the senses, and I’d not  consider preparing displays like these – it’s just too much – but it does convey the suffering of the Poles in those extraordinary times.

We had something more walking around with us that day, the best sort of interp. Marak is 58, same age as me, so he doesn’t remember the war years. But his parents did, and he lived through the Soviet years when Pole was turned against Pole.

My mother was a child in an English village during the war. Evacuee children lived there, and she remembers watching planes performing above – not  acrobatics but dog-fights. But England didn’t face that sternest test – Nazi invaders. And speaking as one who was born there, I wonder whether the English would have reacted like almost every Pole did, or whether the cacophony the Museum tries to represent would have cowed us.

Can interp open your eyes? Yes, it can.

Note: Last days to register! “Hard to tell, hard to sell” – INNZ Spring Workshop and AGM in Christchurch close-off date is this Friday 7 September. 

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