Of course you want to keep your main thing the main thing. But the rainforest is a hot topic, and every school child studies the amazing resources, especially wildlife, of the rainforest. How can you include the rainforest in interpretation of your site? (There are lots of questions to answer before you get here, like why not focus on who and what you are and have rather than push off into interpreting a region thousands of miles away that you can’t reach out and touch. But I’m going somewhere else now so give me some latitude.) Surely interpretation of rainforests would attract schools to your site (even though you don’t have a rain forest). So how do you do that? What’s the value? What’s the connection?
AH – connections. A primary objective of interpretation is to be site specific – interpret your site, relate to your site, reveal your site’s resources and stories, provoke your visitor to think about the meanings and values of your site, develop a sense of place about your site.
So how can we connect our site with the rainforest? Maybe we can discover something by using Eulerian Circles. Wikipedia tells me that Leonhard Euler invented these diagrams in the 18th century, based on 13th Century work of Ramon Lull. Nothing new here – well, one thing, today we call them Venn diagrams. John Venn presented a paper on them in 1880 in which he significantly broadened the uses of the Euler diagrams. Venn himself did not use the term “Venn diagram” but kept speaking of “Eulerian Circles.”
Venn diagrams are fun, and helpful. They can grow to be amazingly complex, but I use them in their simplest form – a couple or three overlapping circles where a category of things is assigned to each circle. Items common to both categories are placed where the circles overlap – you’ve found commonality.
Back to the rainforest example: Say you have a landscape in the southeast US. Draw two circles that overlap. In one circle, list resources of your site, in the other list resources of the rainforest – does something of significance overlap? What is found in your site that is also found in the rainforest?
- Plants? Maybe a few, if so there must be some stories about importing plants, maybe exotic, invading species – that may be an important topic with a rainforest connection.
- Mammals? Not much. A general program on mammals works, but if you are doing that, don’t go to the rainforest, use our own mammals as examples and build appreciation of animals where you live, not those off somewhere.
- Snakes? Same as above.
- Birds? AH-HA! You have many of the same birds … birds are dependent upon habitat … and habitat is a very important story. Neo-tropical migrants depend on BOTH places.
When you interpret the neo-tropical birds of your site you can include the value of healthy forests, the temperate forest and the rainforest. If the rainforest habitat disappears your neo-tropical birds will never return to your site, if your habitat, the temperate forest, is tragically altered the neo-tropical birds that summer here will never return to the rainforest. This is an important story in which the resources of your site and the resources of the rainforest are intertwined. Here you can legitimately hang your interpretive hat. You are not ‘fudging,’ not pushing to be something you are not. You are interpreting your main thing – the value of your resource and the value of caring for habitat. Your visitor can stand at your site, reach out and touch the trees and be connected to the success of life in the rainforest, and that can be powerful interpretation.