Heritage Resources Management (HERM) 561

Advanced Issues in Interpretive Programming (Revision 2)

HERM 561

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Delivery Mode: Grouped study Offered in January semester

Credits: 3

Prerequisite: None

Precluded Course: HERM 361. (HERM 561 may not be taken for credit by students who have obtained credit for HERM 361. Also, students who complete HERM 561 will not be eligible to register in HERM 361).

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

Program: Graduate Diploma in Heritage Resources Management

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HERM 561 explores interpretive programming as a specialized process that affects most aspects of museum and heritage operations, especially exhibitions and other public programming. In this course, a range of technologies and techniques are studied, including First- and Third-person Interpretation, the use of New Media, text writing for exhibitions and other applications, and Visitor Studies. All of these activities are grounded in theories about how people learn. This course introduces these theoretical and applied issues in interpretive programming through a range of readings and assignments that deal with the purpose of museum interpretation, its central concepts and terminology, as well as the significant issues and debates in the field.

Course Structure

HERM 561 is made up of ten units:

  • Unit 1: Introduction to Museum Interpretation
  • Unit 2: Informal and Formal Learning Strategies
  • Unit 3: Interpretation in Museum Exhibitions
  • Unit 4: Different Forms of Exhibition
  • Unit 5: Interpretation Using Print
  • Unit 6: Interpretation Using New Media
  • Unit 7: Bringing History Alive: First and Third Person Interpretation
  • Unit 8: Visitor Studies
  • Unit 9: Community Partnerships and Interpretation
  • Unit 10: School Programs in Museums

Course Objectives

HERM 561: Advanced Issues in Interpretive Programming introduces students to some of the basic issues and practices in heritage interpretation. After completing the course, you should be able to:

  • Explain the main types of interpretation programming used in museums and historic sites.
  • Discuss how interpretive programming contributes to the “visitor experience.”
  • Identify and describe current and emerging issues.
  • Discuss the social controversies, ethical questions, and methodologies of practice that characterize the current field of interpretive programming.
  • Identify and describe methods and approaches to interpretive programming and how they relate and form part of related activities such as exhibition planning, school programming, and public programming in general.
  • Identify and describe the objectives and methods used in evaluating visitor needs.


To receive credit in HERM 561, you must complete all assignments and achieve a course composite grade of at least C (60 percent).

Activity Weighting
Assign. 1 Participation in Online Discussions 20%
Assign. 2 Moderation of One Online Discussion 10%
Assign. 3 Writing Interpretive Text 35%
Assign. 4.Interpretation Policy Framework 35%
Total 100%

Course Materials

All course materials are available online.

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 2, November 30, 2017.

View previous syllabus