I love being an interpreter at the Vancouver Aquarium. If you’re unfamiliar with this job title, you’re not alone. Interpreters lead all of the shows and other public programs at the Aquarium, guide the behind-the-scenes tours and animal encounters, and help answer your questions in the galleries. Every day I spend here is an adventure, and provides me with the opportunity to engage with our guests from all over the world.
Every once in a while, I also have the opportunity to travel the world on behalf of the Aquarium, which I have to admit is pretty spectacular.
I was recently given the amazing opportunity to travel to Sigtuna, Sweden and present at the annual International Interpreters Conference. This conference was by far the most beneficial that I have ever attended. I was able to meet with almost 200 interpreters from 40 different countries who speak over 25 different languages, and who all share one thing in common: a passion for communication, regardless of the subject. I was invited to share the successes and challenges of the interpretive delivery team from the Vancouver Aquarium in the hopes of giving this world-wide audience new ideas that they can take and use at their own facilities.
While participating in this conference, I met some of the most inspiring and influential interpreters in the world, including:
- A Swedish woman who had such a talent for storytelling that even though we didn’t speak the same language, I knew exactly what she was saying
- A man who has been impersonating the great scientist Carolus Linnaeus for so long that if I didn’t know better, I would have believed him to be the real man himself
- And a woman who is using the power of debate and disagreement to actually bring a community together
One of my favourite things about interpretation is that it is constantly evolving. At the Vancouver Aquarium and beyond, we continue to explore new and more effective ways of connecting our audiences to our subject, and never is the importance of this evolution more clearly felt than at a gathering of interpretive experts.
At the Aquarium, interpretation is critical to helping the organization share its conservation story to our guests – whether it is the story of how porpoises, like Jack and Daisy, were rescued and rehabilitated, or the story of why we are breeding endangered frog species. This storytelling takes place during our daily shows, and throughout the galleries as our interpreters present educational talks, answer guests’ questions, and speak with key stakeholders. Given that interpretation is an ever-evolving field, we also think it’s important for us to continuously evaluate and enhance our storytelling skills.
That’s why I find that attending conferences such as this one is so important. I see conferences as an excellent way for interpreters to feel connected and supported by people who are just as fascinated as they are by the moss growing on that tree over there, or the really old building up on that hill! They provide the perfect opportunity to develop our communication skills through presentations and workshops, but also through exposure to new people, places and ways of thinking. It’s also at conferences like this that relationships are forged that will continue to shape our profession.
I count myself incredibly fortunate that I was able to participate in this conference this year, share some of the interpretive successes from the Vancouver Aquarium and bring home a whole host of new ideas to try and inspiration to share. It was a huge honour to be invited to speak, but even more so, I feel so privileged to have benefitted from the collective experience and expertise of other interpreters throughout the world, and to now have the opportunity to share this with my coworkers and colleagues in Vancouver.
Written by Nicole Cann, manager of interpretive delivery at the Vancouver Aquarium