Heritage and Hermeneutics: Towards a Broader Interpretation of Interpretation

Current Issues in Tourism 12 (3):209-233 (2009)
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This article re-examines the theoretical basis for environmental and heritage interpretation in tourist settings in the light of hermeneutic philosophy. It notes that the pioneering vision of heritage interpretation formulated by Freeman Tilden envisaged a broadly educational, ethically informed and transformative art. By contrast, current cognitive psychological attempts to reduce interpretation to the monological transmission of information, targeting universal but individuated cognitive structures, are found to be wanting. Despite growing signs of diversity, this information processing approach to interpretation remains dominant. The article then presents the alternative paradigm of hermeneutics through the works of Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Heidegger and Gadamer, to provide a broader interpretation of interpretation. This not only captures the essence of Tilden’s definition but construes heritage interpretation as a more inclusive, culturally situated, critically reflexive and dialogical practice.
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