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  • 04 July 2019 6:24 PM | Jon Kohl (Administrator)

    Bogotá, Colombia 18-19 de junio

    Ninguna destreza podría ser más crítica a la interpretación temática de patrimonio que la elaboración de temas interpretativos fuertes. Esta premisa subraya la nueva guía de campo por director de PUP Jon Kohl, The Interpretive Theme Writer’s Field Guide: A Pocket Companion to Sam Ham’s Interpretation: Making a Difference on Purpose: How to Write a Strong Theme from Big Idea to Presentation, publicada por la Asociación Nacional para la Interpretación en los Estados Unidos en noviembre. Cuenta con contribuciones de miembros de PUP Dr. Sam Ham (primera palabra), Dr. Ted Cable (segunda palabra) y Clark Hancock (nota introductoria) (moderador de la página Facebook sobre elaboración de temas interpretativos). También contribuyó el guardaparque/intérprete del Servicio de Parques Nacionales de los Estados Unidos y autor destacado Shelton Johnson (presentación). Esta misma premisa también motivó la creación de la Guía de campo.

    PUP y su oficina nacional representante, la Organización para la Educación y Protección Ambiental (OpEPA), ofrecieron un curso de 2 días para 22 personas provenientes de Bogotá, Manizales, la Amazonía, Boyacá y otros lados de Colombia. Enfocó en cómo los temas funcionan en las mentes de la audiencia, por qué los temas desempeñan un papel tan importante para la interpretación, cómo los escritores desarrollan Grandes Ideas y luego elaborarlas en temas finales, tan provocativos y fácil de leer como sea posible. La Guía de campo y el curso ambos reconocen que también los equipos y las comunidades pueden elaborar temas.

    Cada estudiante realizó ejercicios prácticos en ambos días y también un proyecto final entregado después del curso. Era un tema fuerte acompañado por una narrativa que lo defendía como fuerte según los criterios definidos en la Guía de campo.

    Jon Kohl ha escrito extensamente sobre temas, impartido cursos sobre la interpretación y, junto con el asistente del curso Carlos Rosero de OpEPA (y enlace con PUP), innovó la metodología para la elaboración del marco interpretativo la que facilita un taller de dos días con miembros de la comunidad alrededor de un área de patrimonio para crear temas interpretativos, procesos universales, elementos de patrimonio y esencia para el área en cuestión. Esta metodología ha sido adoptada por los Parques Nacionales de Colombia.

    Luego, Kohl impartirá el mismo curso otra vez en español junto al miembro institucional de PUP, la Reserva Biológica Tirimbina en Costa Rica a mediados de septiembre. En octubre, ofrecerá el mismo curso sobre cuatro sesiones en línea y luego en inglés. Todos los cursos se basan en materiales y ejemplos de la Guía de campo. La Asociación Nacional para la Interpretación publicará una adaptación Kindle en español en 2020.

    Para mayor información: u
  • 04 July 2019 6:18 PM | Jon Kohl (Administrator)

    Bogotá, Colombia 18-19 June 2019

    No skill may be more central to heritage, thematic interpretation than writing strong interpretive themes. This premise underlies PUP director Jon Kohl’s new field guide, The Interpretive Theme Writer’s Field Guide: A Pocket Companion to Sam Ham’s Interpretation: Making a Difference on Purpose: How to Write a Strong Theme from Big Idea to Presentation, published by the National Association for Interpretation in November with contributions from PUP members Dr. Sam Ham (First Word), Dr. Ted Cable (Last Word), and Clark Hancock (Note) (moderator of the Interpretive Theme Writing Think Tank), as well as from US National Park Service Ranger and acclaimed author/poet Shelton Johnson (forward). It is also the premise that motivated the first course based on the field guide.

    PUP and its national office representative in Colombia, the Organizational for Educational and Environmental Protection (OpEPA), offered a two-day course to 22 people from Bogotá, Manizales, Amazonía, Boyacá, and other parts of Colombia. It focused on how themes operate in the mind of audiences, why they play such a critical role to interpretation, how writers develop Big Ideas, and then craft them into final themes, as provocative and easy to read as possible. The Field Guide and course also recognize that teams and even communities can develop themes as well.

    Each student did practical work on both days as well as a final project delivered later which entails creating a theme and writing a narrative defense of why the theme is strong based criteria in the Field Guide.

    Jon Kohl has written widely on theme writing, taught it during interpretation courses, and along with course assistant Carlos Rosero of OpEPA (and country liaison to PUP), innovated the community-based interpretive framework methodology which facilitates a two-day workshop with community members around a heritage area to create interpretive themes, universal processes, heritage elements, and essence for the area in question. This methodology has been adopted by the Colombian National Parks.

    Subsequently Kohl will be offering the course again in Spanish in Costa Rica with PUP organizational member Tirimbina Biological Reserve at the end of August followed by a four-session, four-week online version of the course in Spanish in October and later in English. All courses rely on materials and examples from the Field Guide. The National Association for Interpretation will publish a Spanish Kindle adaptation in 2020.

    For more information write or

  • 04 June 2019 8:13 PM | Jon Kohl (Administrator)

    View of Arenal Volcano as seen from the hanging bridges of Mistico Park.

    May 14. Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) student Olivia Parrott presented her study results to Mistico Park staff in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. She tested a new assessment tool to diagnose how well a work environment might support its tour guides after they finish a training on heritage interpretation.

    Since 1964 ACM has sent undergraduates from 14 small liberal arts colleges to Costa Rica for a semester study abroad in a variety of majors. This spring Parrott, a junior from Lake Forest College, worked with her advisor and PUP executive director Jon Kohl to test a new approach that uses a holistic, integral perspective to qualify a work environment as to how supportive it may be for guides who would have graduated from an intensive interpretive training.

    Olivia presents her results to Mistico staff

    PUP has been training interpretive guides since 1997 when Kohl worked for RARE Center for Tropical Conservation. Since that time, PUP has been applying a more holistic approach to training, first during the training itself and now it has focused on the work environment as well. The premise is that too often people are trained and then return to their work environment where they meet resistance to change and lose new-found enthusiasm and knowledge.

    Kohl comments, “The former Vice President of Leadership Development and Chief Learning Officer for General Electric Steve Kerr, famously summed up the problem, ‘The golden rule of organizational development is never send a changed person back to an unchanged environment. Yet 99% of training breaks this rule.’ We decided to do some literature research and then see if Mistico was ready to take back guides trained in interpretation with the PUP Consortium.”

    Mistico Park is a family-owned business most famous for its hanging bridges that overlook Arenal Volcano in the heart of Costa Rica’s adventure tourism country. The park only opened in 2014 and invested heavily in infrastructure. Now the company is turning toward investment in its people and seeks the highest quality performance. For this reason, it will be conducting an extensive interpretation training with the PUP Consortium not only for its guides but for the entire company, again, looking at performance enhancement through a holistic lens.

    Under Kohl’s guidance, Parrott applied an objective checklist of items that a work environment could have, such as a training program, performance incentives, written contracts with clear performance expectations, etc. that would support the application of interpretive guiding. She also conducted interviews of all guides and senior staff to better understand their perspective on guiding and interpretation and how well their culture supports such an approach. Last, she evaluated the guides to see if they were applying interpretive techniques in their tours. In her presentation, she made several recommendations that the company might consider before beginning the process of training in heritage interpretation.

    Tourists take a selfie on one of Mistico’s bridges.


    For more information

  • 22 May 2019 9:47 AM | Jon Kohl (Administrator)

    After three years using a WordPress website, PUP decided to migrate and create a new website within the Wild Apricot membership software ecosystem (where you are currently viewing this press release). Given that its website was volunteer-operated, both the security concerns and the lower quality design convinced PUP to migrate its website into a service for which it was already paying.

    PUP director Jon Kohl says, “Though Wild Apricot is not as flexible as Wordpress with its innumerable plug-ins, the Wild Apricot environment is safer, easier to use, and has paid technical assistance. It also integrates better with our membership services. In the end it was a no-brainer.”

    PUP is building out the new website in phases. Given its limited resources and its need to hire an outside consultant (whom by the way is the son-in-law of an existing PUP member), Phase I only contains the essentials. PUP is now conducting an in-house fundraising campaign to finance Phase II of its website build out and is currently writing a priority list of new pages and functionality. It hopes to accomplish this over the next three or four months.

    Please check out and send any suggestions for improvement to


  • 18 September 2018 1:31 PM | Deleted user


    Congress co-organizers PUP Global Heritage Consortium and the Colegio de Michoacán of Mexico are pleased to announce keynote speakers Drs. Sam Ham and Manuel Gandara Vazquez to speak at the First Latin American Congress for Heritage Interpretation 23-25 October 2018.

    Dr. Gándara, full-time professor of museology and interpretation at the National School for Conservation, Restauration, and Museography, part of the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico City has long been regarded as one of the leading experts and promoters of heritage interpretation in Mexico. He holds two doctorates in anthropology and design and new technologies from the Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia and Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Azcapotzalco, respectively. He currently serves at the Graduate Program in Museum Studies and specializes in the application of new technology and communication strategies in museums. Dr. Gándara is a technical service member of the PUP Consortium.

    Dr. Sam Ham is widely regarded as one of the principal promoters of thematic interpretation, having earned his doctorate in Forestry, Wildlife, and Range Sciences from the University of Idaho. For many years he served as a professor of communication psychology, sustinable tourism, and international conservation at the University of Idaho’s College of Natural Resources. During that time, he developed a process to conduct heritage interpretation captured in over 400 publications and two widely acclaimed books on the topic. He has worked extensively throughout Latin America during his years of service. Today he is a professor emeritus as well as advisor for the PUP Consortium.

    Dr. Gándara will give the inaugural address and Dr. Ham will offer the final words about interpretation in Latin America during the conference that will take place the third week of October. The congress will be transmitted from seven locations in five countries through the Internet: National School of Conservation, Restauration, and Museography (Mexico City), National School of Higher Studies at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Morelia); University of Costa Rica in Grecia, Tropical Science Center in San José, Costa Rica; University del Valle in Guatemala City; Scientific University of the South in Lima, Perú; and National Learning Service training centers in Bogotá and Medellin, Colombia.

    Dr. Antonieta Jiménez, professor of archeology and interpretation at the Colegio de Michoacán and M.Sc. Jon Kohl, executive director of the PUP Consortium are coordinating an organizing committee to realize this first Congress.

    For more information visit

  • 18 July 2018 3:00 PM | Deleted user

    Fort Collins, Colorado

    PUP Director Jon Kohl signed a contract with the National Association for Interpretation’s executive director Margo Carlock on 28 June to publish InterpPress’s next book. The book is tentatively titled The Interpretive Theme Writer’s Field Guide: Pocket Companion to Sam Ham’s Interpretation — Making A Difference on Purpose: Crafting Strong Themes from Big Idea to Presentation.

    The theme-writing book will carry a special recognition to the PUP Global Heritage Consortium because of PUP’s many material contributions to the book as well as contributions from several PUP members including Kohl (author), PUP advisor Sam Ham (authorized the use of his name as the Field Guide builds on his legacy of thematic interpretation; Ham also reviewed the text and wrote an introductory note), PUP Treasurer Clark Hancock wrote an introductory note and reviewed the text, as well as PUP general member Dr. Ted Cable who wrote the Last Word. Also, the Field Guide’s foreword is written by the well-known National Park Service Yosemite interpretive ranger and author Shelton Johnson.

    About the Theme Writing Field Guide

    The purpose of the Field Guide is to be a user-friendly how-to theme-writing guide that complements the theoretical and practical foundation laid down by Ham in his two books on interpretation. It will be the first book in the interpretation literature dedicated solely to the most central skill of thematic interpretation. Another first, according to Kohl, is that the book not only describes how individuals write themes (which is the level where most other interpretive literature focuses) but how groups and communities can also develop themes about their heritage.

    PUP and NAI plan to launch the theme-writing book in time for the next NAI national conference in New Orleans at the end of November when Kohl will offer a conference presentation on the book.

    InterpPress is NAI’s own press and has published other interpretation-related books such as Interpretation by DesignInterpretive WritingManagement of Interpretive SitesPersonal Interpretation, among others.

    Kohl has published over 35 articles in all of NAI’s various publications including an article on applying the interpretive principle of TORE (developed by Ham) to resume writing in the most recent issue of NAI’s flagship publication, Legacy magazine.

  • 15 June 2018 9:10 AM | Deleted user


    Seven institutions in five countries are organizing the First Latin American Congress for Heritage Interpretation which will take place 23–25 October 2018. The Congress will be a virtual teleconference for which each country will provide one or two transmitting locations.

    Speakers will give live presentations at these locations which will be retransmitted simultaneously to all across the Congress’s Internet hub at the El Colegio de Michoacán in Morelia, Mexico. Each site will have a live audience that can interact with speakers while anyone in the world can follow the Congress from a web interface on their own devices. Inscription is mandatory, but free starting on 15 June.

    The participating institutions include the principal co-organizers El Colegio de Michoacán (Mexico) and the PUP Global Heritage Consortium (global) as well as the Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje (Colombia), Universidad de Costa Rica in Grecia and Paraíso, Centro Científico Tropical (Costa Rica), Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, Escuela Nacional de Conservación, Restauración y Museografía (Mexico), and the Universidad Científica del Sur (Peru).

    While the National Association for Interpretation of the United States has organized three of its annual international conferences in Latin America in recent years in Mexico, Panama, and Puerto Rico, the Congress’s principal organizer Dr. Antonieta Jimenez from the Colegio de Michoacán, a postgraduate social science institution, says, “This is the first time that Latin America organizes a conference by Latin Americans for Latin Americans. Further, the event will motivate the region to organize itself to promote interpretation as a professional discipline and earn a chair at the global table with other associations in North America, Europe, Australia, and other countries.”

    The Congress aims not only to organize interpretation in the region but also inform practitioners and academics who is currently doing what along three principal threads: Practical experiences, professionalization, and research and methodologies. It will accomplish this through a format that intersperses live speakers, a live interactive poster session from the Congress website, roundtable discussions, keynotes, and extended lunch breaks that will both accommodate varying lunch times in different countries as well as allow for countries to discuss the development of national interpretation associations in the hope of eventually aligning them in a Latin American interpretation association.

    Those participants who attend the majority of the Congress at one or more of the transmitting locations will earn an official Congress certificate of participation.

    The PUP Global Heritage Consortium, a non-profit international network that aspires to transform the global paradigm in natural and cultural heritage management, has among its objectives the professionalization of heritage interpretation in Latin America. Congress co-organizer and executive director Jon Kohl says, “The use of heritage interpretation as a heritage management tool that involves visitors in conservation represents another way to integrate a relatively new dimension into the management toolbox, which we consider another important step toward a more holistic approach to heritage management.” PUP has done most of its interpretation work in Latin America including the Spanish-speaking world’s only regular Spanish interpretation webinar series offered in association with America’s National Association for Interpretation. It also will co-publish the first Latin American textbook on heritage interpretation with Costa Rica’s National Distance Learning University (UNED) in 2019. This Congress, asserts Kohl, is another mechanism to widen understanding of the value of interpretation in heritage management.

    Aside from Kohl, Dr. Jimenez (board of directors), Dr. Manuel Gandara of the Escuela Nacional para Conservation, Restauración y Museografía (technical service member), and Marisol Mayorga, doctoral student at Kansas State University (technical service member) are all PUP members and co-organizers of this event.

    For more information visit or send correspondence to . Those interested in submitting proposals may do so by sending a 250-word summary to the above email address by 5 July. Inscription online begins on 15 June at the above web address. See the Call for Proposals for more details at that site or the Congress Facebook event page.
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