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Practice-based Perspectives on the Interpretive Planning Process

Thesis by Leonor A. Colbert (2017)

Due in part to its idiosyncratic nature, interpretive planning is routinely described as both an art and a science; existing literature puts forth a significant body of guidelines, however, little research describes the gap between literature and practice. The purpose of this research was to describe how interpretive planners navigate the gap between the guidelines put forth in the literature and practice when designing for informal learning. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven interpretive planning professionals. The interview questions focused on the interpretive planning process and how it is enacted, the challenges that interpretive planners face, and how those challenges are navigated. The results showed a strong level of consistency and agreement across the participants’ practices; while the interpretive planning process is flexible, interpretive planners share a systematic, visitor-centered approach that is grounded in the existing resources, capacities, and goals of the host organization and informed by theory in a range of fields. The results of this study paint a rich picture of the interpretive planning process and how interpretive planners navigate the various challenges that arise.

Keyword: Class of 2017, museum, museology, museum studies, research, science museums, interpretive planning


Colbert, L., & Morrissey, Kris. (2017). Practice-based perspectives on the interpretive planning process. [University of Washington Libraries].