Winners from 2015
We are delighted to announce the results of the AHI 2015 Discover Heritage Awards – for excellence in cultural and natural heritage interpretation in Britain and Ireland. Congratulations to all recipients of an award - winners, runners up and commended entries.
The AHI Discover Heritage Awards 2015 are sponsored by Geosho.
AHI’s Interpret Britain and Ireland Awards Scheme ran for 23 years until 2007, recognising innovative and inspiring interpretation. Past winners make great case studies. You can see the sites that won Awards in 2007 below.
The Interpret Britain and Ireland Awards were generously supported by:
- Countryside Council for Wales
- Scottish Natural Heritage
- English Heritage
The 2007 Interpret Britain and Ireland Awards were presented at a ceremony at the Cliffs of Moher Experience, Co Clare, in November 2007. Frank Kelly, the actor best-known for his performance as Father Jack in the comedy series 'Father Ted', was AHI's guest of honour and presented the certificates to the winners.
The details of each Award and Commendation winner give the text of the original judges' comments.
This visitor centre serves Ireland’s most-visited natural heritage site which welcomes a million visitors a year. It succeeds magnificently in offering world-class visitor and interpretation facilities that are housed inside a building hidden below the contours of the cliff-top hill. It makes no detrimental visual impact on the environment or wild spirit of the coast. What could have felt like a ‘bunker’ experience inside is in fact well-lit, lofty and spacious, cleverly drawing visitors to explore its many different areas and to discover the many well-presented displays related to the cliffs and the wider environment.
The thematic arrangement of the exhibition areas use hi-tech, and simpler, mechanisms to explain a range of topics with interactive table-top screens showing the movement of tectonic plates, the creation of the Cliffs and climatic patterns in a novel and arresting way. The story wall presents a range of human inter-relationships with the cliffs and the relatively inhospitable environment that is home to such a variety of seabird and marine life. This is shown to great advantage in the ‘Ledge’ which gives visitors a virtual puffin’s eye view of the dizzying, vertiginous experience of being at the edge of the Cliffs.
We particularly enjoyed being taught how to play the children’s interactive computer game based around prey and predator – we didn’t survive as well as our young mentor.
In addition to the absorbing and well-considered and planned displays, the centre has excellent shops and catering facilities and very professional staff. Outside, on the real cliffs, further interpretation (including a memorable wall of riven sheets of stone) and helpful and well-informed wardens are available to provide further explanation and to engender further enthusiasm about the site. The judges agreed that, despite – or perhaps because of – the huge investment in the whole site, this was one of the best interpretive facilities they had seen.
We wish to recommend a commendation for this site, based on the attractive use of media, layering of interpretation, lots of interactivity with specific opportunities for families and children. Specific exhibits worked well, particularly, the talking heads, and there was a good variety of exhibit types. Text was quite good, easy to read and not too dense or intimidating. It looked like good value and was completed to very tight deadlines.
The reason we are not recommending it for an Award was that although the individual exhibit elements were generally very good, no overall thematic structure was apparent to us, i.e. we did not grasp any coherent idea(s) from the exhibit as a whole. There did not seem to be any logic to the exhibit layout and the key idea that Bath had a pivotal role in the development of the worlds’ postal system was not apparent at all – a significant failing. In spite of that, we feel this was a good effort in creating an entertaining and accessible exhibition which would readily appeal to its target audience. We were just not sure what they would come away with – we found it hard to define any key idea after our visit, although we could relate individual exhibits to subordinate details – we couldn’t see the wood for the trees!
This is an ambitious project that sought to replace outdated interpretation with new, inspiring displays that would communicate the importance of the site to a variety of visitors. The new interpretation sits very effectively within the overall development of the site, which includes a cafe with good food and a really fun playground. The project was clearly well researched and planned and succeeds in using a range of media to suit its different audiences. The story is told well in the visitor centre, particularly in a very exciting film. However, once out on the battlefield, the success of the storytelling is not as effective. It relies on sound guides and panels which although very well produced, do not succeed in breaking down the barrier between visitor and landscape perhaps as well as they could. We were standing right there where it happened and yet the ground itself still felt distant. Nevertheless, this is a very good project which deserves a commendation if only because my 3 year old left saying ‘I think the Norman Knights winned the game’.
‘Paws on the Moors' takes a refreshingly different approach to an issue which is often dealt with by restrictions and prohibitions. The project has clearly made good use of Kennel Club advice, and delivers clear messages in an engaging and entertaining way, using a mix of new technology and live performance skills. However, we have well-founded doubts about the size of the target audience these mechanisms are currently reaching, and for that reason are recommending a Commendation rather than a full Award.
We are pleased to see that the entrants are aware of the need for better targeting of appropriate audiences and more proactive marketing. The audience reached so far is insignificant compared with the overall number of dog owners who visit the Peak District (one in seven visitor groups has a dog according to the latest MFF-PDNPA visitor survey). The web pages are probably the most successful element of the project in terms of meeting audience needs.
We would particularly urge review and improvement of the audience survey done at the live performances, which was somewhat amateurish in both design and execution. The website would also benefit from an online evaluation form. We would draw attention to the need to update the website, which was still (in October 2007) advertising a live performance on 27 May 2007!
This display is a welcome addition to a museum whose quality of presentation is very high. It seeks to provide a permanent record of the history of the borough, which would excite and inform all ages, particularly those living nearby. This has been achieved and very good design has ensured that a story spanning a wide time frame is told well in a very small area. The judges recommend a commendation because although this is a very good and varied display, it is not particularly innovative in interpretive terms.
Following a devastating fire in 1995, Staircase House in the heart of Stockport has been fully restored to reveal its 500 year history. The restoration and interiors are of the highest quality and this project is a key part of Stockport’s urban regeneration. The team has worked hard to engage local people in the restoration and interpretation process and has invested in good quality interpretation that enhances the sense of place, combining period room interiors, an absolute minimum of text and an emphasis on sensory exploration. Interpretation is delivered primarily through the use of an audio tour, along with simple interactives and a mix of artefacts and replicas, plus regular events and activities including living history.
While we would give the restoration and regeneration elements ten out of ten, we do feel that the house does not entirely fulfil its interpretive potential for the general visitor as yet. The decision to combine recreated interiors with an audio guide, without any supporting graphic material, is a brave one and is largely effective but, as evaluation has revealed, does not fully engage all target audiences – particularly families.
Audio tours are inevitably an individual experience and, even for adults, the House tour is rather long and could have been more effectively layered – a shorter, livelier ‘snapshot’ introduction to each room would have been more engaging with more opportunities to follow up particular topics. The dramatisations were very good but came rather late on in each section and did not always add to the insight; we would also have liked a more engaging introduction and conclusion and greater encouragement to look, smell, touch, discover and ask ourselves questions about what we were seeing.
However, the rooms are excellently laid out and the route through the house, passing inside and out by turns, is very impressive. Some particularly successful elements that provided enlightenment and inspiration include the dower chest, origins of familiar phrases like ‘sleep tight’ and the restoration wall. Less successful were some of the simple interactives, which are not always fully interpretive, e.g. what are we really learning by rubbing unidentified coins and writing with a quill, when no additional insight is provided? The team could consider the use of moveable lectern-style panels in some of the rooms for periods when there are no events or guided tours taking place, to add insight for activities, provide images and discussion points, and generally to avoid an over-reliance on the audio tour. Ideally we would like to see more live interpretation and guided tours too.
To summarise, we commend the house team on their hard work in engaging the local community and working with groups and organisations to optimise access to Staircase House and its stories. We also commend them on reacting to the feedback they have received to date and working towards making the experience more engaging for families in particular. There is still a little way to go to achieve this, however, and we hope that the team is able to maintain its momentum in responding to feedback. We are therefore recommending a commendation for Staircase House in this year’s awards.