Can interpretation change the world?

Belfast Conference review
13 October 2016
“Can Interpretation Change the World?” – The Art of Making a Difference

Belfast 5th to 7th October 2016

This was my first Aautumn-newsletter-carousel3HI Conference, and I approached the rather impressive Hilton Belfast with a sense of trepidation, uncertain about the coming few days and whether a newbie like myself would be out of my depth, bored to tears, or both.I needn’t have worried.

At the initial workshop event, the eminent and rhymingly-monikered Sam Ham, Professor Emeritus and all round Guru put everyone at ease with his opening statement “I know what you’re all thinking: Did my parents have a sense of humour?” and we were off.This really set the tone of the conference; deep knowledge lightly worn (with a sense of humour), happily and openly shared with all comers.

The papers and conversations over the next two days built on this. The conference sponsors (Mark Leslie from Martello Media and Andrew Todd from Tandem) used their papers not for any hard sell, but to highlight the challenges, pitfalls and opportunities in interpreting aspects of Irish History through their recent exhibition work. It was a pleasure to hear about live projects that were so cleverly, sensitively and impressively realised.

Other more academic papers were no less inspiring. Sam Ham effortlessly demonstrated why he’s held in such high regard all over the world, prowling and eyeing the room delivering thought-bombs like “Everyone is capable of doing the ‘right thing’ – but for their own reasons”.

Dr Antonietta Jimenez came all the way from Mexico to talk about recognising universal, shared human values in ancient cultures, developing the theme to a conclusion that came across something like ‘mankind constructs and uses stories as group therapy to cope with crises’, which blew me away.

Apologies I haven’t mentioned all the papers; all are deserving of mention and all (at least) provoked thought and inspired action, even if that action was only to babble incoherently about them over dinner with similarly enthused and inspired delegates.

Oh and we managed to squeeze in a couple of in-depth, exclusive, behind the scenes tours of the incredible Titanic Experience and the Ulster Museum.

autumn-newsletter-carousel2I can’t wait to take my place amongst the seasoned conference veterans next year, attempting to follow the example set to me this year by being as warm, welcoming, enthusiastic and thought provoking as possible…

Thanks to all the AHI trustees and organisers

Howard Swift