Grant holders
A man learns about the home-front efforts of the African-Caribbean community during World War II at an exhibition in Southwark. Photo Kois Miah

Getting started 

At the Heritage Lottery Fund, we encourage the projects we support to develop high-quality interpretation. This is a chance to spread the word about the importance of your heritage, and a good way to meet our requirement of helping people learn about it.

Interpretation is about much more than presenting facts and figures. It’s about communicating the stories behind heritage and helping people to relate to these. Good interpretation stimulates your audience to think for themselves and reach their own understanding of heritage.

You don’t have to spend a lot on interpretation. You may need professional expertise, but, equally, you could involve talented volunteers. Whatever approach works best for your project, the cost of putting it into action can be included in your application for HLF funding.

Aim to make your interpretation enjoyable and interesting. It should have a well-thought-out message and be easy to understand. If people understand and enjoy heritage more, they will value it and want to look after it, for example by supporting the work of your organisation.

What’s included?
Start by setting out the stories you want to tell and ideas you want to put across. Having a good grasp of what your interpretation can entail will help you put together your application for HLF funding and ensure that your project communicates with your target audience.

In catering for a diverse audience, a layered approach incorporating different types and levels of interpretation works well. Think about how your project communicates to local people, tourists, young families, special interest groups and others.

Consider combining a variety of methods and media that will encourage people to discover their own learning styles. Think also about training the staff and volunteers who will be delivering interpretation, and plan for ongoing maintenance.

Who’s included?
Your project should be accessible to the widest possible audience, and inclusive interpretation will help you make sure that everyone can learn about and enjoy heritage. You’ll need to be aware of anything that could stand in the way of people who might want to get involved. For example, it can be off-putting if text panels are very technical or lengthy, while poor lighting or small lettering can make them hard to read. Is a display too high for children and wheelchair users? What does your interpretation offer to visually impaired visitors or people who don’t read English? You should address issues like these in your planning.

Be creative
You’ll need to identify the types of interpretation best suited to your project and your audience. Professional advice can be helpful here – and this is something HLF can fund.

Good interpretation can range from high to lowtech. It includes leaflets, panels, objects to handle, simple games, British Sign Language devices, downloadable MP3 files, and much more. Some options are expensive, but if they fit your project’s aims, we may be able to fund them.

There is detailed information in our guidance documents Learning guidance and Interpretation guidance. You can also request copies by emailing or calling our helpline on 020 7591 6042.

Braille map, Imperial War Museum Duxford 

Braille map, Imperial War Museum Duxford. Photo IWM