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In the new edition of the international bestseller Environmental Interpretation, Sam H. Ham captures what has changed in our understanding of interpretation during the past two decades. Ham draws on recent advances in communication research to unveil a fresh and invigorating perspective that will lead interpreters to new and insightful pathways for making a difference on purpose through their work.

About the Author

Sam H. Ham, PhD, is director of the Center for International Training and Outreach and professor of communication psychology in the University of Idaho''s Department of Conservation Social Sciences. Ham is the author of nearly four hundred other publications, and he is the recipient of the National Association for Interpretation Fellow Award and the University of Idaho''s Excellence in Outreach Award and Excellence in Teaching Award. In 2007 he was honored by Clemson University with the William C. Everhart Award for his lifetime contributions to environmental and heritage interpretation around the world.

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4.6 out of 54.6 out of 5
68 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Dr. David Bucy
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A must-read!
Reviewed in the United States on July 17, 2013
The list of classics in the interpretive profession just got longer. Interpretation: Making a Difference on Purpose is a ''must-read'' for anyone associated with the field, from front-line interpreters to writers, graphic designers, multi-media specialists, web-site designers... See more
The list of classics in the interpretive profession just got longer. Interpretation: Making a Difference on Purpose is a ''must-read'' for anyone associated with the field, from front-line interpreters to writers, graphic designers, multi-media specialists, web-site designers and others. With his TORE model Sam provides clear direction on how to develop interpretive strategies that captivate and communicate to truly make a difference - no small feat in a world full of stimuli competing for a visitor''s limited time and attention! But the ''how to'' is not the only valuable take-away. Sam''s explanation of why the model works, grounded in cognitive research into how the brain functions, should give interpreters confidence that they can and will make a difference by following the TORE approach.

Dr. David Bucy, Ph.D.
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Naoko Yamada
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Must have & live with for an interpreter (interpretive researcher too)
Reviewed in the United States on June 29, 2013
I wasn''t able to put this book down to get answers for my questions on effective interpretation. As I went on pages, I was thrilled at how much I had been able to learn from this book even after 15 years of my interpreter and researcher experiences. This book not only helps... See more
I wasn''t able to put this book down to get answers for my questions on effective interpretation. As I went on pages, I was thrilled at how much I had been able to learn from this book even after 15 years of my interpreter and researcher experiences. This book not only helps us to remember or reinforce our understanding of interpretation, but also makes our eyes open to a new, very helpful view of what interpretation is (and what is not). It helps us to completely understand effective interpretation with the simple TORE principle and the rationales behind it. So easy to read and understand. I recently discussed the quality of themes with interpreters in Japan and wasn''t able to provide them with a convincing explanation. Here it is! Every chapter gives us a wanted answer. I was provoked to think and personally connected to my interpretive experiences. I would use this book as a textbook for a university course and training. I believe that this book is the classic of interpretation. I greatly appreciate Dr. Ham. (I hope that many non-English speakers will get this book - high readability!)

Sam H. Ham氏による、20年ぶりの、インタープリテーションって何?という解説本。基本的なことを研究結果や理論に基づいてしっかりと理解させてくれ、納得させてくれました。前著はインタープリターで読んでいない人はいない本でしたが、これもそれの上をいく(というよりももっと分かり易い)名著になっています。これほど読みやすく噛み砕いて書いてくれるHam氏はinterpretation上手いんだろうな。日本で講演会とかやってくれたらいいな。推薦じゃなくて、必読です。読んでください!
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Malcolm Montgomery
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Discover yourself
Reviewed in the United States on January 21, 2014
In 1978, after a one-year hiatus from the University of Idaho College of Forestry, Wildlife, and Range Management, I changed my major from Forest Resource Management to Wildland Recreation Management in the Interpretation option. I had to choose a new adviser, and I picked... See more
In 1978, after a one-year hiatus from the University of Idaho College of Forestry, Wildlife, and Range Management, I changed my major from Forest Resource Management to Wildland Recreation Management in the Interpretation option. I had to choose a new adviser, and I picked Sam Ham (not yet Dr. Ham) out of the figurative hat. I was one of his earliest students. Little did I know he would become my mentor.

Years later, Sam asked if I would review the early drafts of a book he was writing about interpretation. I of course accepted the honor. What immediately got and held my attention in those early chapters and the finished book was the non-academic tone of “Interpretation: Making a Difference on Purpose”. This is not a book, I thought, but rather an extended, printed conversation over a cup of coffee where one topic blends logically into another. There is not a drop of academia in this book outside of the requisite citations. It is a coherent compilation of ideas and concepts that may have been newly born or revisited with a different take when I was in his classes but are now time-tested and backed by research.

In the course of learning and utilizing what Sam taught us about interpretation, I discovered strengths and talents I never would have guessed I had. I would wager that any reader of this book – from the neophyte like I was to the seasoned pro – will discover hidden strengths and talents as well and also enjoy the intrinsic and extrinsic rewards afforded by such discovery.

Malcolm Montgomery, Washington State University
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Steven Randolph
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Another Homerun for Sam Ham
Reviewed in the United States on July 13, 2013
This is probably the most important book ever written on the subject of interpretation. It is incredibly thorough,yet engaging. I found it not only enjoyable to read, but solidly grounded in the empirical research on free-choice learning and communication. That''s a rare... See more
This is probably the most important book ever written on the subject of interpretation. It is incredibly thorough,yet engaging. I found it not only enjoyable to read, but solidly grounded in the empirical research on free-choice learning and communication. That''s a rare combination! Museums,botanical gardens, zoos,aquariums, parks, protected areas and heritage tourism organizations simply must have this book in their libraries. I guarantee it will not only answer questions you already have, but many that haven''t yet occurred to you.And the detailed index is fabulous! If you are an interpreter of virtually anything, you''ll be glad to have the advice Professor Ham offers in this amazing book!

Steven Randolph 7/13/2013
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David J. Wilson
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Teaching to Non-captive Minds
Reviewed in the United States on October 2, 2013
I do quite a bit of work with school kids; I run streamside hands-on events on water quality and watershed ecology. Sam Ham''s book, Interpretation - Making a Difference on Purpose, focused my attention on the fact that, while the bodies of my audience are captive, their... See more
I do quite a bit of work with school kids; I run streamside hands-on events on water quality and watershed ecology. Sam Ham''s book, Interpretation - Making a Difference on Purpose, focused my attention on the fact that, while the bodies of my audience are captive, their minds are not. Ham provides a very straightforward and clear explanation of how to teach and how to influence a group that is NOT captive in a school room and under the pressure of examinations and grades. The audiences that are addressed by historical site docents, park ranger naturalists, and other interpreters, are not captive; unlike students in a classroom, they are free to walk if the presentation doesn''t interest them. The core of Ham''s book is easily summarized: theme, organization, relevance, and enjoyment. A snappy, eye-catching theme piques the interest and curiosity of the group. A well-organized, clear presentation with a logical train of ideas makes it easy for the group to understand the concepts being presented. Making the material being presented relevant to the experiences and interests of the group keeps the group''s attention focused and makes the material more memorable. And an enjoyable, entertaining presentation helps to keep minds (and bodies) from wandering off.

Ham goes into detail, discussing the various objectives of the interpreter--provoking interest, teaching, enhancing an experience, entertaining, creating appreciative attitudes, and, sometimes, behavior modification. The book is well supplied with examples, both good and bad, to illustrate his points. And he makes extensive use of scientific findings on how we communicate, process information, and learn, and on what is likely to focus our attention and cause us to care.

This book, while written for interpreters dealing with non-captive audiences-by-choice, is also quite relevant to those of us who deal with captive audiences. Our students'' bodies may be captive, but their minds are certainly free to wander off. Thanks very much, Sam; I''m most grateful for your book. And, although the kids I''ll be working with won''t realize it, they should be grateful, too.
10 people found this helpful
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Rosemary S Black
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A book you should have on your desk not on your bookshelf
Reviewed in the United States on December 1, 2013
This is an exciting new book that brings together research from a range of disciplines relevant to heritage interpretation. The research findings and Sam''s insightful analysis brings a new level of understanding to how and why interepretation is a valuable tool for heritage... See more
This is an exciting new book that brings together research from a range of disciplines relevant to heritage interpretation. The research findings and Sam''s insightful analysis brings a new level of understanding to how and why interepretation is a valuable tool for heritage managers. The book presents a strategic approach to interpretation that is fascinating, accessible and informative. Applying this strategic approach will help ensure that your interpretation is purposeful and effective with a range of audiences. The book is informed by the wealth of experience that Sam has acquired over decades of research, training, writing and working with professionals in the field. The format of the book is clear and I particularly enjoyed the quotations in each chapter that highlight key concepts. This is a book that all interpretation professionals should have on their desks - not on their bookshelves!
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Ariel Blotkamp
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A "must have" book
Reviewed in the United States on June 4, 2013
Sam Ham''s new book couldn''t have come at a better time for me. As a supervisory park ranger for the National Park Service, I have already used this book to help guide several of my training sessions with new interpreters this season. Just today, Chapter 7 ("Not All... See more
Sam Ham''s new book couldn''t have come at a better time for me. As a supervisory park ranger for the National Park Service, I have already used this book to help guide several of my training sessions with new interpreters this season. Just today, Chapter 7 ("Not All Themes are Created Equal") helped me illuminate new ways of making themes more relevant and organized. With a perfect mix of communication theory and pragmatic techniques, this book is useful to instructors, trainers, students, and anyone who is seeking inspiration in making their interpretation more powerful and thought-provoking. I strongly encourage you to add this book to your personal library or to your organization''s collection. In short, Ham provides the most up-to-date and current understanding in the field of thematic interpretation.
4 people found this helpful
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Mark Robinson
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Mark Robinson - Sustainability and Community Capacity Building Practitioner
Reviewed in the United States on December 10, 2013
Working on real life sustainability related challenges, in a widely conservative community, it was extremely difficult to get our messages out in meaningful ways, to make a ‘real difference’ in the way people could think about and act within their homes, at work, in their... See more
Working on real life sustainability related challenges, in a widely conservative community, it was extremely difficult to get our messages out in meaningful ways, to make a ‘real difference’ in the way people could think about and act within their homes, at work, in their community and in their environments so that our city could continue to develop to improve the way of life, and also help to preserve the natural environments that we value so dearly, yet often behave in the opposite direction.

Our community has had the privilege of working with Sam over the past 5 years to not only learn Thematic Interpretation but to also adopt and practice applying his knowledge and achieving real outcomes in communicating about complex environmental challenges in ways that actually matter to residents, businesses, government and large industry in their everyday lives and business operations.

We have now developed a ‘community of practice’ of sharing our own experiences and knowledge by provoking people to think deeply in positive ways, where they are changing their own behaviours, practicing new ones and becoming involved in community activities and communicating in new meaningful ways, and we credit this largely to the learning we have adopted from Sam’s work on Thematic Interpretation.

When I read this new book, it was like I was instantly back listening and learning from Sam as though he was right back here coaching me. This book is as provocative, informative and easy to process as participating in one of Sam’s Thematic Interpretation workshops, and I take my hat off to him for producing such a valuable and important book that encapsulates an adaptive and replicable framework that we are not only practicing in our own community, but also now with our collaborations in other communities from my small home town in the country, to small villages in Fiji, to complex communities in Port Moresby, and now with the Bronx in New York.

A great book that is practical and is being applied to make a real difference in our community.
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Top reviews from other countries

Mr I P Nethercoat
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A great communication guide
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 8, 2014
A great, up to date, book full of advice backed up by research for anyone involved in communication but especially heritage interpretation.
A great, up to date, book full of advice backed up by research for anyone involved in communication but especially heritage interpretation.
2 people found this helpful
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Stubentiger
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Top Notch Content with regrettable formatting* (*for academics)
Reviewed in Germany on March 30, 2017
Sam Ham is an expert in his field and this is a must read for anyone who is into Environmental or Heritage Interpretation. There is nothing bad to be said about this book...except for the format. Instead of putting parenthetical citations in-text and putting foot notes at...See more
Sam Ham is an expert in his field and this is a must read for anyone who is into Environmental or Heritage Interpretation. There is nothing bad to be said about this book...except for the format. Instead of putting parenthetical citations in-text and putting foot notes at the bottom of the page, they opted for endnotes, presumably for the sake of the everyday Joe. So one has to flip to the end of the chapter repeatedly--sometimes more than 50 times in one chapter! I''d venture to guess this book is used largely by professionals and those with degrees in a related field. Why dumb it down for the layman?
Sam Ham is an expert in his field and this is a must read for anyone who is into Environmental or Heritage Interpretation. There is nothing bad to be said about this book...except for the format.

Instead of putting parenthetical citations in-text and putting foot notes at the bottom of the page, they opted for endnotes, presumably for the sake of the everyday Joe. So one has to flip to the end of the chapter repeatedly--sometimes more than 50 times in one chapter!

I''d venture to guess this book is used largely by professionals and those with degrees in a related field. Why dumb it down for the layman?
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Alastair Kerr
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
This is a good book to read for anyone involved in interpretation and ...
Reviewed in Canada on April 22, 2017
This is a good book to read for anyone involved in interpretation and I highly recommend it. There are so many invaluable insights in this book. Dr. Ham expresses interpretation as a specialized form of communication which is both an art and science, following in the...See more
This is a good book to read for anyone involved in interpretation and I highly recommend it. There are so many invaluable insights in this book. Dr. Ham expresses interpretation as a specialized form of communication which is both an art and science, following in the footsteps of Tilden Freeman. What I think is missing is a more in-depth discussion about understanding any interpretation as one point of view among many possible points of view, and that by nature interpretation is socially constructed, situational, multivalent and contested. Still, this book should be on every interpreter''s bookshelf. It adds much to the craft of interpretation.
This is a good book to read for anyone involved in interpretation and I highly recommend it. There are so many invaluable insights in this book. Dr. Ham expresses interpretation as a specialized form of communication which is both an art and science, following in the footsteps of Tilden Freeman. What I think is missing is a more in-depth discussion about understanding any interpretation as one point of view among many possible points of view, and that by nature interpretation is socially constructed, situational, multivalent and contested. Still, this book should be on every interpreter''s bookshelf. It adds much to the craft of interpretation.
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Raynald H Lemelin
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great book
Reviewed in Canada on April 19, 2020
I purchased this book to improve upon my interpretation skills. I am very happy with this purchase.
I purchased this book to improve upon my interpretation skills. I am very happy with this purchase.
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Pedro Morais
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Imprescindible para los intérpretes
Reviewed in Spain on February 11, 2015
Un libro esencial para todos los que trabajan en la interpretación del patrimonio natural y/o cultural. Después del grande suceso de “Interpretación Ambiental” esto libro de Sam Ham se dedica más a explicar los modernos conceptos de la interpretación y como estos se aplican...See more
Un libro esencial para todos los que trabajan en la interpretación del patrimonio natural y/o cultural. Después del grande suceso de “Interpretación Ambiental” esto libro de Sam Ham se dedica más a explicar los modernos conceptos de la interpretación y como estos se aplican en la misión de informar y educar visitantes.
Un libro esencial para todos los que trabajan en la interpretación del patrimonio natural y/o cultural. Después del grande suceso de “Interpretación Ambiental” esto libro de Sam Ham se dedica más a explicar los modernos conceptos de la interpretación y como estos se aplican en la misión de informar y educar visitantes.
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