Natalia Gudkova, a certified heritage interpretation trainer and guide/interpreter, tells about a creative approach to the tourism and management of protected lands, 'the city of kings' and motherland of Champagne Reims as well as about popularization of the concepts and principles of heritage interpretation and sustainable development in Ukraine.

New Concept of Tourism

Heritage Interpretation is relatively new concept to Ukraine but is widely used throughout Europe and the world. It defines a creative approach to the design and implementation of interactive tourism programmes, allowing for the creation of a personal tourist experience and an emotional connection with an excursion. The approach began to take shape in the first half of the 20th century in US national parks, due to the proliferation of ideas of careful attitude to natural resources. Later, the Europeans were intercepted by the initiative, but they shifted the focus from natural to cultural heritage.

The approach has been applied here in Ukraine over the last several years, expanding due to the efforts of a group of certified guide/interpreters. These are tourism professionals who work to make excursions captivating. By eliciting these unique impressions site visitors are left with a fuller understanding of the site or object, as well its value to society, not to mention an awakened concern for the preservation of our cultural heritage.

Heritage Interpretation Conference

With 2018 recognized as the European Year of Cultural Heritage, the Americans joined in the event, organizing a conference (The NAI International Conference), in April in Reims, France. This conference provided a great opportunity to go and network with the founders of the work of interpretation.

I presented my project results on cultural heritage interpretation for the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy student and graduate ecological organisation "Green Wave", an event for which I was the curator. The chief goal of the project is the preparation of a qualified group of interpreter/guides in Ukraine. To accomplish this we invited a manager of a similar guide training effort in the United States. Guides who completed this training and passed their exams worked to develop excursion programmes for Kyiv's National Museum of Natural History. Museum visitors and ticket sales increased fourfold as a result. The revitalisation of this traditional museum is a very telling event.

My trip also made it possible to become acquainted with these standouts in the field of interpretation - Larry Beck and Ted Cable. They presented their 400-page book filled with 60 years of experience in interpreting the natural-cultural heritage.
Another goal of my trip was to acquire membership in the American Association and thanks to the grant I received I was able to pay the membership fee.

Reims and the Vineyards

Reims is a fascinating city and has a historical connection to Ukraine. It was here in this famous European cathedral that the French king was traditionally crowned. The city's cultural life began with the arrival of the daughter of Yaroslav the Wise, Anna Yaroslavna, the future Queen of France. She presented her future husband Henry I with a Gospel written in Cyrillic text that now resides in the Cathedral at Reims, but in archives that I wasn't able to access, unfortunately.

Reims is located in the province of Champagne and local vineyards supply the grapes for the production of the famous white sparkling wines we know as champagne – a name dictated by EU legislation. This wine region is located 160 kilometres east of Paris and part of the cultural heritage of the country.

One interesting trip was to the champagne production plants. The interpretative programmes conducted by the guides of the VERZY and Louise Pommery labels were incredible and covered champagne history from the Middle Ages through the 21st-century. But the French are weak in this, rapid development in the field is taking place in Belgium and Germany which registered with the European Association for the Interpretation of Heritage in 2010. In Europe, the ruler of heritage interpretation field is clearly England. A friend studied there and returned with the idea to develop this trend in Ukraine, and that's how we got our start.

Heritage Interpretation in Ukraine

American Association reps have offered to travel to Ukraine and hold special training sessions for people involved in tourism. To show us where the tourism business and the community can identify points of contact, show its profit potential and how to establish an interactive tourism product. We discussed training opportunities with the Director of the European Association, talking about working with natural science museum workers on the principles, methods and techniques of interpretation.

In addition, I agreed to write scientific articles on interpretation in Ukrainian with the help of a faculty member from a Massachusetts university. We also plan to introduce the profession of interpreter-guide into the Ukrainian Classification of Occupations, following the American example where only those who possess a degree in this field of study can work as interpreter-guides.

Photo CreditsNatalia Gudkova,