Managing Children's Interactions with Cultural Heritage Places
Keywords:visitor management, visitor impact, cultural tourism, human cognitive development, children, interpretive centers, interactive exhibits, parks management
AbstractThe impact of children on cultural heritage places is a phenomenon dreaded by parks managers. Children's means of exploring and comprehending the world around them is much more direct and less abstract than that of adults. By understanding children's learning behavior, the processes leading to a detrimental impact cannot only be avoided, but moreover be turned into a positive experience for children and parents alike. Parks management can be informed by experiences garnered in the fields of museum interpretation and education in zoological and marine parks. The mere provision of textual and pictorial information is limiting the learning experience of children, as well as that of many adults. Showcased specimens of artifacts are illustrative to an adult audience; they are 'remote' for children. Management needs to provide for controlled environments in which children can satisfY their needs of examining artifacts and sensitive items on their terms through touch tables and other interactive displays, forcing the adoption of different postures, etc. If well done, this satisfies children's need for physical exploration and reduces impact in the open space setting. For geographically remote parks, there is a need to provide an outlet for children to 'let off steam' after a long trip in the car. The establishment of an adventure playground would be desirable, preferably designed with thematic reference to the specific park visited. Park infrastructure must address children's learning and energy dissipation needs through the provision of interpretation centers and (outside) activity areas appropriate to children of various ages. This needs to be coupled with information and guidelines for parents visiting parks, including strategies to control and channel children's actions and energy through (i) careful planning of the trip and the approaches to the park, (ii) planning of activities at arrival, and (iii) guidelines for appropriate parental control during the visit. Parents will have a better visitor experience if their children are engaged in a captivating learning experience. Such children will be less demanding of parental control and their parents will have more time to follow their own interests. It follows that such parents will also be more responsive to issues of nature and cultural conservation.
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