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    Profile of an Interpretive Planner

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    Geo Beats

    by Geo Beats

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    Profile an Interpretive Planner - as part of the expert series by GeoBeats. Hi, my name is Amanda Adams. As an interpretive planner I work with landscape architects, other design teams to help figure out how to tell the stories of a place. That could be looking at the archeological site, historical records, talking to different people who have knowledge of the site, and deciding how we are going to reveal those stories to the public. My background is actually a really big mix of different things. When I was younger I thought I would be an artist, and I wanted to be a painter and go to art school. I did not, but I traveled a lot, and eventually those things brought me to anthropology, and specifically to archaeology. I was really interested in early art. So, I got a BA in archaeology. Then I went on to graduate school and did a masters looking at rock art, actually, up in British Columbia. Then I worked for a few years in the private sector as an archaeologist. And what actually led me to interpretive planning was the fact that we would excavate all these sites, and then the results of those studies would just kind of disappear. The public did not really have access to those incredible stories that were underfoot in their own cities, in their backyards. So, I got involved in interpreting those sites and making the stories of a place something that the public could really care about. Somedays I wake up in the morning and I have to write an entire interpretive plan so I am just hunkered over my laptop all day with a lot of strong coffee. Other days, days that I really love, I get to go out in the field, so I might be meeting with a park developer, a landscape architect. I might be meeting with tribal leaders and talking about a particular site that needs both protection and interpretation. One project that I think is a really good meld with the archaeology and the interpretation, I did that recently in South Dakota and it was for an old historic fort site. So, what was really amazing about this place is that the archaeological resources were rich. I mean, there was all this evidence of this historic fort and the trade that happened there, Native American artifacts, European, everything. But it was all invisible, because there was nothing to be seen on the site, itself. So, myself and a couple other, a landscape architect, a historic preservationist, we were all brought in to basically write an interpretive management plan that would take care of the site, protect and preserve the archaeology, and also figure out how to make those stories to make that incredible history of the fort something that was tangible and visible to visitors. So, that would be a really good example of a project that combines two things. And other projects are, sometimes I develop interpretive exhibits for things like California State Parks, talking about everything from redwood trees to Native American history. And projects that I really do love a lot can become more artful at times. So, instead of conventional interpretive exhibits, you know, like you are used to seeing a little sign that tells you a bit of history and some facts, sometimes we can bring artists in and do really extraordinary things. It is one of those jobs that kind of makes you feel like you are making the world a better place. And it really does. I think there are ways that I can help to increase public stewardship of cultural resources, things that people really want to know about. They want to know the history of the site, and all the different layers of that history from Native American shell mounds to the early first buildings of San Francisco. And when you can show people all that and give them a sense of connection to place so that they care about it, they want to protect it, that makes me feel good. I love doing it. My proudest moment was actually, it was starting my own company. I worked for a really great firm in the Midwest doing this type of work. I had a moment that was based strongly on gut instinct and a little bit of courage and giant risk to go out on my own. So I moved back here, where I am from, San Francisco, and I started LOKI Interpretive Group. At the time I had no clients, I had no contacts, but I had a really, really strong belief in what I was doing and that there would be a need for it and a desire. I was so passionate about it and it is worked out pretty well.