Standards & Practices

As part of NAI’s current strategic plan, the organization is undertaking a full certification and national standards review. Though this work has been in process for several years, the project really began in fall, 2016 when a RFA went out to the NAI community and the Interpretive Standards Committee (ISC) was chosen.  This group represents all aspects of our profession including academics, independent consultants, managers and planners. Once established, the group’s first task was to develop a plan, of which four phases were identified:

Phase 1 consisted of the committee itself brainstorming around the central question of “What does a [fill in the category of interpreter here] need to know and be able to do?” As subject matter experts themselves, the ISC brainstormed this question for each of NAI’s current certification categories: Guide, Host, Trainer, Planner, Heritage Interpreter and Manager. This phase took place between October, 2016 and January, 2017.

Phase 2 (January–July, 2017) of the project involved listening to our members by conducting focus groups across the country. Altogether we hosted almost twenty brainstorming sessions, both online and in person to find out what our members believed good interpretation looks like, focused around the same guiding question the ISC answered. During this phase of data collection, the committee also collected job descriptions (well over 100) & interviewed thought leaders in the profession (ranging from Dr. Sam Ham to Museum Hack).

Phase 3 (July 2017–March, 2018) consisted of coding all of the data from Phase 2 and composing draft standard statements from them. Each standard was verified against the data collected and then assigned to a category or bucket of skills/knowledge areas such as interpretive planning, general interpretation and other.

Phase 4: (March-Fall, 2018) The membership is being surveyed to provide thoughts/feedback on the new standards via a standards website with the option to comment on each standard. The committee will coalesce and modify standards by early November, 2018 with the goal of releasing the final standards at our national conference in New Orleans.

For further questions and/or insights, feel free to contact Emily Jacobs, Certification and Training Program Manager at

Standards & Practices Documents

In 2007, the NAI Board of Directors mapped a strategic plan for the profession that included a strategic vision that the interpretive profession will have a foundation of universally accepted standards. To that end, a focus group of individuals representing the diversity within NAI's membership was assembled and contributed to documentation of preferred practices for interpretive organizations. NAI currently offers four documents that address, good, better, and best practices.

Academic Curricula for Interpretation


Interpretive Methods


Interpretive Organizations


Interpretive Planning