Country coordinators

Interpret Europe's country coordinators take responsibility for the development of heritage interpretation and of Interpret Europe in single European countries. At present there are 11 country coordinators leading their own teams:

Country Coordinator Austria:
Claudiu Silvestru

Since completing my architectural studies in Graz, I had a broad interest in the connections between heritage interpretation and architecture. Through my diploma project I proposed a new infrastructure for the archaeology park of Sarmizegetusa Regia, increasing the readability of the Dacian development stages. In 2014 I received my PhD from the Vienna University of Technology with a thesis on the interpretation of the medieval heritage of Vienna.

I am a trained architect and worked with several architectural offices, gaining a vast experience in dealing with protected sites and the reuse and extension of historical buildings. In parallel to my architecture practice I found my way to heritage interpretation on detours by researching the role of cultural heritage in urban development and for the contemporary society. In my architectural practice I use the know-how and network built through my research activity and initiate interpretation programmes on the historical buildings within my projects. As such I included the World War II air-raid shelter under the Viennese historical post office in the Open Heritage Days programmes in 2015 and 2016.

Country Coordinator Belarus:
Valeria Klitsounova

I am Chair of the Board of the Agro- and Ecotourism Belarusian Association, “Country Escape”, and an active member of the National Association for Interpretation, USA.

I actively promote nature and culture interpretation ideas and sustainability principles in Belarus. I was one founder of the Rural Culture Museum “Dudutky”, which is the first museum in Belarus based on heritage interpretation principles.

I studied heritage interpretation in the USA through the Fulbright Scholarship Program at George Mason University and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (2013/2014). After my return to Belarus I launched the innovative course, "Nature and Culture Heritage Interpretation”, as associate professor of the Belarusian State University (international tourism department). This course combines theory, a lot of creative practical activities and discussions with students.

I am also an author of the very first book on interpretation in Russian, “Heritage Interpretation in Tourism: New Approaches in Experience Economy Era”. The book describes the interpretation philosophy and ideology, main principles, creative techniques and the best international and Belarusian practices in this field.

Country Coordinator Bulgaria:
Margarita Kaisheva

I am a graduate in Cybernetics (M.A.) from the Moscow Polytechnic University and holds PhD in strategic management. I was responsible for numerous projects related to tourism, regional development, entrepreneurship, business growth and institutional development. I had research tasks and trainings in management subjects at UCLA (USA), IIASA, (Laxenburg, Austria), Center for Management Development (Brussels, Belgium), Bocconi University, etc. and in Tourism in The Netherlands, Ireland, etc.

In the early 1990s, I became responsible for the Senior Advisors programme of the Dutch Ministry of Economy (for 17 years) and provision of expertise to communities and businesses in various fields. I worked in Bulgaria and internationally and accumulated intersectoral and cross-cultural experience and knowledge.

I was a chairperson and a member of the Managing Board of the Association for Alternative Tourism and a member of the Board of the Authentic Bulgaria Association. I was part of the USAID team which developed and applied the “Authentic Bulgaria” quality certification model for tourism establishments and introduction of the quality mark “Rose for Distinction”. I was the author of the “Delicious Bulgaria” concept for promotion of gastronomy heritage. I was also part of the environment conscious “Green Lodge” certification model of ECEAT in Bulgaria.

My involvement in heritage interpretation started in 2008 with the establishment of the People and Nature Association, an NGO, dealing with interaction between people and nature and activities related to ecology, biodiversity, agro-diversity and cultural diversity. In 2011, I founded the Center for Heritage interpretation (CHI), an NGO in private use. Both organisations work consistently in the mentioned fields, initiate and implement projects on topical issues for the society.

I am dedicated to work on inspiring world civilisations through modern tourism, linking heritage to economy, biodiversity, regional and local performance, by using the art of heritage interpretation. I have special interests in ancient civilisations and immaterial heritage.

Country Coordinator Croatia:
Dragana Lucija Ratkovic Aydemir

I was born in Zagreb, Croatia, in 1969. Having finished studies at Zagreb’s legendary Educational Centre for Culture and Art, I enrolled in the study of comparative literature and art history at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb. I was employed at the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments at the Ministry of Culture in Zagreb, and then in Poreč (Istria), where until 2004, I worked on the safeguarding of cultural heritage. In 1997, I was awarded a six-month UNESCO scholarship for professional training in the field of the conservation and restoration of cultural assets in Poland.

In 2003, after the successful installation of a permanent exhibition of sacral heritage in Rovinj’s Franciscan Monastery, the Town of Rovinj (Istria, Croatia) employed me for the 'House of Batana' project. I successfully led this project until 2013 and it became the first ecomuseum in Croatia. This project was a turning point in my work and served as a case study for professional training at the Marcel Hicter Foundation in Brussels. In this European programme of education, I gained a European diploma for management in culture and cultural tourism in 2005.

I also established Croatia’s first specialized boutique company for management in culture and tourism. This company, called Muze d.o.o/ Muses Ltd, has a special emphasis on heritage interpretation and presentation.

In 2009, I was elected as the President of the Association of Mediterranean Maritime Museums (AMMM) whose centre is in Barcelona (a four-year mandate), and from 2010 the UNDP in Croatia employed me as an expert advisor for ecomuseums in the Coast project.

Since 2012, I have been managing a pioneer project of interpretation and presentation of nature consisting of 30 investments in nature parks and protected areas in the Republic of Croatia, financed by the World Bank.

In 2016, I was involved in the establishment of the Croatian Association for Heritage Interpretation Interpretirajmo Hrvatsku (Interpret Croatia), where I hold the position of Vice President. Besides this I am a member of various professional associations such as ICOM, ORACLE and EMH.

Country Coordinator Italy:
Maurilio Cipparone

When I started writing a short personal “Bio” to introduce myself as Country Coordinator for Italy, I realised that it would be too full of verbs like “I have promoted, carried out, planned, directed, chaired, established, founded (Interpret Europe included), governed, guided…etc…”. Probably boring and too self-referential.

In fact, I have been involved in environmental issues for 50 years. BUT, instead of recounting what I have done on three continents - working for protected areas, in planning, training, education, interpretation and wearing many different jackets to represent many different roles, from international and national NGOs, to National and Regional governmental Institutions and Offices - I prefer to share what I would like to do, to carry out the tasks requested of a Country Coordinator.

Starting from a reality, represented by a nation, Italy, which has the highest number of UNESCO WHS and the richest biodiversity in Europe. A country where heritage interpretation should be “business as usual”, carried out by a multitude of professionals and implemented in an immense universe, populated by so many historical towns; by more than about 500 national museums and national archaeological sites; by 1,500 national and regional protected areas where more than 1,300 heritage sites are conserved and, last but not least, a nation that has given birth to…(please select the person you prefer) and whose language is still used to indicate how an opera should be performed, or a music played. A country where heritage interpretation should be “business as usual”, then. But it isn’t.

I believe that to continue working for heritage interpretation to be rooted in Italy under the Interpret Europe flag, with the added value represented by a European Association, may make the difference and can also be useful to strengthen our consciousness of European citizenship.

Therefore, my commitment as Country Coordinator, with the help of a team of remarkable volunteers (wanted), will be spent to overcome the existing barriers between interpretation and universities; between interpretation and museums, archaeology, history, traditions, UNESCO sites; between interpretation and parks and other landmarks, with their nature and their local, ancient, cultures.

I (we) hope to help to create many “heritage stewards” and also to promote new job opportunities.

I (we) hope to contribute in promoting a stronger, lively, reliable Interpret Europe.

Country Coordinator Norway:
Kristian Bjørnstad

My educational background is in Human Ecology and Education, specialising in sustainable development and regional parks. I hold Master’s degrees from Lund University in Sweden and Florida State University in the United States. At present I am attached to the Norwegian University of Life Sciences.

Intending to research the emerging regional parks in Norway ten years ago, I instead became active in the regional parks movement. Since then I have been involved in establishing the Norwegian Parks Association and am now the Secretariat Director for this small but growing organisation. I am also building links between regional-nature parks in the Nordic countries and the rest of Europe.

I became interested in heritage interpretation through planning work in the Nærøyfjord World Heritage Park on the west coast of Norway. I am especially interested in how heritage interpretation can be used in parks and protected areas to connect people with place and to create good visitor experiences.

In 2016 I participated in Interpret Europe`s CIG course and the CIG trainer course. I am looking forward to increasing the interest for interpretation in Norway and the Nordic countries.  With Swedish partners, I am organising the first Scandinavian CIG course and launching a project on forest interpretation.

Country Coordinator Poland:
Magdalena Kuś

I have always been fascinated with the nature and education, that's why I decided to develop my competence in both of these fields. After graduating at the Faculty of Forestry in Kraków, I started working in Magura National Park, linking my passions and developing them in my professional life. As the Head of the Education Department I was responsible for creating and realising educational projects whose aim was to connect people with nature.

Getting to know the concept of heritage interpretation was a highly essential discovery for me. I strongly believe that first-hand experience creates a deep bond which can be the key factor for the protection of what we get to know. I observe this while working with local heritage as a guide and interpreter. The interpretive approach gave me a completely new insight into my job and developed my skills to help visitors find their own meaning and appreciate the heritage.

Since 2010, I have been the mountain guide specialising in nature tourism and outdoor education. I am also an Interpret Europe trainer for the Certified Interpretive Guide (CIG) and Certified Interpretive Host (CIH) courses which help to equip people working in the heritage field with essential tools for fostering respect for all heritage. I am involved in spreading this approach in Poland and convinced that people can benefit from the heritage interpretation experience. I am especially interested in implementing the interpretive approach to nature education, led by heritage sites.

Heritage builds our identity and as a result strengthens our sense of responsibility for it. It would be a great success if more people in my country needed to ask themselves "why should I care?". I believe that heritage interpretation is a great tool for achieving this.

Country Coordinator Serbia:
Gordana Milanović

I have completed bachelor and master studies in art history at the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade, as well as master studies at the UNESCO Chair for Cultural Policy and Management at the University of Arts in Belgrade and the University Lumiere Lion II in France. As a most successful student, I received a scholarship for study research in Paris in 2014. In 2016, I won the National Museum of Serbia award for the best master thesis defended in 2014/2015.  

I have gained practical experience through internships at the National Museum of Serbia, the Central Institute for Conservation, the Ministry of Culture and Information (Desk Creative Europe), the Pavle Beljanski Memorial Collection. Gradually, my interest was increasingly focused on the field of cultural heritage and its interpretation and promotion.

As a co-founder of the NGO Center for Research and Promotion of Cultural Heritage HeriTag, I fully dedicate myself to the research, protection and interpretation of the local heritage. Advocating a participatory approach in the process of defining, preserving and presenting local cultural heritage, we open a space for the dialogue between past and present, between communities and heritage, in order to protect and promote the cultural identity of the places and people living in them. Using digital technologies, we discover new interactive and creative ways to interpret the heritage of local communities in order to increase its attractiveness, as well as the accessibility of cultural content to the broader public.

My work is also focused on community museums, researching methods and models of their functioning. An important segment of my interests is the education of children and young people about the significance and values of local heritage.

I am a member of the ICOM Serbia Commission for the organisation of seminars and museum counseling.

Country Coordinator Slovenia:
Janja Sivec

When finishing my university degree in Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology at the Faculty of Art in Ljubljana, several things happened in a very short time. I got sucked into the NGO sector and EU projects, became impressed and intrigued with heritage interpretation and was present when Interpret Europe was established in 2010 in Slovenia.

Being familiar with the possibilities of different EU programmes (today’s Erasmus +) and having met all the wonderful interpreters, I went on two different exchanges. The first was job-shadowing in Scotland with ARCHnetwork and the second was 12 weeks’ practical work with TellTale in the UK. Those two experiences helped me immensely to see the practical aspects of interpretation and gave me the professional direction that I follow.

Since 2013, I have been the leader of NGO Legends. We research, promote and interpret heritage. We do a lot of different activities for children and youth and educational programmes for professionals in tourism and the heritage sector.

I am also an Interpret Europe trainer for Certified Interpretive Guides (CIG) and Certified Interpretive Hosts (CIH); programmes that are doing very well and have opened several doors for interpretation in Slovenia. From time to time I also help the IE social media team.

Most of my current work is leading different courses, but I still love to work as a guide and deliver pedagogical programmes for youth and children. They are the best of critiques. I enjoy combining heritage interpretation with the methodology of youth work, because they both offer methodology that is so close to my heart. Practice what you preach!

Country Coordinator Spain:
Verónica Álvarez

I was born in Mieres (Asturias, Spain) in 1984. I am a graduate in Geology from the University of Oviedo. Since I have finished my degree, I started to work in the research field, specialising in environmental protection. Then, I moved to Central America with an NGO to work as an international cooperant. During my time in Honduras, I attended several projects related to sustainable tourism and heritage interpretation within protected natural areas. Thus, for the last six years I have worked in the ecotourism sector, using this as a tool to promote socio-economic development of rural areas.

So far, my aim has promoted heritage interpretation in protected natural areas and rural areas as a cross-sectional tool of knowledge. This means that heritage interpretation is a fundamental part to support the conservation and the defence of our biodiversity. We should not forget that within the natural areas there is an important traditional culture, an exceptional gastronomy and a wealthy legacy given by our ancestors. All these are part of our cultural and natural heritage, and it is important to understand, research and disseminate it.

Since 2012, I have successfully participated in training courses, seminars and congresses related to heritage interpretation, sustainable tourism and ecotourism, with the aim of improving my skills. I have also given several seminars and conferences in Spain and Central America. In addition, I am a proud member of Travindy Spain. Travindy is a multidisciplinary organisation focused on communicating responsible tourism worldwide.

For the last five years, I have been leading a business project of heritage interpretation focused on sustainable tourism, environment and rural development. My experience in the tourism and environmental sector also includes working as a heritage interpreter guide and as a consultant of sustainable and ecotourism projects. I would like to highlight the collaboration with the public administrations to develop ecotourism projects and the promotion of sustainable tourism for the private sector. I worked on a project that used heritage interpretation and sustainable tourism to achieve women's empowerment in rural areas. As a geologist, I have also promoted the enhancement of the Spanish geological heritage.

Country Coordinator Switzerland:
Sebastian Bellwald

I am geographer and economist. In combining these disciplines, I have been shaping regional development in Switzerland for 20 years. Convinced that individuals are the driving force for developing their environment, I have put knowledge- and networking-management at the centre of my interest and daily business.

Unsurprisingly, these competences are also the core of my own consulting company, named PLANVAL. Together with my colleagues, I have initiated and executed numerous projects in the field of regional development and sustainable tourism. Thereby I came across the power of interpreting natural and cultural heritage to visitors and realised the still untapped potential for interpretation in Switzerland. The country has rich landscapes, cultural and historical sites, and a high diversity of folklore. However, interpreting this richness is still in its infancy.

Convinced by the power of interpretation, and driven by my spirit of innovation, I engaged with heritage interpretation in 2003. Persuaded by the creative force of networks at different scales, I became a co-founder of Interpret Europe and volunteered to become the Country Coordinator Switzerland: to be able to contribute to this international network but also to let Switzerland benefit from the experience and knowledge of IE. As Country Coordinator, I will contribute to IE and to heritage interpretation as a profession with the following actions:

  • Bring heritage interpretation to the attention of professional individuals, organisations and institutions related to heritage interpretation in Switzerland to increase the quality of interpretation-products in Switzerland;
  • Create and strengthen networks of professional individuals, organisations and institutions related to heritage interpretation in Switzerland and supporting international networking activities;
  • Strengthen the presence of Interpret Europe as an international network for the interpretation field in Switzerland; and
  • Attract new members by pointing out the operational opportunities of Interpret Europe and the meaning of heritage interpretation.

Country Coordinator Ukraine:
Nataliia Gudkova

I'm an Assistant Professor at the State Ecological Academy of Postgraduate Education and Management in Ukraine. I specialise in adult environmental education and protected area management and promote ideas and principles of heritage interpretation and sustainable development in Ukraine.

I hold a PhD degree in Biology, MSc degree in protected area management (Alpen-Adria University Klagenfurt, Austria), and also graduated from Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv (Ukraine). I have been a scientific expert in the UNDP/GEF Project “Strengthening Governance and Financial Sustainability of the National Protected Area System in Ukraine” (2008-2011).

My involvement in heritage interpretation started in 2012 with activities related to conservation biology and nature interpretation within the framework of the MATRA/MAVA Project “Building capacity for biodiversity conservation in Ukraine: network and training support” of the Ukrainian Environmental Club "Green Wave".  

In 2016, I participated in Interpret Europe`s Certified Interpretive Guide (CIG) course and the CIG trainer course. In partnership with the US Forest Service and the National Association for Interpretation (NAI), I have coordinated a project on nature interpretation and organised the first CIG course in Ukraine. My current interests also include arranging engaging heritage interpretation to facilitate pleasant and valuable visitor experiences.

 

Our mission

To serve all who use
first-hand experiences to
give natural and cultural heritage
a deeper meaning