Subject coordinators

Interpret Europe's subject coordinators are responsible for specific fields of interest that play an important role in the development of heritage interpretation in Europe. At present there are six subject coordinators leading their own teams:

Cultural Heritage Coordinator:
Patrick Lehnes (Germany)

It was back in 1995, during holidays with my family at Snowdonia National Park in Wales: We came across simple leaflets which presented heritage sites in a much more inspiring way than what I knew from Germany. Curious to find out more, I went to the Park's head office and was directed to the "interpretation unit". This was the first time I heard about "heritage interpretation". This changed my life.

That happened when I had just concluded my studies of geography and biology at Freiburg University. I stayed there as a researcher and carried out pilot projects in the German Black Forest to test the interpretive approach for rural tourism destinations. EU funded projects on quality criteria for heritage interpretation provided opportunities to work with international partners.

In 2002, I founded an interpretation consultancy as a spin-off on the university campus. Besides projects "at home" I worked as a trainer and mentor for masterplanning and implementations in various European countries between the Mediterranean, Baltic and Caspian seas. It was exciting to collaborate with local project teams in different cultural contexts. It was also the time to take part in NAI's certification courses as a Trainer for Interpretive Guides (CIT), Interpretive Hosts (CIH) and as Interpretive Planner (CIP).

Together with my wife Bettina and some international colleagues, I prepared the founding of Interpret Europe, which finally happened in 2010. As Executive Director, I was then responsible for its development during the first five years. Preparing our annual international conferences, especially the study visits to various heritage sites in different European countries, was one of the most inspiring experiences.

Questions of what various cultural backgrounds can mean for interpretive meaning-making roused my interest in the philosophies that underlie heritage interpretation. This involves discussion of our role as interpreters within plural European societies.

Natural Heritage Coordinator:
Athina Tsekoura (Greece)

I am grateful for growing up in an environment that always had nature as the highest value. My father made me love the mountains; my mother introduced me to the greenery. I never loved learning at school (I was not the only one for sure) but magically learned about geography, biology, astronomy, natural resources, renewable energy, sustainable growth, physics, chemistry, physiology, by just exploring nature.

Even if I was not the one in the family studying science or the environment, it was destiny that led me there. I studied interior decoration and worked several years, then studied project management and that was the time I managed to officially incorporate the environment into my life. Working with NGOs or as a freelancer, I organise environmental education projects for a large variety of groups, working mostly in sensitive or protected areas, with endangered species (sea turtles) and the sensitive costal and underwater environment, also adding scuba diving (IDCStaff) to my means.

One day, asking what my childhood friend was doing these days, led me to the CIG seminar and the amazingly organised toolbox of interpretation! At last I could explain how I was working. I also found a structured way to use my tools. Life became more interesting and challenging!

I believe that natural heritage is the life-giving oxygen for our body and our soul; neglecting it challenges our future – cultural or physical – ours and the generations to come. At this critical point for our planet; it is our duty to share our passion, our knowledge and experience to preserve and promote our natural heritage.

Live Interpretation Coordinator:
Éva Birkás (Hungary)

I am a museum educator. After I finished my master’s studies at the University of Pécs, in the Department of Classical Philology and the Department of Literature and Linguistics, I began working at the Department of Classical Antiquities in the Museum of Fine Arts Budapest. Later I did a course in drama in education and became a drama teacher. I came into contact with live interpretation in 2005 when I had the chance to go on a study tour of the UK. Soon after that, Past Pleasures (UK) delivered a course in live interpretation in Budapest which I took part in. Then, in 2008, I introduced live interpretation programmes to the Museum of Fine Arts. Given my training, I first developed Ancient Greek and Roman characters, but since then I have expanded these programmes to include other periods and collections of the museum.
Since 2015, I have been a student in the Doctoral School of Education at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. I plan to write my dissertation on how live interpretation sessions can change children’s attitudes to past people’s lives and ideas.
In 2018, I completed Interpret Europe’s Certified Live Interpreter Course.

Children's Interpretation Coordinator:
Johanna Eisank (Austria)

I grew up in close contact with nature on a farm in the High Tauern National Park (Austria). My parents taught me how to live in harmony with the natural cycle. As a child I spent most of my time outside in the forest or on our farmland. It was a fabulous childhood.

After graduating school, I attended university and started to study geography with an emphasis on environmental system sciences. There I got a scientific view on the environment. I focused on landscape dynamics, especially exogenous processes (glaciers, permafrost). But I soon realised I wasn’t made for scientific research. That’s why some colleagues and I founded an association for environmental education for children (AGUAStud). We offered workshops about the water cycle, about the forest, about wild bees and so on. It was important for us to activate all human senses.

To put my educative competences on a higher level, I started studying environmental education in Vienna. Beside pedagogic skills I developed a good self-awareness within the framework of this study. The places to practice my new abilities were our association and the National Park Hohe Tauern. To work with children outside in nature was fun and meaningful to me.

In 2016 I was lucky that I could turn my passion into my job. I started working as an assistant in environmental education in the Gesaeuse National Park (Austria). Since then I have been in charge of the partner-school-project of the National Park where I work with children from the age of 2 to 17 years – a really diverse and challenging task. The children of our partner schools/kindergartens visit the park frequently or I give lessons about the National Park in or close to the schools (mostly in nature).

My goal (not only) for this job: to show our future generation the fascinating and perfect imperfection of nature.

Tourism Coordinator:
Nuria Mohedano (Spain)

Fascinated about travel, it all started right after finishing my bachelor degree in Tourism Management at the Polytechnic University of València in Spain. I have been working in the tourism industry for almost 12 years, during which time I have had the chance to learn from other cultures and be impressed by tangible and intangible heritage from the countries where I lived in. After developing my final career project in Beijing, China, I found out I was missing some training in sustainable tourism.

That is why I enrolled on the European Master’s in Sustainable Tourism Management, a two-year joint master programme tailor-made by three European universities located in Denmark, Slovenia and Spain. Whilst studying and afterwards, I quickly got involved in many different projects related to sustainable tourism development.

I am an active part of the non-profit organisation that promotes and develops ecotourism in Castilla-La Mancha, named “Ecoturismo CLM”. I am part of the team at the first online magazine in Spanish specialised in responsible tourism, known as Travindy. Indeed, I combine all these with my job as a sustainable tourism consultant for Caminos del Guadiana Ecoturismo.

Right now, I am working on the two-year tourism management plan of a rural destination at the Natural Park “Valle de Alcudia y Sierra Madrona” aimed at promoting tourism throughout heritage conservation related to shepperding culture.

I believe reviving local cultural values, developing national creativity, and traditions and preserving heritage is the most important tool for sustainable tourism development.

Architects Coordinator:
Claudiu Silvestru (Austria)

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.

Our mission

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