Just as the Venice Charter established the principle that the protection of the extant fabric of a cultural heritage site is essential to its conservation, it is now equally acknowledged that Interpretation* of the meaning of sites is an integral part of the conservation process and fundamental to positive conservation outcomes.
A significant number of charters, principles, and guidelines – including the Nara Document on Authenticity (1994), the Burra Charter (1999), the International Charter on Cultural Tourism (1999), and the Principles for the Conservation of Heritage Sites in China (2002)—have emphasised the fundamental role of sensitive and effective interpretation in heritage conservation.
The aim of this Charter is to define the basic objectives and principles of site interpretation in relation to authenticity, intellectual integrity, social responsibility, and respect for cultural significance and context. It recognises that the interpretation of cultural heritage sites can be contentious and should acknowledge conflicting perspectives.
Although the objectives and principles of this Charter may equally apply to off-site interpretation, its main focus is interpretation at, or in the immediate vicinity of cultural heritage sites.
The Charter seeks to encourage a wide public appreciation of cultural heritage sites as places and sources of learning and reflection about the past, as well as valuable resources for sustainable community development and intercultural and intergenerational dialogue.
* For the purpose of the present Charter, Interpretation is considered to be the public explanation or discussion of a cultural heritage site, encompassing its full significance, multiple meanings and values. Interpretive infrastructure refers to all physical installations, publications (guidebooks, videotapes, digital applications, etc,) and communications media devised for the purposes of interpretation, as well as the personnel assigned to this task.