Managing and enhancing the visitor experience in botanic and historic gardens

Our gardens are important visitor attractions, both for our tourism industry and also to our local community and businesses.  The potential for increased visitor numbers, and all year round opening needs site staff and stakeholders to work together in order to balance our core aims and relevant legislation alongside our visitor offer.  How we reach, manage and engage with our visitors successfully to fully realise the values of our historic landscapes and help them enjoy and learn from our plant collections are not easy tasks.

This conference considered and discussed:

  • How we drive the visitor experience using our historic landscapes, horticulture and plant collections
  • How we measure how well we are doing and how we benchmark presentation standards
  • Balancing conservation of the historic fabric with increased needs and expectations of garden visitors
  • How we can identify and work with external organisations and partners
  • Visitor facilities – the loo and the brew
  • Visitor engagement on and off site
  • A range of case studies across heritage and botanic gardens
  • Opportunities to network and share experiences

Welcome and introduction

Dr Matthew Jebb, PlantNetwork Chairman
Director, National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin


Pam Smith, PlantNetwork Administrator and National Trust Garden Consultant

Tours of Chatsworth

Steve Porter and Faye Steer

Making Your Garden Come Alive

Link to PDF version of Konig,M. (2000) Making your Garden Come Alive! Environmental Interpretation in Botanical Gardens. Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report No. 9. SABONET, Pretoria.
ISBN: 1-919795-50-2

RBGE Plant labels

Link to a RBGE website article which offers a good explanation of plant labels and understanding plant labels.

HLF good pratice guidance – interpretation

Link to the HLF article providing good practice guidance designed to help you think about an application to HLF for a project which seeks to achieve the outcome: ‘heritage will be better interpreted and explained’.

Association of Leading Visitor Attractions

Link to Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) website. ALVA provide training, benchmarking and advocacy initiatives and assist their members to continually improve the visitor experience.

Association for heritage interpretation (AHI)

Link to the Association for heritage interpretation (AHI) website. The AHI is a key forum for anyone interested in interpretation – the art of helping people explore and appreciate our world. It aims to promote excellence in the practice and provision of interpretation and to gain wider recognition of interpretation as a professional activity.

Black Environment Network (BEN)

Link to the Black Environment Network (BEN) website. BEN works to enable full ethnic participation in the built and natural environment On the one hand we reach out to ethnic communities in order to stimulate participation. On the other hand we work to support mainstream organisations so that they may gain the necessary awareness and skills to work effectively with ethnic communities in a socially and culturally relevant way.

Easy Access to Historic Landscapes

Link to English Heritage guide to Easy Access to Historic Landscapes to help property owners and managers provide easier access for all their visitors, whatever their age or level of ability. It will also be of value to designers, planners, and others working to open up historic sites to a wider audience.