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Historic interpreter helps patrons enjoy museums
Faces and Places
0318 FacesandPlaces Miles
Cynthia Miles - photo by Photo by Hollie Moore Barnidge
Name: Cynthia Miles

Occupation: Historic interpreter. A historic interpreter takes raw material, such as artifacts, paintings, fossils or sculptures, and makes it presentable to the public by organizing, displaying or exhibiting the material in an aesthetically pleasing, easily understandable format. Many interpreters work in museums, planning exhibits and helping patrons understand the significance of the displays.

Education: Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from Armstrong Atlantic State University.

Where are you originally from? “Beaufort, S.C. My dad was a marine.”

What area museums have you worked at? “I’ve done curatorial work at the Jekyll Island Museum, the St. Simons Island Lighthouse Museum, the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum, and the [Old Liberty County] Jail Museum.”

How did you get started in historic interpretation? Miles said she began museum work while studying for her master’s. In 2004, she was working with the Jekyll Island Museum when they became affiliated with the National Association for Interpretation.
“I took a course to become a certified interpretive guide. Then I took another course to become a certified interpretive trainer because there weren’t very many trainers in the area,” Miles said. “It brings a sense of professionalism to the industry. Most people are very dedicated to museums, but they’re volunteers.”

What’s your favorite part of the job?
“It’s really funny because interpreters have a tendency to be introverts. I’m introverted in normal life, but when I get up in front of a group to talk about something I’m passionate about, it’s very exciting.”

What’s your least favorite part of the job? “Almost all organizations or nonprofits have trouble finding money to protect the museums’ property, collections and programs. It all takes money. When I was a kid, museums were free. Well, they’re not free now, but there’s not a museum anywhere that could keep the doors open on admission alone. They would fold without sources of income.”

Where are you working currently? Miles is teaching elder hostel classes at Epworth by the Sea about lighthouse mechanics and hosting an evening ghost story tour.

Have you ever worked with any famous artists? “Not really, but I’ve worked with a lot of amateurs who are very fabulous. There’s lots of really great talent in this area,” Miles said. “We’ve got to flush [local artists] out and say, ‘Don’t keep it hidden in a closet! We’ve got a place to display your art.’”

Are there any museum trends you’re seeing now? “It’s not content that’s important, it’s how you go about presenting it so people will remember it. We’re moving into environmental education, which is a real timely issue for this area.”

What does this area have to offer museum fans?
“A real important aspect for me is to remember the museums in your own backyard. There’s a lot of great resources in this area. Don’t overlook it. You really can’t say there’s nothing to do in Liberty County.”
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