To more effectively captivate visitors, the museum's 150 interpreters undergo improvisation training, much as actors and comedians do.
"What we found is that if the visitor is engaged and brought into the experience, that serves as a catalyst not only for enjoyment but also for a learning conversation," says Rosenthal. Engaging children often serves to begin a discussion among the entire family as they walk through the site. At Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts, executives have added hands-on activities in a village where each day corresponds to a day in 1627. One day they can bake bread and another they can complete a soldier's chores.
"We wanted to try and engage the visitor more," says Christopher Merrow, the plantation's public-relations manager. "They can watch a role-player grind corn and say, 'This makes one corn cake and so to feed a family of four you need eight,' but for visitors to sit there and try and grind a cake for 20 minutes, then know they'd need to grind for two hours to make dinner, brings a whole new appreciation to the way people lived in the 1620s."