This is an exciting time at Shangri La! As many of you know, we have recently completed recruiting a dozen new Interpretive Guides for Shangri La tours and I couldn’t be happier! All of the new guides have a diverse range of previous employment and personal experiences, but they all bring intelligence, enthusiasm and style to their tour that has already brought in a host of compliments from visitors.
A ten week training course for both new and seasoned guides commenced in August and explored the latest in Islamic art research, educational interpretation and museum visitor motivations. The highlights of the guide training included dynamic lectures by Shangri La staff, such as our Curator of Islamic Art, Keelan Overton, Executive Director, Deborah Pope and yours truly. The training took place at both the Honolulu Academy of Arts and Shangri La, with the last three sessions being full-day events held at Shangri La. During the Shangri La sessions, staff and guides collaborated to integrate key interpretive goals and themes into each space.
This fall has also afforded the opportunity for Shangri La staff to critically evaluate the existing tour route, its contents, and the general visitor experience. Through this self-reflective process I’m pleased to share that we’ve made some changes which make the visitor experience at Shangri La even better! These recent changes include rotations and adjustments to the display of objects in several of the rooms, such as the Living Room. Previously only viewed from behind stanchions, visitors can now enter the Living Room and walk through it. By entering the Living Room through the Diamond Head door visitors can now clearly see the importance of the East-West axis which Shangri La was architecturally designed along. In one sweeping panoramic view visitors can take in the sight of Diamond Head, the South Shore of Oahu, the Playhouse, pool and cascades, and Living Room; with the sight line terminating in the beautifully framed Mihrab. This carefully orchestrated view and significant architectural concept was previously minimized in the tour route. This and other enhancements allow for greater appreciation of the art, natural beauty and ambiance of Shangri La (if you haven’t been on site lately, you’ve simply got to come now!).
The high point of guide training came at the end with a Recognition Ceremony and Pau Hana Party in Shangri La’s Moon Garden. Stacy Pope, a new Interpretive Guide, summed up the guide training experience best, stating “the training really opened up a new world for me, a world filled with the beauty of Islamic art and the diversity of the Islamic world. This has been a great experience and continues to be — I feel so lucky to be a part of Shangri La and share it with the public!”
My sentiments exactly Stacy! We’re lucky to have you too and all of our excellent new and seasoned guides.