Archeologist Alden Hayes conducts a party of visitors on a tour of Casa Grande in 1957. (George W. Gottmer)
Interpretation helps archeologists to fulfill their professional and ethical responsibilities through facilitating opportunities for the public to connect to the meanings of archeological resources. Rather than storing the results of archeological research in the library and collections facility where very few will hear about it, interpretation makes known what we know about the past and how we came to know it. It provides archeologists with opportunities to make creative and interesting contributions to the public’s experience of a place. It educates people on what archeology is and what archeologists do, and it leads them to understand the purposes and meanings of archeological work to their own lives.
The professional responsibilities of archeologists in the National Parks involves finding ways to integrate their work into the larger body of work going on at their park. They can help other interpreters, naturalists, historians, managers, and other staff to realize the potential benefits of archeological work. If archeology is how modern people “touch” the past, and interpretation is the “bridge” between the past and the present, then archeologists are charged with the responsibility of bringing forth the stories of time, place, and situation.
Please consider interpretation not as something you have to do or an obligation to fulfill, but as a way to tap your own creativity and intelligence! Interpretation is a terrific application for your work that gets people excited and involved, puts you in new situations, and keeps you thinking in fresh ways about the history of your park.
For Your Information
How do interpreters find their own connections with and come to care about the resources they interpret? Your colleagues said:
“I first came to care for the fort as part of my job. Then, as I learned the stories, I came to care about it. When I realized the people who lived in the past were like us now I came to see the fort as a representation of those people.”
“More than being told it was special, I needed to discover it on my own.”