Interpretation for Archeologists   8. Archeologists and Interpreters Working Together   Distance Learning

Sharing Our Archeological Heritage with the Public

Archeologists and interpreters can work together to provide effective and accurate interpretation of archeological information and resources to the public. They can create opportunities for audiences to learn about archeological interpretations and how they are made, and to ascribe their own meanings to archeological resources. The results help increase public understanding and concern for the preservation and protection of archeological resources.

To do this, archeologists and interpreters should develop and maintain a dialogue so that archeologists help interpreters gain knowledge of activities that involve archeological resources. Archeologists and interpreters should together analyze the potential impacts of interpretive programs on the resources being interpreted, balancing on-site visitor experience with the cumulative and potentially damaging impacts of visitation.

Archeologists and interpreters should ensure that the archeological heritage in national park units is accessible and available to all people, but not at the expense of the resources themselves. Some sites may be too fragile to share, while others require protection for other reasons. Interpretation can enable the public to learn about sites that a park does not want publicly known. A wide variety of interpretive tools and techniques exist to educate the public about park archeological resources. Tours, exhibits, excavations, publications, web sites, and lectures are some of the most frequent types of educational programs used in parks. These programs create opportunities for audiences to ascribe meanings to archeological resources, leading to concern for protection of the resources.

Archeologists and interpreters encounter visitors with different levels of archeological knowledge. Some visitors have worked on an archeological site while others know little about archeologists and archeological resources. Successful interpretive programs will stimulate each visitor regardless of the level of his or her archeological knowledge. Archeologists and interpreters who can quickly assess visitors' archeological experience and knowledge can provide experiences that strengthen visitors' recognition, understanding, enjoyment, and preservation of the nation's archeological resources.

MJB/EJL