A park interpreter guides a group of students through Booker T. Washington National Monument. (NPS)
“Interpretation” is a difficult concept to pin down. What’s it about? Who does it?
The mission of interpretation is strategic and inspirational. It is a combination of science, history, and art that aims to create memorable and meaningful experiences for visitors. Archeologists who interpret provide opportunities for people to explore ideas and meanings in natural and cultural resources and to arrive at their own conclusions about them.
Sometimes interpreters know they’ve hit the mark when visitors experience a transformative “aha!” moment, then show an increased interest and a deeper level of care for the resources. We want visitors to cultivate an ethic for stewardship to help us preserve and protect cultural resources. Interpretation helps archeologists get the word out that archeology is important and worthy of notice.
For Your Information
What do audiences who seek specific resources hope to find or experience? An interpreter said:
“They seek background, the history behind an object, event, or practice. They seek connections between interests and the bigger picture and issues. They want a chance to build and expand on what they know or their previous experience.”