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Archeology for Interpreters > 4. What Do Archeologists Do?

What happens to a site after it's discovered?

Public education and site preservation

(photo) An archeologist showing a group of children  artifacts

Public education programs and interpretation promote archeological resource protection. (Gail Brown, University of Maryland)

Public education and site interpretation complement the treatment and preservation of archeological resources.

Public education and interpretation promote archeological resource protection. Through these treatments the public is made aware of the value of archeological resources and the penalties for destroying them. Public involvement through site stewardship programs, volunteerism, classroom activities, archeology weeks or months and many other venues heighten public awareness of and responsibility toward archeological resources.

Such activities help the NPS to protect archeological resources by increasing the public's concern for them. A stewardship ethic means that the public may avoid inappropriate activities and report issues to NPS staff as they arise.

Case studies

Examples of archeology public education programs based in formal curricula include:

Project Archaeology, a Bureau of Land Management archeology education program in partnership with Montana State University, uses archeology to foster understanding of past and present cultures, improve social studies and science education, and to demonstrate the value of our archeological legacy. Register to access curricula. Project Archaeology makes available online its reports into the the effectiveness of archeology education programming, based on extensive evaluations.

Teaching with Historic Places, The National Register of Historic Places
Teaching with Historic Places has developed classroom-ready lesson plans that together cover major themes of American history, including archeology.

For your information

Telling the Stories: Planning Effective Interpretive Programs for Properties Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
This National Register Bulletin, rich with case studies, offers valuable information for individuals and institutions working to convey the meaning of historic places to the public.

NPS Technical Briefs
Read technical briefs written by archeologists that share their experiences in creating and carrying out public education programs:

  • #2 Arizona Archeology Week: Promoting the Past to the Public
  • #4 Archeology in the Classroom: A Case Study from Arizona
  • #9 Volunteers in Archeology
  • #15 State Archeology Weeks: Interpreting Archeology for the Public
  • TSM/MJB