Why does NPS interpret archeology?
The stewardship of America's archeological heritage is a well established policy and function of the federal government. Interagency cooperation and partnerships are fundamental to this mission. Archeological resources—sites, collections, and records—are unique and fragile. They must be used wisely and protected for future generations.
Archeological excavations at Fort Vancouver. (NPS)
Through programs that preserve, protect, conserve, and educate the public regarding archeological resources the National Park Service preserves over 63,000 archeological sites, as well as huge archeological collections from scientific investigations of those sites. Interpreting archeological resources helps meet this part of the NPS mission by:
- Perpetuating and representing the archeological heritage of the nation uniquely reflected in national park units
- Ensuring the natural, cultural, and recreational heritage reflected in the national park units is available and accessible to everyone
- Providing visitor experiences that strengthen the recognition, understanding, enjoyment, and preservation of the nation's archeological resources
- Creating the opportunity for audiences to ascribe meanings to archeological resources, leading to concern for the protection of those resources. Such revelation is the seed of archeological resource stewardship (NPS 1997b:2)
National Strategy for the Federal Archeology Program
The Federal Archeology Program encompasses a wide range of archeological interpretation programs, collections care, scientific investigations, protection efforts, and public education and outreach efforts. In 1991, the Secretary of the Interior identified areas of special emphasis for federal agencies with archeological programs. The 1998 update of the National Strategy renews our effort to pursue these actions.
Preserve and Protect Archeological Sites in Place
- Identify, evaluate, and document sites
- Increase our understanding of the past and improve preservation through well-designed research
- Assess and document threats to sites and monitor their condition
- Prevent or slow deterioration of sites by stabilization and other means
- Fight looting with public awareness programs and effective legal strategies among archeologists, law enforcement officers, and public prosecutors
Conserve Archeological Collections and Records
- Locate collections and records, assess their condition, and conserve appropriately
- Identify actions needed to ensure long-term care of and access to collections and records
- Undertake, facilitate, and promote research using collections and records to better understand the past
Utilize and Share Archeological Research Results
- Synthesize research results, particularly gray literature, to advance scientific knowledge, further preservation, and better inform the public
- Facilitate use of archeological databases by managers and researchers
- Develop data standards to better share research results
Increase Public Education and Participation in Archeology
- Establish education programs as a regular agency function
- Interpret archeological research for the public in a way that is accurate and understandable
- Consider the views of diverse cultural groups when interpreting the past
- Engage the public in archeology through professionally directed volunteer programs
The National Strategy for the Federal Archeology Program reinforces the NPS commitment to preserve and interpret American archeological resources. Work done in each park by managers, interpreters, and archeologists ensure that these resources will be protected and appreciated by visitors.
Archeology is happening all over the nation! Research in the Parks links to web sites describing NPS archeology projects.
For your information
Public Interpretation Initiative
Read about the purposes and direction of the Public Interpretation Initiative, a public outreach program initiated and coordinated by the NPS Southeast Archeological Center.