Interpretation for Archeologists   1. Introduction   Distance Learning

Guide Purpose

Interpretation for Archeologists: A Guide for Increasing Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities aims to train archeologists in the development of public interpretation and educational programs. The guide creates the opportunity for you to learn about the concepts behind interpretation, to explore how interpretive programs are made, and to acquire techniques to ascribe meaning to resources. Interpretation for Archeologists also aims for archeologists to see the value and fun of interpretation not only for the public, but also as inspiration for themselves.

This guide has another significant purpose of encouraging archeologists to realize the important role they play in guiding visitors to feel concern for resource preservation and protection. Archeologists as interpreters increase the public’s understanding of the ways archeological resources enrich the telling of the stories of our nation. The coursework is also of use to rangers, law enforcement, and others looking for creative strategies for protection and stewardship. Use this training and other courses in the Module 440 series to cross-train staff whose positions intersect with archeological resources. We can build on visitors’ curiosity about archeology and archeologists by engaging with them in dialogue about the meaning of the past to the present and their role in stewardship and the proper protection of the resources.

Interpretation for Archeologists enables archeologists to develop a basic foundation in the art and science of interpretation. Web links and suggested interpretive strategies in the For Your Information, Case Study, and Fun Fact boxes present examples of how archeological resources may be effectively interpreted in the national parks. Look for Try it Yourself and Use What You Know boxes to practice what you learn. Included are special Use What You Know: Assess Your Knowledge boxes to help you to apply the concepts to your own work. Take note that when this online course is used in a formal educational setting, answers to these (and possibly additional) assessment questions may be evaluated by instructors. Use the questions so they will best benefit you.

Use the guide to learn about:

  • How interpretation and education meet the NPS and park mission and objectives
  • Ways archeologists may interpret meanings by creating links through tangible and intangible meanings associated with the archeological record
  • Identifying multiple perspectives
  • Basic skills and techniques for developing effective interpretive presentations
  • Developing various interpretive media to present park archeological themes
  • Examples of how NPS archeologists and interpreters encourage stewardship by facilitating visitors' experience with and relationship to archeological resources.

Who is This Guide For?

The National Park Service developed Interpretation for Archeologists in particular for its archeologists, but it also applies to the concerns for resource preservation and protection held by cultural resource managers, rangers, law enforcement, and other staff who investigate, interpret, preserve, and share with the public information regarding archeological resources. We encourage professionals outside of the NPS who want to increase their own ability in interpretation to also take advantage of the guide.

Interpretation for Archeologists is primarily designed for self-motivated learning, so you can learn at your own pace. Read through the information, visit the links, and answer the assessment questions as quickly or as slowly as your time allows. Our goal is for you to increase your base of knowledge about archeological resource interpretation with every visit to the guide.

In the end, we hope you find in this guide a number of valuable resources for further exploration, particularly through the numerous links we provide to other significant sources of on-line activities, case studies, and related information. We plan to periodically update those links as we discover relevant new materials about and methods for effectively interpreting archeological resources. Please continue to check in with the guide and the Archeology Program web site for information, examples, case studies, professional guides, and more.