Interpretation for Archeologists   6. Issues of Sensitivity   Distance Learning


NPS interpreters and archeologists strive for interpretation that encourages intellectual and emotional engagement with the resources and their meanings. Pre-existing knowledge, personal beliefs, and experiences influence our audiences’ connections with archeological resources. Good interpretation is balanced and considers multiple points of view, recognizing that archeological resources can have multiple meanings to different people. It may, in the process, challenge what audiences hold to be true and evoke strong or unexpected reactions.

Archeological resources describe people, places, events, and patterns in the past that provide historical context to attitudes today. Some audiences will relate to women’s history. Others will disagree with the motivations behind a conflict. And yet other audiences see archeological resources as deeply contrary to their traditions. Interpreters and archeologists should be sensitive to the issues at stake in order to create an appropriate environment for learning and inspiration.

Try It Yourself

What sensitive meanings are evoked by your park's archeological resources? Some ideas to get you started include:

  • Personal experiences with "isms," such as sexism, racism or ageism
  • Religious tolerance and its limits
  • Responsibility to self, cultural group, and nation
  • Hope for the future
  • Sense of justice or mercy
  • Pride in heritage

Take the question to a park interpreter. What meanings appear to engage the public, or leave them disinterested?

For Your Information

Pease, James L.
2017 "Parks and Underserved Audiences An Annotated Literature Review," Journal of Interpretation Research, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 11-56.

Read an overview of the historical development of park management's understanding of increasing the diversity of visitors to parks. Learn about the overarching issues and challenges, as well as opportunities for change.