Interpretation for Archeologists   6. Issues of Sensitivity   Distance Learning

Diversity and Multiple Perspectives

Interpretation communicates the stories behind archeological resources, including the ways people have used material culture and places to create cultural identity. People find personal meaning in how they define or identify themselves, which provide "hooks" for forming personal connections with archeological resources and the cultural history they represent. It can be extremely powerful for an audience to see how their historical counterparts lived.

The diversity and multiple perspectives represented by an audience cannot always be seen or understood through a few get-to-know-you questions. If you asked members of an audience to describe themselves, they might use words related to:

  • Sex and gender
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Ability and disability
  • Sexual orientation
  • Class and economic status
  • Level of education
  • Age and generation
  • Political affiliation
  • Marital status and family role
  • Religion and belief system
  • Nationality and geographic origin

Sensitivity in interpretation recognizes that our identities are meaningful to us as interpreters and our audiences. When we explore the meanings of archeological resources together, we may hit on charged or difficult history that is meaningful to the audience because it is a sensitive topic. Or, audience members may bring preexisting beliefs and biases that impact their ability to connect with people and events from the past. As NPS audiences become increasingly diverse, interpreters and archeologists are tasked with framing their work to be considerate of our audiences and ready to address the multiple perspectives they bring.

Try It Yourself

Resources for interpretation to diverse audiences and multiple perspectives:

Planning for Diverse Audiences (NPS Common Learning Portal)
This lesson plan is suitable for seasonal training. Participants will learn the value of planning for interpretive contacts in order to eliminate fear and increase their ability to create opportunities for stewardship. Participants will be able to use knowledge of diverse audiences to shape the development of an array of opportunities for audiences and visitors to connect with meanings.

Beyond Outreach Handbook (NPS Common Learning Portal)
This handbook is a tool to assist NPS managers and practitioners and their partners in developing programs that successfully connect diverse communities with their local national parks. It guides practitioners through an assessment that identifies gaps in readiness and informs the development of an effective engagement strategy.

Case Study

The Telling All Americans’ Stories initiative aims to explore how our histories and our lives are intertwined. Discover the ways in which America is made exceptional by the diversity of both her land and her people.

For Your Information

Archeologists draw on data to tell history from multiple perspectives:

Geier, Clarence R. and Stephen R. Potter, eds.
2003 Archaeological Perspectives on the American Civil War. University Press of Florida, Gainesville, FL.
Rutecki, Dawn M. and Chelsea Blackmore
2016 "Towards an Inclusive Queer Archaeology: An Overview and Introduction", SAA Archaeological Record. vol. 61, no. 1.
Shackel, Paul A.
2011 The Archaeology of American Labor and Working-Class Life. University Press of Florida, Gainesville, FL.