For archeologists working in the public sphere, interpretation is part of their personal and professional responsibilities. We act in the public's interest and public funds may support our work. Our responsibility, as a result, is to make archeology and its results as transparent and easy to discover as possible. Interpretation is one way to ensure that the public can see behind the curtain of archeology and benefit from archeologists' work on their behalf.
Part of archeologists' responsibilities is identified by the mission of the NPS: to preserve and protect archeological resources for this and future generations. The NPS has developed policies and guidelines to support archeologists and interpreters in their shared goal of disseminating accurate, compelling information to our audiences.
In the following sections, we'll outline the personal and professional responsibilities of archeologists to interpret archeological resources, including techniques and approaches that highlight the unique contributions of the resources to discussing life in the past and connecting its relevance to the public today.
For Your Information
NPS Office of Policy
The NPS Office of Policy has issued orders and guidelines that support the professional responsibility to interpret archeology.
NPS-28: Cultural Resource Management Guideline
NPS-28 guides cultural resource management. With regards to archeological interpretation, see in particular the sections on Archeology and Visitor Experience:
Interpretation, the public face of the National Park Service, can be a powerful tool for the preservation of cultural resources. To make it serve this purpose, interpreters must be well-versed in both the significance of their parks' resources and the Service's policies, standards, and guidelines for managing them. By communicating why resources have been set aside and should be preserved along with the "park story," interpreters can enlist more stewards in their protection. (Chapter 4, Section A:1)
Director's Order #11B: Ensuring Quality of Information Disseminated by the National Park Service (2002)
The National Park Service disseminates organizational information, natural and cultural resource information, and budget information. All information disseminated by the NPS must comply with basic standards of quality to ensure and maximize the objectivity, utility, and integrity of information disseminated to the public.
Director’s Order #79: Integrity of Scientific and Scholarly Activities (2012)
Scientific and scholarly activity is essential to the NPS mission. The results of scientific and scholarly activity are used to inform NPS policy and management decisions. Such activity must therefore produce scientific and scholarly information that is robust, of the highest quality, and the result of rigorous scientific and scholarly processes.