Interpretation for Archeologists   5. Personal and Professional Responsibilities   Distance Learning

Finding the –ologist in the Archeologist

Archeologists’ personal obligations are individual and diverse. Maybe you see yourself as an educator, a dispeller of myths, an active participant in the creation of knowledge? It may sound simplistic, but archeologists are people too, and your visitors may be interested to hear about a day in your shoes. Having a reflexive sense of your personal obligations and a set of goals to carry out can provide important guidance and motivation for an interpretive program.

For Your Information

An archeologist inspired this interpreter:

“During an archeologist’s lecture, the landscape became a living thing, not just a bunch of isolated things or sites. It wasn’t just the information he gave, but the passion too. It was a born-again moment for me. I saw my resource differently and started caring for it. It re-energized me!”
(photo) An archeologist shows artifacts to visitors at Petersburg National Battlefield.

An archeologist shows artifacts to visitors at Petersburg National Battlefield. (Gail Brown, University of Maryland)

The presentation of yourself and the interest in the work can contribute significantly to personalizing a presentation and helping visitors understand archeology as an accessible discipline. Take the opportunity to talk about how you became interested in archeology, what brought you to the park, and discuss what keeps you there. Or think about the kinds of questions visitors tend to ask, such as “Have you found anything good today?,” as an opportunity to demonstrate what is really valuable or interesting from your perspective. Maybe you haven’t found a perfect Clovis point or a Spanish medallion or, for that matter, gold, but the stratification of an area poses an unexpected puzzle or the big picture at your excavation changes the known history of a site. Think creatively about answering questions in order to get your audience thinking archeologically!

Use What You Know

Why did you become an archeologist? What inspired you?

For Your Information

Public archeology programs in the United States fuse the sense of responsibility on the part of archeologists with public interest.

Archaeology and Public Education
The Society for American Archaeology Public Education Committee provides a wide range of resources.

Public Archaeology Facility, Binghamton University, SUNY
The archeology program at the PAF combines professional practice with community outreach. The program description gives ideas for creating a mission for interpretive programs and ideas for reaching the public.

Case Study

Working with the public is rewarding, but navigating the administrative systems to develop programs is not easy. Read Patrice L. Jeppson’s article, “Pitfalls, Pratfalls and Pragmatism in Public Archaeology” to learn about how one archeologist found the motivation to continue her work in public archeology despite a host of problems facing the field.

Patrice L. Jeppson, Pitfalls, Pratfalls and Pragmatism in Public Archaeology