Interpretation for Archeologists   5. Personal and Professional Responsibilities   Distance Learning

Promoting Archeological Stewardship

Among interpreters' greatest professional and personal responsibilities is ensuring public support for the protection of irreplaceable archeological resources. Through interpretive and education programs archeologists and interpreters should develop strong public support and stewardship for increased protection of archeological resources nationwide. The goals of such public outreach in the parks are to:

  • Foster a feeling of ownership of and responsibility for our shared heritage
  • Increase public understanding of archeology
  • Enhance public awareness of current problems involving archeological resources such as looting
  • Increase understanding of how the public's actions affect archeological resources
  • Increase public involvement in legitimate archeological activities.

Providing opportunities for appropriate public enjoyment is an important part of a park's mission. National Park Service Management Policies make it clear that the Service encourages visitor activities that can be sustained without causing unacceptable impacts to park resources or values. However, the NPS won't allow activities that impair those resources. In some cases, this may mean that some archeological sites, for example, may be placed off-limits to visitation in order to protect them. Such restrictions present an interpretative opportunity to explain reasons for the restrictions to visitors and to the public. The message of stewardship and long-term preservation of important places can be imparted where off-site interpretations are the only option. In such cases, classroom or virtual visits may provide excellent alternatives for communicating the value of endangered sites.

In some cases, the location, or other information, about archeological sites may be kept confidential and not shared with visitors or the public. There is legal support in both the National Historic Preservation Act and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act for restricting information about archeological sites if releasing that information would cause a significant invasion of privacy; risk harm to the resource; or impede the use of a traditional religious site by practitioners.

Case Study

House Rules for Visiting Archeological Sites

House rules offer friendly, accessible language that turns respectful practices for visiting archeological sites into a relatable perspective for audiences. They can be adapted for your site into interpretive talks or printed on cards.

For Your Information

Ryan, Jan S. 1999. Preventing Cultural Resources Destruction: Taking Action through Interpretation. National Park Service.

This handbook addresses some of the issues faced by archeologists regarding the protection of archeological resources and provides interpreters with ideas, techniques, and messages to enhance their efforts towards cultural resource protection and preservation.

MJB/EJL