Interpretation for Archeologists   2. What is Interpretation?   Distance Learning

Introduction

“Interpretation” is a difficult concept to pin down. What’s it about? Who does it?

Interpretation is part art and part science: it's the connective tissue between archeological resources and the public's understanding of life in the past. Interpreters draw on a range of techniques to communicate with their audiences. Effective interpretation moves a visitor to realize the relevance and significance of archeological resources in contemporary life and how they play a role in protecting them.

Archeologists who engage in the interpretive process provide opportunities for audiences to explore ideas and meanings in natural and cultural resources and to arrive at their own conclusions about them. Interpretation also helps archeologists get the word out that archeology is important and worthy of notice.

Case Study

What do audiences who seek specific resources hope to find or experience? An interpreter said:

“They seek background, the history behind an object, event, or practice. They seek connections between interests and the bigger picture and issues. They want a chance to build and expand on what they know or their previous experience.”

Why do you want to be an interpreter? Your colleague said:

“I love the story! The chase of the story, experiencing the story, knowing the story, and then having the story’s meanings change unexpectedly. Interpretation enriched my life. I’m willing to exchange my life energies with this profession to give others the opportunities to find, experience, create and recreate their own stories.”

Use What You Know: Assess Your Knowledge (#1 of 10)

(icon) A ranger's hat.
  • What is your experience in interpreting archeology to the public?
  • What do you hope to gain from this guide?

MJB/EJL