Interpretation for Archeologists   7. Use What You Know   Distance Learning

Evaluating Compelling Stories

This brief section provides an intensive set of questions to help you evaluate the strength of the compelling story. It’s difficult to know how the story affects an audience. Ideally, they move from not caring about a resource to finding personal relevance and the inspiration to find out more on their own. Interpretive success is measured in an audience by increased curiosity, not by some notion that they have gotten it all. Indeed, visitors may not process or realize their full connectivity with the resource and its meaning until later, after talking with family and friends about their experiences or applying the knowledge and ideas to new situations.

Use What You Know: Assess Your Knowledge (#8 of 10)

(icon) A ranger's hat.

Use these questions to evaluate the Compelling Story you wrote.

Guidelines for measuring the effect of compelling stories:

  • Does the story move the visitor?
  • Do visitors care more about the resource because of the story?
  • Are visitors moved to some action that supports the stewardship of the resource?
  • Is the story emblematic? Does it represent some larger concept or meaning?
  • How does it connect to that larger meaning?
  • Can visitors clearly understand the connection?
  • Does the compelling story touch on a universal concept that is relevant to the visitor?
  • Is the story at its very core something that people care about?

For Your Information

Using the Revised Framework

The 1994 revision of the NPS thematic framework helps interpreters as a conceptual tool to develop knowledge of the resources in order to evaluate what stories there are to be told about a particular NPS unit. Understanding the holistic and interconnected story of the resource contributes to the goal of telling compelling stories which represent the greater meaning or significance of the resources. The framework is not a cookbook, but an interpreter who works with it will find a tool there to promote good interpretation.

The thematic framework may also be helpful as an interpreter evaluates the stories that are available for telling. The key to successfully using the framework to organize knowledge of the resources is to start broadly and then narrow down the stories to the most compelling ones. The most compelling stories are those whose outcomes promote visitors' understanding of a park's purpose and significance. These often are holistic stories that lead the visitor to understanding a park's mission, purpose and the significance of park resources.

Use What You Know: Assess Your Knowledge (#9 of 10)

(icon) A ranger's hat.

We turn this section over to you. Use your answers to the Use What You Know sections, the case studies, and examples from your own park to work through the questions below.

  1. Name a place managed and preserved in your park for its archeological significance.
  2. Connect the place to its larger contexts, such as cultural systems or processes, ideas, values, historical and natural trends.
  3. Identify the story that emerges from the connection of site to context. Is the story representative of a larger or universal meaning? Can you identify places to emphasize emotional connections and relevance?

Use the story you have created as the case study for the questions that follow.

"Think of a story or 'set' of information that you interpret. Then reexamine Tilden's principles listed and consider the following questions:

  1. What is the revelation we seek for park visitors?
  2. What thoughts or actions do we hope to provoke?
  3. What whole are we trying to communicate to visitors?
  4. Why do we, as an agency, believe interpretation is important? What do we wish to accomplish?"

How can you link the archeological resources and interpretive themes to illuminate:

  • Conflict between people or cultures
  • Conflict between people and natural systems
  • Internal conflicts within individual with broader implications
  • Resolution of conflict
  • Non-resolution of conflict
  • Consequences of action
  • Consequences of inaction
  • Commitment to universals (courage, politics, religion, ethnicity, violence, family, sacrifice, love, hate)

What other universal concepts might the resources in your area discuss?

MJB/EJL