Interpretation for Archeologists   2. What is Interpretation?   Distance Learning

Misconceptions About Interpretation

(photo) Fossil from Florissant Fossil Beds, NM.

One popular misconception is that archeologists seek fossils. (NPS)

People may have misconceptions about what interpretation is and what interpreters do that keep them from trying it. Sometimes these misconceptions are based in different ways of approaching new information. Other times they come from a lack of dialogue about what interpreters aim to accomplish. Unfortunately, misconceptions about interpretation can keep archeologists from using it to explore the various ways of presenting their work and the significance of their park to the public.

Some of the misconceptions are:

  • Interpreters don’t produce anything.
  • Interpretation is too unstructured and not based in facts.
  • Interpretation is about acting a part or presenting a single point of view.
  • Interpreters focus on face-to-face interaction with the public.
  • Interpretation doesn’t have a defined role in the National Park system.
  • Interpretation isn’t a “real” profession.

Interpretation is important to archeologists because it tells people why our work is important to them. Decisions about how to interpret a site or an object influences exhibit presentations, public programs, cultural resources preservation, natural resources conservation, and more. Frequently, parks change as the interpretation of their themes evolves in response to public needs and interests. Interpretation, as a concept and as a practice, truly serves park management.

For Your Information

Interpreters are increasingly professionalized in the NPS and have the products to prove it. Consider the number of submissions of interpretive material to satisfy certification coursework in the Submission Reports to the Interpretive Division training programs.

Try it Yourself

Talk to the interpreters at your park to find out what they do. What methods can you use to exchange ideas, information, and advice to help each other out?

MJB/EJL