Why are Heritage Interpreters Voiceless at the Trowel's Edge? A Plea for Rewriting the Archaeological Workflow

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'Heritage interpretation' is generally conceived as the development and presentation of knowledge about the past for public audiences. Most obviously evidenced in descriptive signs, guides and related media installed on archaeological and cultural sites, heritage interpretation has more than a half-century of theory and applied practice behind it, yet it continues to sit uncomfortably within the typical archaeological workflow. While the concept can be criticized on many fronts, of concern is the lack of recognition that it is of equal relevance to *both* non-expert and expert audiences (as opposed to non-expert audiences alone). Our profession appears to rest on an assumption that archaeologists do their own kind of interpretation—and, separately, non-experts require a special approach that heritage interpreters must facilitate, but that field specialists have no need for—or from which little obvious expert benefit can be derived. For this reason, it is rare to find heritage interpreters embedded in primary fieldwork teams. Here I call for a rethinking of the traditional workflow, with a view to integrating the heritage interpretation toolkit and heritage interpreters themselves into our basic field methodologies. Their direct involvement in disciplinary process from the outset has the potential to transform archaeological interpretation overall.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212-227
Number of pages16
JournalAdvances in Archaeological Practice
Issue number3
Early online date26 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018

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