Assessment of Archeology Interpretation

Why Conduct an Assessment?

After interpreters and archeologists work together to develop an interpretive product, the product continues to require maintenance. Changing attitudes, new technologies, and world events can rapidly make an interpretive product appear out-of-date and out-of-touch. Interpreters and archeologists should periodically review interpretive products to:

  • Ensure the delivery of up-to-date and current information
  • Refresh language and techniques
  • Consider audience feedback
  • Weigh changes to the relevance of a message
  • Incorporate new techniques
  • Renew partnerships between staff, divisions, and partners
  • Brainstorm and plan for the future.


The Interpreting Archeology assessment tool is loosely based on the models for building interpretive products that you learned about in Archeology for Interpreters or Interpretation for Archeologists. The series of questions asks you to identify what you have, how well it works, and what changes might be appropriate.

Step 1: Take Stock

Now that the interpretive product has seen use, take stock of its basic facts and logistics.

  • What is the product?
  • When and how often is it offered/available/used?
  • Where is it offered?
  • Do audiences interact with a person as part of the interpretive experience, or is it self-guided?
  • Who was involved in the creation of the product?
  • Are any of these logistical elements working especially well, or not well? What changes could be made?

Step 2: Make an Inventory

Go through the interpretive equation.

  • What are the tangible resources?
  • Has new information come to light?
  • What is the topic of the product?
  • What are the intangible and universal values expressed?
  • What is the theme statement of the product?
  • What audience(s) did you anticipate for the product? Has your expectation matched reality? Who tends to comprise the audience? How do you know?
  • What common questions, feedback, and reactions come from the audiences?
  • What interpretive techniques are used?
  • Minding your answers to Step 1, what opportunities to audiences have to encounter the interpretive opportunity?
  • What components can be added, subtracted, or approached differently to improve the interpretive product?

Step 3: Consider Relevance

  • How is the product professionally relevant to archeology and interpretation?
  • How is the product relevant to a range of audiences?
  • How, or has, the relevance of the product’s interpretive theme changed?
  • How could the theme, interpretive techniques, logistics, or other aspects be tweaked to make the product more relevant?

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