Portland State University. Department of Anthropology
Date of Award
Master of Science (M.S.) in Anthropology
1 online resource (xiv, 195 pages)
Interpretation of cultural and natural resources -- West (U.S.), National parks and reserves -- West (U.S.) -- Management, Indians of North America -- Exhibitions, Cultural property -- Protection
Every year, hundreds of thousands of people visit the Native American ancestral lands in the western United States developed for tourism and recreation. The stewards of these lands seek to engage visitors and enrich their experience, and simultaneously to protect the lands' natural and cultural resources. To achieve their mission, protected areas regularly use interpretation -- materials and experiences that aim to educate visitors about resources and see them as personally meaningful. However, there is little literature on interpretive content in protected areas, few qualitative studies of interpretation as constructed by visitors and interpreters, and little literature on the representation of Native Americans in museums and protected areas.
I consider the public presentation of archaeology at exemplary protected areas in the U.S. Southwest and Great Basin within a theoretical framework of governmentality and representation. Within a mixed-method research design, this project used participant-observation at thirteen protected area locales to identify interpretive content and representational strategies, and semi-structured interviews with 31 individuals to elicit staff and visitors' understandings of interpretation and display. This research found three types of narratives in the interpretation sampled-- scientific narratives, cultural narratives, and management messages. In general, scientific narratives appeared more frequently than cultural narratives and both appeared more frequently than management messages. Archaeology dominated scientific narratives, cultural continuity dominated cultural narratives, and orientation dominated management messages. In general, archaeology appeared with greater relative frequency than any other component of interpretive content. This study also found that interpretation predominantly adopted a third-person omniscient point of view and represented people predominantly in the ancient past.
This study has both academic and applied outcomes. The work aims to contribute to the scant body of literature on interpretive content in protected areas stewarding natural and cultural resources, the few qualitative studies of interpretation as constructed by visitors and interpreters, and the existing literature on the representation of Native Americans in museums and protected areas as well as informing future interpretive practice. These findings inform a report on contemporary interpretive practice and recommendations for the public presentation of archaeology delivered to the US Fish and Wildlife Service in December 2013.
Survant, Cerinda, "(Re)Presenting Peoples and Storied Lands: Public Presentation of Archaeology and Representation of Native Americans in Selected Western U.S. Protected Areas" (2016). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 3032.