Telling a story

  • Dal E
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The 1980s saw a change in the way people regarded archaeological interpretations. The realization that the public was not very interested in archaeological findings and the growth of heritage tourism, along with a shift in theoretical perspectives, encouraged the development of new presentation methods. The use of narrative interpretations was a part of this change. Narrative interpretations are character-based interpretations that have a plot and take place in a specific setting or around a specific event. However, little research has been done on the response towards different presentation methods. The aim of this research is to find out to what extent problems that have been associated with using interpretative narratives affect the visitor’s experience. These problems are as follows: • The compromise of authenticity; • Inclusion of propaganda in the form of communal autobiographies; • Oversimplification of facts; • Inclusion or exclusion of multiple viewpoints; • “Adventurous” portrayal of archaeologists; • The use of narratives told in the present and referring to the past or narratives about the past referring to the present; • Reaching the audience. In addition, the research aims to evaluate whether interpretative narratives can be used successfully and if the public prefers them to other presentation methods. The data was collected through a survey amongst the visitors to three museums or centres that make use of interpretative narratives: the Provincial Archaeological Museum Ename, Belgium; Jorvik Viking Centre, York, The United Kingdom; and Dublinia, Dublin, Ireland. The results indicate that most of these presumed problems affect the visitors very little. However, they give cause for the reconsideration of how much space should be dedicated to displays about the process of excavation and if the archaeologist is suitable as the main character of the narrative. In general the use of interpretative narratives can be seen as successful. Most visitors prefer this 12 2 presentation method to information panels. However, the results also suggest that the combination with other methods is desirable.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Authenticity
  • Museum
  • interpretative narratives

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  • E.K. Dal

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