Framing the Ancients: A Global Study in Archaeological and Historic Site Interpretation

Open Access
Barry, Kristin Marie
Graduate Program:
Art History
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 09, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Elizabeth Walters, Dissertation Advisor
  • Craig Robert Zabel, Committee Member
  • William Joseph Dewey, Committee Member
  • Elizabeth Bradford Smith, Committee Member
  • James Theodore Kalsbeek, Committee Member
  • Archaeology
  • cultural heritage
  • interpretation
  • design
  • architecture
  • identity
  • commercialization
  • value systems
  • visual culture
Although rarely addressed in modern scholarship, over the last several decades design implemented at archaeological and historic sites has become the organizing agent to present ancient cultures to the international public. Using topologies such as site museums, reconstructions, interpretive installation art, and comprehensive site planning, physical construction is now used to metaphorically guide visitors through the chronology and visual culture of a specific place while physically guiding them through the material remains. This dissertation examines the concepts of space, culture, and design and their junction as part of the overarching concept of “heritage interpretation.” Through a series of individual site studies, this document discusses how different types of intervention can affect visitor understanding, experience, and the interpretation of history and ancient cultures by the greater public. As a comprehensive study, the research examines what methods have been used and are currently being used to facilitate public engagement with ancient remains through design, specifically placing physical interpretations within an immersive theoretical and historical context. By utilizing a multi-disciplinary approach, the dissertation examines how the concepts of ancient art, cultural heritage, and modern construction interact at some of the most famous world historical sites, and how archaeological interpretation can affect a broader understanding of time, place, and culture.