6.2.3 Through targeted interpretation

Targeted interpretation relays the key stories about the past that carved stones can tell us or contribute towards. It is creative. Effective messaging harnesses the special nature of carved stones in terms of their ambiguity of meaning and the freedom of imagination this affords; it reveals stones as personalities and distillations of the landscape and as gateways to creative skills, memory and relationships. Such themes provide opportunities to democratise interpretation to reflect local values. Co-produced and co-curated interpretation is particularly effective at bringing reciprocities of understanding between local communities and professionals (Wemyss Caves: Case Study 36).

Although the range of stories it is possible to tell about carved stones has not yet been fully recognised (see Section 2), it is clear that the ‘messaging’ needs to be joined-up across the sector and extend beyond one’s own community of interest. Research is essential to explore how information can cater to different audience requirements, such as adopting common language or addressing educational gaps, and to determine how different theoretical approaches might make stories ‘grip’. The Iona stones redisplay: Case Study 26 illustrates how an approach that considers the materiality and biography of stones can reveal that their importance does not always lie in their artistic form but in the changing ways people in the past engaged with them. Imagining the material in terms of the ideas that were current at the time of its creation and interpreting stones within their landscape and biographical context can optimise access through highlighting historical and social linkages. Such approaches can help viewers appreciate less ‘obvious’ significance: for example, a fragment of early medieval carving may have little artistic merit but represent the only evidence for an early Christian community in a particular area (Auchnaha: Case Study 39). Case studies can assist with identifying opportunities to improve storytelling by utilising different media (including digital) and from linking and layering of information to extend and deepen engagement. Forthcoming (as of April 2016) guidance on graveyard interpretation produced by Archaeology Scotland’s Adopt-a-Monument project and Kirkyard Consulting was designed using feedback from two workshops on graveyard interpretation attended by community groups and professionals involved with heritage or cemetery management.

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