A visitor-sourced methodology for the interpretation of archaeological sites

Angeliki Chrysanthi (Southampton)

Institute of Classical Studies Digital Seminar 2012

Friday June 15th at 16:30, in Court Room, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

The field of Archaeological Heritage Management (AHM) today, demonstrates an increasing interest in integrated approaches to visitor management, in relation to the sustainability of the sites and the enhancement of the visitor’s experience. The process of planning and implementing archaeological walks constitutes a critical part of the preventive conservation and enhancement of archaeological sites. In combination with other interpretative tools, paths constitute the main vehicle through which an archaeological site is presented to the visitor.

Taking into account that each archaeological site has a unique spatial and interpretive character, it is suggested that design approaches should be informed by formal observation methodologies (PEPONIS et al. 2004, RUSSO et al. 2010) of how the sites afford movement. It has also been argued that visibility constitutes a critical factor which influences visitor’s spatial behaviour (KAYNAR 2005). In parallel, theoretical approaches in heritage studies have denoted the importance of ‘the visitor perception’ in interpretive planning (UZZEL 1998, LEKAKIS 2009), while recent studies in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for Heritage discuss novel ways of designing interpretation to accommodate the ‘things we value’ (GIACCARDI 2011).

Part of this PhD research investigates movement and behaviour patterns of visitors in archaeological sites as a way of informing interpretive planning. A critical point of this study was the development of a hybrid methodology for collecting and assessing data on movement around archaeological sites and of the things that visitors value the most during their visit. In this talk, I will demonstrate the methodology followed at the archaeological site of Gournia in Greece. Apart from recognised forms of observation and the collection of qualitative data, technologies such as GPS body tracking, geo-tagging and GIS applications were employed. The interpretation of the processed data provided a better insight and an overview of the site’s affordances for movement and as well as the weaknesses of the current interpretation infrastructure. Additionally, the methodology extends to a visitor-sourced approach to reveal the site's 'hot spots' by combining hotspot analysis with a thematic analysis of geo-tagged images captured by visitors.


GIACCARDI, E., 2011. Things we value. Interactions, 18(1), pp.17–21.

KAYNAR, I. 2005. Visibility, movement paths and preferences in open plan museums: an observational and descriptive study on Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum. In Proceedings (Volume II) 5th International Space Syntax Symposium, Delft, the Netherlands.

LEKAKIS, S. 2009. Creating a Basic Schema for the “Experiential Approach” in Site Management; the Visi- tor Perception. In Thomas, J, Jorge, V. O. (eds), Archaeology and the Politics of Vision in a Post-Modern Con- text. 292-305.

PEPONIS, J., CONROY-DALTON, R., WINEMAN, J., DALTON, N. 2004. ‘Measuring the effects of layout upon visitors' spatial behaviours in open plan exhibition settings’ Environment and Planning (B): Planning and Design 31, 253-273.

RUSSO, P.A., CLAVE, A.S., SHOVAL, N. 2010. Advanced Visitor Tracking Analysis in Practice: Explorations in the Port Aventura Theme Park and Insights for a Future Research Agenda. In Gretzel, U., Law, R., Fuchs, M. (eds), Information and Communication Technologies in Tourism 2010. Springer Vienna. 159-170.

UZZEL, D. 1998. Interpreting our Heritage: a Theoretical Interpretation. In Uzell, D. and Bellantyne, R. (eds). Contemporary Issues in Heritage and Environmental Management. The Stationary Office: London. 11-25


The seminar will be followed by wine and refreshments.

Audio recording of seminar (MP3)

Presentation (PDF)