Translating the Past: bridging the gap between the early post-Reformation Scottish subject and archaeology's audiences

Morgana McCabe

Department of Archaeology (Sgoil nan Daonnachdan), University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ. Scotland. Email:


In today's increasingly interdisciplinary and publicly accountable research environment, archaeologists face new challenges in disseminating and validating their research. Experimenting with hyperlinked media, the 'Ye Devill Among Ym' Project explores the potential of interactive media to communicate a data-rich study to a wider audience, still including archaeologists but simultaneously penetrable by scholars from other disciplines and non-academics. Using new research into the material culture of discipline employed by the early post-Reformation Scottish church as a case study, the project strives not only to describe experiences in the past, but also to translate both those experiences and elements of the archaeological interpretative process.

To accomplish such a translation, it is necessary to facilitate user-led interpretation and to create engaged, participant audiences. This may be done by providing readers with the ability to mobilise the cultural capital gained through the reading process in individual and unique ways. This article presents both the context of the original experimental article and the feedback collected from participants on their engagements with the material provided. The data collected indicate that all readers experienced a deeper sense of participation in the interpretative process, a stronger level of connection with the material past than is facilitated by conventional text formats and, crucially, found the format inclusive and valuable, rather than exclusive. Both specialist and non-specialist reader feedback indicates significant potential in user-led interpretation facilitated by mixed representation, both as a way of engaging new audiences and existing audiences in new ways, and as a way of bridging gaps between the archaeologist, the audience and the subject.

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