Final synthesis (Rule 36)

Rule 36 addresses the final synthesis upon completion of an activity directed at the underwater cultural heritage.
A final synthesis for the public is a different product than the project report which is dealt with in Rule 30. Often, much of the technical information contained in reports is not necessary for informing the public of project goals and results, although project leaders may choose to make project reports available to those who are interested in learning more. Consequently, a public synthesis may be shorter, or may take an entirely different form. Consideration should also be given to providing translations of the public synthesis.


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Final synthesis



  • Possibilities for public synthesis

Booklets, brochures, posters, film documentaries, illustrated books or other publications such as magazine articles, exhibits or displays of artefacts and information, and websites are all acceptable and effective ways of synthesising information for public education. If the site is made accessible to the diving public (Rule 7), waterproof site guides, underwater monuments or plinths, and trails marked with line are tried and successful methods for interpretation. Case studies from around the world are available to provide ideas and models. If, however, the site is intended to be an underwater archaeological preserve or shipwreck park for divers and snorkelers, do not forget interpretive materials for the non-diving public as well.

Some underwater cultural heritage sites may also be appropriate for inclusion as part of a larger maritime heritage trail that can feature maritime sites above and below water. These trails boost tourism, enhance the local economy, educate citizens and visitors, promote appreciation for history and culture, and serve as effective management tools.

  • Complexity of the project

Archaeological projects, especially full-scale excavation of sites, are most often a multi-year, or even multi-decade, undertaking. The amount of material culture recovered and requiring conservation, analysis, and interpretation adds to the time between initial discovery and investigation and the production of the final report and public synthesis. This is an accepted and understood fact of the discipline, although the public will be eager to hear of on-going research and discoveries. Consider the preparation of interim or periodic updates for the public, such as press releases or articles detailing the extent of work so far. Websites are an extremely effective and relatively simple way to enable the public to keep abreast of project progress; many project websites include web logs (“blogs”) of daily activities. By keeping the public informed about current developments, the project team can maintain a level of community excitement and interest in the project.

  • Sensitive information

In some cases, a site may be too fragile or the information recovered too scientifically sensitive to immediately share with the public. For example, a site in imminent danger of looting or vandalism may require that the site location remain confidential. A shipwreck in the stage of open excavation that exposes especially fragile timbers or other components may make it unsuitable for visitation. If human remains are discovered, archaeologists may be required by ethics, law, and cultural convention to refrain from making the discovery public. These cases must be decided on an individual basis, although the team leader should be prepared to answer questions, sooner or later, related to the decision, remembering that fundamentally heritage and archaeological research are public, not confidential.

  • Relevant public records

Relevant public records are any depository that can be accessed by the public. These can include public libraries; archives of community museums; research documents of local historical societies; college and university libraries; and municipal, county, state, or other governmental archives. The World Wide Web is perhaps one of the best repositories for public documents, since it is easily accessible by people all over the world. Consider attaching public-oriented materials to the project website, or linked to the project’s sponsoring agency’s website. These can be viewed or downloaded at the public’s discretion and will be available to the widest possible audience.

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Deposit of the public synthesis

Rule 36 requires that a final project synthesis shall be made public and deposited in public records. In order to fulfil this:

  1. Understand that the project’s public synthesis is generally a different product than the project’s final report.
  2. Consider alternative methods for public synthesis, such as websites, posters, site guides, brochures, and lavishly illustrated publications.
  3. Provide periodic updates for the public if the project is long-term; do not wait until the very end to explain the project.
  4. Recognize some information may be too sensitive to immediately share with the public.
  5. Deposit the synthesis product in archives and other locations that are easily accessible by the public. Consider including public-oriented material on the Web.
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