There are a number of ways that the museum attempts to discover this original context by interpreting the social languages evident in the objects they collect. Kavanaugh1 indicates that social languages have essentially three component parts, one of which is the direct use of signs and symbols in the form of objects and space while the other two, non-verbal communication such as gestures and body language and verbal communication such as speech and writing, can also be preserved somewhat in the objects that are left behind and can help in determining the culture from which the object originated. Because objects share a role in the interrelated social communication modes of a particular society, the interpretation of these objects may differ from one society to the next or even one time period to the next.
The museum attempts to convey an idea of the original culture by grouping artifacts according to their age and date and place of discovery. By grouping things in this way, it is hoped an idea of the lifestyle of the people who created them will emerge that is free from the understandings of the modern age. Artifacts are shown with explanatory placards that tell what the object was used for and how old it is thought to be. Markings on the objects are interpreted as signs of the beliefs and legends of the originating society whenever possible and other contextualizing information is given. For example, a vase might be explained by the techniques used to make it, the markings that appear on its sides, the design or shape of its form and the anticipated use based on remnants of materials found within the vase.
However, the way in which the object is interpreted can not only provide significant contextual clues to the society from which it was produced, but can also reflect the understanding of the society attempting to