6.1 Introduction

This section focuses on the mechanisms to create social benefits by promoting an appreciation of values and significance. There is an important distinction to be drawn between understanding the values placed on carved stones (see Section 4) and understanding how engagement with carved stones is both influenced by these values but also in turn shapes these values. In both senses, engagement can be seen as a demonstrable impact of value.

People experience carved stones in myriad ways. They may seek them out directly through site and museum visits or instead experience them as backdrops to their daily lives. Engagement may be mediated virtually through the media, internet and the arts. Such encounters can trigger positive or negative responses to stones. Strategies to improve engagement depend upon understanding how people experience carved stones rather than solely why people value them. Heightened engagement can be achieved through improved physical (or remote web-based) access, interpretation, artistic responses and displays. Engagement is a subjective experience. It allows people to respond to the materiality of carved stones and to enjoy them on their own terms and to draw their own values without necessarily having a specific need for 'knowledge'.

Our perception of the 'value' of carved stones shapes our attitudes and behaviour towards them, either positively or negatively, and influences how we communicate their importance to others. Effective engagement begins with a sound understanding of what enables different modes of interaction, recognising how people appreciate carved stones and being able to measure the difference they make to people's lives. Equally, it depends on understanding the influence communities can have upon carved stones and harnessing its positive effects. Research is also important to explore why in some cases engagement does not work.