n.the ability to understand, contextualize, and interpret primary sources, in part by taking into consideration their physical characteristicsPretzer 1998, 459The question whether museum objects can speak for them selves, and how, raises questions about the power of artifacts, the artifactual literacy of museum visitors, the belief in a constructivist or instructional approach, the aims of a critical education vis-a-vis cultural reinforcement, and the interaction between personal memory and professional history. Bass 1999Artifactual literacy is the practice of criticism, analysis and pedagogy that reads texts as if they were objects and objects as if they were texts. Artifactual literacy is the congeries of methodologies that bind the many subfields of cultural and historical study. I would suggest that electronic environments and interactive technologies are a bigger and more suited place for us to engage the work of artifactual literacy.Yakel and Torres 2003, 52Artifactual literacy is . . . the ability to interpret records and assess their value as evidence. Bahde, Smedberg, and Taormina 2014, ix–xThe term artifactual literacy refers to the ability to analyze and interpret primary sources once they have been found, and includes skills related to understanding bias, authority, authenticity, historical context, original purpose, and original audience. It also signifies the ability to use primary sources as evidence, to understand what questions they answer, what questions they do not answer, and what questions they raise.Carini 2016, 195Artifactual literacy—the ability to understand, interpret, and analyze primary sources—is one of the most important aspects of primary source literacy. If a person cannot contextualize and understand the actual materials, then it does not matter if he or she can find them.
Artifactual literacy is sometimes used to distinguish the ability to understand and interpret records and other primary sources from 1) the ability to identify and locate the sources, and/or 2) an understanding of archival theory and practice.