Volunteers, Youth, and Students
Programs for volunteers, youth, and students are an important component of archeology outreach. For the public, these opportunities provide experiences to learn more about a field of interest. For archeologists, volunteers, youth and students can support responsible resource management in a variety of ways, from fieldwork to collections management to site monitoring and protection. Seasonal employees may qualify as youth or students, but are not the focus of this guidance.
Volunteers, youth, and students have workplace rights, including protection from harassment. Share the link for the NPS Employee Center on InsideNPS, which includes information about workplace policy, appropriate codes of conduct, and processes to resolve issues.
Defining Volunteers, Youth, and Students
Volunteers are not paid. The public finds volunteer opportunities through the NPS Volunteer with Us website. The NPS Volunteers-in-Parks (VIP) program is administered through the NPS Interpretation, Education, and Volunteers (IEV) directorate. For the most up-to-date information on policy and administration, refer to IEV guidance on InsideNPS and check with your Volunteer Coordinator.
Youth are individuals age 15-34. Youth may be unpaid volunteers, or be paid a wage or be otherwise compensated through participation in a federal youth employment program or a partner working on NPS land. The public finds youth opportunities through the NPS Youth Programs website. For the most up-to-date information on policy and administration, refer to Youth Programs guidance on InsideNPS and Youth Master Youth Agreements.
Students are enrolled in a school, college, or university and seek a degree. They may be unpaid volunteers, or be paid a wage or receive an educational stipend. There is no age restriction. The public finds student opportunities through the NPS Jobs and Internships website. For the most up-to-date information on policy and administration, refer to Youth Programs guidance on InsideNPS and Master Youth Agreements.
Best Practices for Volunteer, Youth, and Student Programs
When creating or managing a volunteer, youth, or student program, consider the following best practices:
- Every project and program should be supervised by a professional archeologist as defined in Appendix E of DO28. Some projects, such as the curation of artifacts, may be supervised by professionals in appropriate fields. NPS archeologists must drive research and are responsible for quality control over the results. If an archeologist is not available, a park should not host a program.
- Volunteers, youth, and students cannot conduct their own unvetted programs, or deviate from an archeologist's directions. They should not, for example, carry out their own excavation or metal detect unsupervised. They should not deviate from the park's expectations for a script, behavior, or attitude towards the public or the resources.
- Under certain circumstances, trusted volunteers may assume additional responsibilities. At no time, however, should NPS resources be compromised.
- NPS cultural resource management takes place to comply with the law. Integrate information about NHPA, NAGPRA, and ARPA into training. Consider creating handouts, postcards, or bookmarks with the basics about these laws. Find plain English information on the Archeology Law and Ethics page.
Parks should not undertake volunteer, youth, or student programs if a professional archeologist is unavailable to give the time, attention, and supervision necessary. When weighing whether or not to host a program, consider that volunteers, youth, and students:
- Make valuable contributions to NPS cultural resource management, inspire staff and bring a fresh perspective, and may go on to become archeologists, themselves.
- Become ambassadors to NPS and archeology, by talking about their experiences with friends, family and communities. These conversations help the public to understand why the NPS does archeology and how it is valuable and relevant.
- Require supervision and time for mentoring, administrative paperwork, checking the accuracy of completed work, and other tasks.
- Need training to complete their tasks and frequent check-ins to ensure work is being done correctly. Archeologists may wish to develop a guidebook with protocols for the work, or schedule a training program.
- Benefit from regular meetings to identify any problem areas, share ideas to improve or change outreach efforts, and to get a sense of their talents.
- Require supervision, even if they are very experienced in the field.
- Should not make cultural resource management decisions.
- Should not supervise volunteers.
- May publish findings, but should do so through an agreement with the park, which retains control over the subject matter, especially sensitive data such as site locations.
- Public Archeology at Manzanar, Manzanar National Historic Site
- Amateur Certification (certification programs and the Crabtree Award)
- Technical Brief 9: Training and Using Volunteers in Archeology: A Case Study From Arkansas
- Technical Brief 22: Developing and Implementing Archeological Site Stewardship Programs
- Volunteer Opportunities (archeology-specific)
- Archeological Centers and Regional Offices (contact directly for volunteer information)
Avocational or amateur archeologists do archeology as a hobby and not as a profession, but they vary greatly in skill level and commitment. Because they come with a skill set and a deeper knowledge, they can be assigned more complex tasks, but NPS staff must retain control over decisionmaking in keeping with NPS policy and procedure. Avocational archeologists:
For more information