The Archeological Stewardship Program at Merrie Way: the Role of the Volunteers
From its earliest conception, the Archaeological Stewardship Program at Merrie Way was designed to incorporate the public. Archaeologists at the GGNRA were determined to share the experience of learning history as it happened, just as it emerged from the ground. The plan was to advertise and promote the excavation and to include enthusiastic members of the community in every aspect of the work. In the end, the project was even more successful than its planners had hoped.
Over the course of late spring and early summer 2011, over 250 volunteers aided the archaeological investigations. Neighbors and tourists, school classes and teachers all got their hands dirty, helping to bring the program and the history of Merrie Way to life. Archaeologists provided a brief introduction to the history, as well as to the archaeology of the site to each group of volunteers. They conveyed the importance of preserving vestiges of our past and outlined their strategy for preserving those artifacts of the old amusement park and stands. The volunteers would be an integral part of the excavation strategy.
At the foundation of Stand “P” in the southwestern part of the site, the archaeologist enlisted the help of volunteers to both screen, and where possible, to excavate parts of the feature. Working alongside archaeologists, they quickly learned to distinguish manmade artifacts which might be of interest to researchers from other natural elements and non-archaeological remains. The volunteer’s newly acquired skills were most useful in the northeastern section of the site, where several mountainous piles of sand awaited sifting and were several thousands of artifacts awaited discovery. Thanks to the many public stewards active at Merrie Way, this daunting task was carried out and over the course of the summer, archaeologist learned more about the site than previously anticipated.
The participation of the Merrie Way volunteers not only fostered a sense of shared responsibility for the site’s maintenance, but their efforts contributed tremendously to the efficiency and thoroughness of the required work. The future of the past relies on today’s stewardship and the volunteers and their valuable work have ensured that Merrie Way’s history will live on through tomorrow.