Providing opportunities for volunteers and youth is an important form of public outreach. Volunteers and youth can be powerful allies and participate in a variety of ways, from site discovery to analysis to site monitoring and protection. No volunteer program or youth program should be implemented without the supervision of a professional archeologist as defined in Appendix E of DO28. Volunteers and youth participants must not conduct any activity -- be it treatment, monitoring, or research -- without supervision from a professional archeologist familiar with NPS policies and federal law.
Avocational or amateur archeologists do archeology as a hobby and not as a profession. They vary greatly in skill level and commitment, from the volunteer who helps out occasionally to a recipient of the Society for American Archaeology's Crabtree Award for excellence by an avocational archeologist who has made significant contributions to American archeology. Avocational archeologists, however, should not supervise volunteers, even if they are park staff.
Parks may recruit volunteers and youth in a variety of ways. The NPS Get Involved web page includes sources of information for volunteers, including a search engine to identify parks and youth programs. Parks may announce volunteer activities on their homepages, through local papers, or by more informal means such as bulletin boards and flyers. Cast a wide net that ensures a broad, diverse group of volunteers and youth.
Parks should be aware of the critical issues concerning volunteers and youth. Among them:
- Parks should not undertake volunteer or youth programs if a professional archeologist is unavailable to give the time, attention, and supervision necessary. If an archeologist is not available, a park should not have a volunteer or youth program in archeology.
- Parks may wish to schedule regular meetings among NPS staff and volunteers and youth to identify any problem areas, share ideas to improve or change outreach efforts, and to get a sense of their talents.
- Volunteers and youth participants take more of your time than you might anticipate, and no two are alike. Administrative paperwork, checking the accuracy of completed work, guidance, and project development constitute a significant portion of a volunteer's supervisor's taskload.
- Volunteers and youth require training, such as in excavation techniques for a public archeology dig or guidance in speaking for the NPS to visitors. You may wish to develop a training program before accepting participants.
- NPS archeologists must drive research and are responsible for quality control over the results. Volunteers and youth must not 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 or youth may assume additional responsibilities. Appropriate responsibilities might include editing archeological reports, writing exhibit text, or interpreting sites to the public. At no time, however, should NPS resources be compromised.
Avocational archeologists share the desire to record and preserve information for their own personal satisfaction as well as to make a meaningful contribution to knowledge. Critical issues for working with avocational archeologists include:
- At all times, NPS policy and procedure are paramount. NPS staff must retain control. Park archeologists should not allow avocational archeologists to compromise resources, for example, by excavating incorrectly or making insufficient records. NPS archeologists can, however, listen to new ideas or suggestions and consider integrating them into programs.
- Be sure to 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.
- Avocational archeologists require supervision, even if they are very experienced in the field.
- A park should make an agreement about publication of findings. Encourage collaboration between the park and avocational archeologists.
- 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
For more information
- Volunteer Opportunities (archeology-specific)
- Archeological Centers and Regional Offices (contact directly for volunteer information)