Art Contest 2024

illustration National Fossil Day stamp with postmark

About the NFD Art Contest

Theme: Compare the work of an Archeologist and a Paleontologist. How is the work of these two professions similar and different?

The National Park Service and National Fossil Day partners are sponsoring an art contest to celebrate the 15th annual National Fossil Day. The 2024 National Fossil Day celebration is scheduled for Wednesday, October 16, 2024, during Earth Science Week.

The National Park Service preserves diverse types of natural and cultural resources throughout its 428 different national parks, monuments, recreation areas, and other designated areas. Fossils have been documented in at least 286 National Park Service areas. The study of fossils is the primary focus in the science of paleontology and the work of a paleontologist. Paleontology is frequently confused or associated with archeology. Archeology is the field of study examining human prehistory and history through the assessment and sometimes excavation of past cultural sites and the associated artifacts and other remains. Many national parks protect prehistoric and historic artifacts, structures, and other remains associated with human history and culture. The National Park Service employs both archeologists and paleontologists to help understand, manage, and protect remains from the past.

Two questions that frequently comes up during our work for the National Park Service are, “What is the difference between archeology and paleontology?” and “How is the training and work of an archeologist similar to and different from the work of a paleontologist?” These are very interesting and important questions. To help us all better understand and to celebrate these two fields of study, the National Park Service is dedicating the 2024 National Fossil Day art contest theme to address these questions.

Perhaps one way to begin this discussion is to compare two popular movie franchises, “Jurassic Park” and “Indiana Jones”. If you have watched these movies, do you recall which movie featured fossils and which featured cultural artifacts? It may be best to start by recognizing something that both archeologists and paleontologists are involved with in their work: “searching for old things preserved within the earth’s surface”. Although the resources that archeologists and paleontologists are searching for are different, the techniques and tools that are used to search, inventory, or survey are often similar. Further, once discoveries are made, archeologists and paleontologists often use the same or similar techniques to document, excavate, collect, and curate artifacts or fossils. Where the difference lies, is what types of resources the archeologists and paleontologists are focusing their attention.

In the National Park Service we have park archeologists who specialize in different types of prehistoric or historic resources. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, has archeologists who are experts on ancient Native American cultures along with the artifacts and structures associated with these people from the past. Artifacts such as pottery and projectile points (“arrowheads”) are commonly found in parks with prehistoric sites. At one of the American Revolutionary War or Civil War parks, such as Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania, archeologists would be experts in historic and military artifacts and structures. Cannon balls and uniform buttons are commonly found in parks preserving military battlefields.

At Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado and Utah, the park paleontologists help to study and protect a real “Jurassic Park”. The fossil remains of dinosaurs and other animals are preserved in an exposed quarry where the public can visit and learn about these ancient lifeforms and the environment in which they lived. At Fossil Butte National Monument, Wyoming, 50-million-year-old lake deposits preserve the delicate bones and often complete skeletons of ancient fish, turtles, birds, mammals, along with tiny insects and plants. Paleontologists help to preserve fragile fossil specimens in the park’s museum collection for study and through exhibits available for the public to see and learn about this rich fossil record from in and around the monument.

A final humorous note regarding the confusion between an archeologist and paleontologist is summed up the following statement: “A common misconception is that archeologists investigate dinosaurs, when in fact humans and dinosaurs did not live at the same time.”

The next part is up to you! We encourage you to do a little research online to better understand both the differences and similarities between the work of an archeologist and the work of a paleontologist. We are excited to see how you can share this information in your 2024 National Fossil Day artwork submission.

Art Contest Guidelines

Click here to open the art contest entry form.

Who can enter?

The contest is open to any interested person, of all ages. Entries will be judged based on originality, creativity, and how well the submission addresses this year’s contest theme. You must be a resident of the United States to enter.

What should my artwork include?

Your artwork should focus on the art contest theme “Compare the work of an Archeologist and a Paleontologist. How is the work of these two professions similar and different?” If you want to feature a National Park Service site preserving archeological (prehistoric or historic sites) or paleontological resources (fossils) in your art – this will be noted during the judging of the final art contest.

The artwork can be in the form of a photograph (black & white or color), a painting, a drawing, or a sketch. All artwork must be 2D and flat.

Questions to help you get started...

  • Where is the closest National Park or Monument near me?

  • Does this park have fossils or archeological artifacts or sites?

How large should the artwork be?

All artwork should be able to fit inside a 13"x 17" envelope or smaller. Digital entries must be at least between 300 to 600 DPI and in jpeg format.

What do I need to submit?

A valid submission will contain the following information:

  1. An original copy of the artwork. Each piece must be original, authentic, unpublished, the sole property of the entrant, and not previously submitted in any other contest. Make sure to include a sentence or two on your submission form describing your artwork. For digital entries, please scan or provide a high-quality digital photo of your piece showing the art entry (no back ground and/or showing individuals holding up the art entry). Digital photos of art entries must be clear, with consistent lighting, and no shadows.

  2. Your personal information, printed on either the back of your artwork or on a separate sheet attached to your physical artwork or provided with the e-mail for your digital entry:

  • First and last name:

  • Mailing address:

  • Phone number:

  • E-mail address:

  1. A completed and signed entry form. Print out the entry form here and send it to us when you send your artwork. Entries cannot be accepted without a signed entry form.

How should I submit my artwork and entry form?

Artwork must be either sent by mail, along with your contact information to the address below; or sent digitally with a pdf of the signed completed entry form to the e-mail address below.

Important: You must have a signed and completed entry form (if under 18, a parent or guardian must sign) to enter.

Physical entry forms may be submitted by mail along with your artwork. All mailed entry forms must be sent to:

National Fossil Day Art Contest
c/o Vincent L. Santucci
370 Montclair Road
Gettysburg, PA 17325

Digital entries with completed entry forms are emailed to:

When is the deadline?

All submissions must be received by mail or email no later than 5 p.m. EST, Friday, October 4th, 2024.

How will the artwork be judged?

The artwork will be judged by a panel on originality, creativity, quality and, most importantly, relevance to the topic. Four top entries in each age group will be selected including 1st Place, 2nd Place, 3rd Place and Honorable Mention. The age groups are:

  • 8 years old and under

  • 9 to 13 years of age

  • 14 to 18 years of age

  • 18 and older

The winner's artwork will appear on the National Fossil Day Art Contest Winners Gallery starting on October 16th, 2024. Check the National Fossil Day website to see if your artwork has been selected!


By submitting an entry, an entrant agrees to allow the National Park Service to use his or her name to post on the NPS's National Fossil Day Web site, without compensation unless prohibited. All entries and all rights of ownership in and to the entries, including all rights to use, reproduce, publish, modify, edit, and distribute the same will become the exclusive property of NPS and will not be returned. NPS reserves the right to edit, modify, copyright, publish, use, and reproduce any and all entries without further compensation. The National Park Service, its agents and contractors, are not responsible for lost, late, misdirected, incomplete, or postage-due entries. Contest void if prohibited or restricted by law.

Last updated: February 12, 2024