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Volunteering and Field Experience
While volunteers are not readily accepted in many professions, archaeology welcomes volunteers with open arms. Many archaeological projects simply could not be undertaken without the assistance of qualified volunteers.
The value of volunteering cannot be overstated when you are interested in archaeology as a career. Throughout the history of the profession, volunteers have been critical to archaeologists and to the goals of archaeology. More importantly for you, it allows you to learn and perform the tasks you have been curious about, so that you can decide where your talents and interests lie.
Many people who start out as volunteers eventually decide on a professional career in archaeology. The early fieldwork experience gives them a tremendous advantage and looks very good on a resume. They are therefore a 'step ahead' when competing for jobs with others who have no field experience.
You may ask yourself why would anyone want to spend his or her weekends performing hard labor. One of the prime reasons is the thrill of discovery. At any time during an archaeological excavation, exciting discoveries can be made, and mixed in with all the sweat and dust is the anticipation of finding something really important. Some people just love working outdoors. Beyond that, however, is the recognition by dedicated volunteers that their labor contributes greatly to goals of archaeology.
Types of Work
The range of activities handled by volunteers is extensive, and as you might expect, many of the tasks performed during an archaeological excavation are physically demanding. Many archaeologists thrive on this experience, and then focus on a career in field archaeology. Others prefer to work indoors, concentrating on archival research, artifact analysis, etc.
Your initial tasks performed during an archaeological project, assuming you have little or no experience, may simply involve unskilled labor. These activities are very necessary due to the nature of data recovery from the ground. Literally tons of dirt must be moved at most archaeological excavations. In addition, thousands of artifacts must be removed from the soil, sifted through screens, bagged and labeled. This type of work is not for the faint-hearted!
The opportunity to learn about artifacts and curation from specialists who work with them every day is also available to volunteers at a museum. You may be responsible for receiving and cataloging artifacts, or for assisting in the preparation of displays.
This is relevant experience, as it assists you in learning to identify a great range of artifact types. It also does not really matter if the museum is not involved in archaeology. In gaining experience working with artifact collections, displays, etc., you can acquire some of the experience that archaeologists need and that looks impressive on a resume.
Finding Volunteer Opportunities
Numerous types of volunteer opportunities exist in archaeology, and they vary depending upon the organization conducting the research. The next section of the guide explains how to locate volunteer opportunities.
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Related Article: Dream Career: Archaeologist
by Robert Larkin:
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