9th Experimental Archaeology Conference poster – Spencer
Volunteers in the Open: Volunteer Use in the Open-Air Archaeological Museums of Europe
University of Birmingham
In the last thirty years there has been an exponential growth in the number of archaeological open-air museums (AOAMs) and yet, even with their growth in popularity, these heritage institutions continue to face challenges to their long-term fiscal sustainability (Paardekooper, 2012) and staffing levels remain critically compromised (Ambrose and Paine, 2012). Only through the dedicated use of volunteers can AOAMs hope to satisfy the popular demand for
this brand of heritage.
Using the network of EXARC-member archaeological open-air museums (AOAMs) the author critically evaluates the methodologies in which volunteers are currently deployed within this unique and vibrant form of heritage institution. Additionally the author reviews the institutional benefits of enhancing volunteer programs and offers recommendations to sustain and strengthen AOAM volunteer programs. Utilising a survey methodology the author collated 32 completed survey responses from EXARC members who self-identify as archaeological openair museums (AOAMs). While the author’s survey was Europe-wide and represents a prosaic range of attitudes to volunteering, a number of critical themes are illuminated including: the challenges of recruitment, training and retention; and the rationale behind devoting the meagre resources to initiate and sustain volunteer programs.
The author demonstrates that volunteers are utilised in over 90% of the responding EXARC institutions and 17% of the responding sites being completely volunteer run. According to the author’s research volunteers provide the equivalent of an average of 1 fulltime staff person per year and provide significant contributions in many areas of operation including living history; tour guiding and interpretation; presentation of prehistoric crafts and techniques; and building reconstruction. As such, volunteers are essential for the long-term sustainability of these organisations.
The author posits that a strong volunteer program can maximize interpretive potential and strengthen engagement with the community which in turn can positively affect tourist engagement and increase revenues.
Ambrose, T., Paine, C., 2012. Museum basics. Routledge, Abingdon, Oxon; New York.
Paardekooper, R., 2012. The value of an archaeological open-air museum is in its use:
understanding archaeological open-air museums and their visitors.