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Celebrating the Dedication of Our Volunteers

The Verde Valley Archaeology Center and Museum would not be functioning without the dedicated efforts of our many volunteers.

In 2023, VVAC had 46 volunteers who recorded a total of over 7,600 hours in their combined volunteer time. Thirteen of those volunteers recorded over 250 hours in 2023. With the hypothetical example of paying each volunteer $20 per hour, that would add up to over $150,000, a staggering amount.

“As a nonprofit organization, the museum would not be able to keep the doors open and achieve incredible research and serve as a cultural ambassador if it was not for the volunteers,” said Monica Buckle, Executive Director. “It has been such a privilege to personally get to know each volunteer and see their unique talents that they all contribute.”

Buckle is VVAC’s only full time staff member, with three part-time staff members. “The volunteers not only support me in my position and in my role, but they are the ambassadors to the museum,” said Buckle. “They're the faces and the greeters that so kindly treat everyone with a warm smile. My outlook for the museum space is whoever comes through the lobby doors you welcome them as if you're welcoming them into your home. All of our greeters and docents have wonderful personalities. They treat their positions fully engaged with the public, love to answer questions and share their knowledge of the region.”

Within the museum, there are greeters who welcome guests in, docents who provide tours and can answer any questions, and lab volunteers who work in the lab and repository. The lab contains a diverse crew of volunteers who work on software intake, data collection, pottery analysis, collection analysis and textile analysis among other projects.

Volunteers also help VVAC with cultural resource management, which would not be possible without them. This is a contract service that the museum provides as a repository, mainly working with Prescott National Forest. Volunteers also do field survey work for different forest services.

Most of VVAC’s volunteers do not have prior experience in archaeology and anthropology yet are accomplished in other fields with many different skills.

There are also garden volunteers who work in the Native American Heritage Garden in all sorts of weather, allowing VVAC to keep the garden space thriving.

Debby Bratton, Museum Associate and Greeter, had no prior knowledge or interest in archaeology. After volunteering at Montezuma’s Well and Montezuma’s Castle, Bratton discovered VVAC during the colder winter months.

“I walked in and I just felt comfortable,” said Bratton. “I felt very welcome. I decided I'm gonna do this now. I was just really drawn to it.”

Bratton greets visitors when they come to the museum, but also helps with merchandise at the museum’s shop and with setting up events. Bratton noted the appreciation that the staff shows towards the volunteers.“For volunteers, it's important that you work with an organization that looks at their volunteers as part of the organization,” she said.

Ed Goodwin, Docent, Greeter and VVAC’s Board President, also had limited prior knowledge of archaeology before joining the team at VVAC, yet learned through volunteering.

“Exposure to the archaeology was a great learning experience,” said Goodwin. He added that in order to explain something to a museum visitor, you must understand it yourself first. Goodwin aims to show people the value of archaeology and instill an appreciation of the artifacts.

“VVAC gives the opportunity to keep the artifacts local and educate people about the natives that lived here,” said Goodwin. “We wouldn't have the museum open if we didn't have volunteers to staff it. Volunteering is a great opportunity to help the economy in Camp Verde and the Verde Valley in general.”

In order to keep the museum’s collection of artifacts, they need to be identified, recorded and stored properly and volunteers are needed to perform all of those functions. “There’s a job for everyone,” added Goodwin.

Scott Koshland, Docent, has had an interest in archaeology all his life. With a background in chemistry, Koshland has always pursued his love of archaeology and culture on the side.

“The great thing about the archaeological center is we have such a great resource base of people who are so knowledgeable,” said Koshland. “It's constant learning. As I go along, I'm learning more and more, even from people that walk in the door visiting.”

“I aim to create a healthy, holistic ecosystem at the museum where there's a sense of belonging, community engagement and where the volunteers are acknowledged for their contributions,” said Buckle.

“If someone wants to become a volunteer at the museum, I would love first and foremost to say you do not need any museum experience or archaeology experience,” continued Buckle. “Everyone is very friendly and willing to assist in your learning. It's a welcoming space for those who want to get into this field and are looking to volunteer, but it's certainly not intimidating.”

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