Since its creation a quarter of a century ago, the City of St. Augustineâ€™s archaeology program has conducted more that 650 projects and logged thousands of hours looking into St. Augustineâ€™s past by exploring and documenting its artifacts.
What manyÂ do not know is that it is the amazing support by volunteers is key to the success of the program, volunteers whose age runs from the retired to the student, some who participate only for a few hours on a single project while others work many hours over a series of years.
That strength and success of the cityâ€™s archaeology program because of its volunteers was recently recognized by First Lady Michelle Obama when the program was designated a Preserve America Steward. The award is in the newest category of designations from Preserve America, a federal initiative that encourages and supports community efforts to preserve the nationâ€™s cultural and natural heritage.
â€œPreserve America Stewards are volunteer programs that have demonstrated success in saving historic places, in the best tradition of the national historic preservation movement,â€ said Milford Wayne Donaldson, FAIA, chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) which administers the federal program.
â€œPreservation has always depended upon motivated, active volunteers who band together to ensure that significant historic places remain to enrich and instruct present and future generations.â€
In describing the program, the ACHP explains that each volunteer receives training from City Archaeologist Carl Halbirt that â€œ…initially occurs in the field and involves artifact recognition, excavation techniques, provenience labeling, data recording and mapping, and artifact storage. Volunteers also learn to analyze artifacts in the lab.â€
The St. Augustine Archaeological Society is the source of many of those who may or may not have prior skills in field work, but all have a deep interest and active commitment to the cityâ€™s archeology program and the willingness to donate in some cases hundreds of hours working on dig sites.
The ACHP also recognized the unique skills of St. Augustineâ€™s volunteers largely because most of the dig sites are located in areas of the historic city visited by millions each year. â€œVolunteers are critical public outreach ambassadors. At dig sites, they explain to the public why the project is occurring, what types of information is sought, and what has been found, thus helping the public have a greater appreciation and understanding of St. Augustine’s complex and multi-ethnic history.â€
Since its creation in 2003, there Preserve America Steward recognitions has been presented to only 47 recipients. Additionally, this is not the first Preserve America designation received by the city. In the fall of 2004, St. Augustine was named a Preserve America Community for its work on behalf of preservation and enjoyment of the nationâ€™s cultural and natural heritage.
The recognition includes a certificate sig by the First Lady that will be framed and displayed in City Hall andÂ information on St. Augustineâ€™s program on the Preserve America web site at www.preserveamerica.gov.