National Park Service


Date of this Version



U.S. Department of Interior, Archeological Assistance Program Technical Brief No. 22, May 2007.



Archeological site stewardship programs involve volunteers in archeological site monitoring activities. Typically, stewardship programs are developed in response to the damage or destruction of sites on a parcel of land, or the fear that fragile sites will be damaged in the future. This technical brief is meant to guide the development of new stewardship programs, and to provide an introduction to these programs for those interested and/or unaware of their use in cultural resource protection. Twelve site stewardship program coordinators from both terrestrial and underwater programs provided information about the efficient development of site stewardship programs. Their experiences and insights were compiled for this brief.

What is an Archeological Site Stewardship Program?

Archeological site stewardship programs are organizations of volunteers, often with some full-time professional coordinators, that assist with the protection, preservation, and/or interpretation of archeological sites. Archeological site stewardship programs can be divided into two categories: 1) stewardship of sites on public lands, 2) stewardship of sites on private lands. Stewardship programs on public lands are either run through non-profit organizations that have allied with government land managers, or are administered directly by agency land managers. Public lands are monitored by volunteer site stewards who visit sites to check on their condition. Stewardship programs on private lands involve the cooperation of landowners who act as stewards of cultural materials on their own property. Although both types of site stewardship programs are discussed in this brief, programs that monitor sites on public lands are the focus of discussion. (Refer to Table 1 for a listing of site stewardship programs and archeological easement programs by state.)

Archeological site stewardship is often incorporated within larger volunteer programs. Volunteers may perform various tasks in addition to site monitoring activities. Some programs use volunteers to assist in managing collections, performing laboratory work, providing site interpretation and even excavating at archeological sites. One example of the use of volunteers in these settings is the Arkansas Training Program for Avocational Archeologists (Davis 1990). However, this brief will focus on programs that predominantly involve volunteers who monitor archeological sites.

Developing Public Concern and Participation in Cultural Resource Protection

Threats to Site Preservation

Addressing Problems through Site Stewardship Programs

Initiating a Site Stewardship Monitoring Programs

Critical Components to the Success of Site Stewardship Initiatives

1. Leadership

2. Funding Sources and Budget

3. Clear Program Goals

4. Partnerships that Work

5. Careful Recruitment & Protecting Site Information

6. Program Advertising

7. Volunteer Motivation & Retention

8. Volunteer Benefits & Recognition

Underwater Archeological Site Stewardship Programs

Stewardship on Private Lands

The Limits of Volunteerism