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Millbrook student help National Park Service with pilot program

Millbrook senior Nathan Rubbo spent three weeks this summer learning basic archeology skills and helping the National Park Service with a pilot program designed to help it monitor and identify threats to archaeological resources at National Historic Sites. His experience and input  will also help develop training for future volunteers.

Rubbo is part of the park service’s Urban Archeology Corps (UAC).

A shortage of resources to monitor archaeological resources in our nation’s parks brought about this opportunity for nine Dutchess County students. Students conducted field work at the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, Martin Van Buren National Historical Site, Eleanor Roosevelt National Historical Site and Vanderbilt Mansion National Historical Site. During that time, they learn about cultural resources, site management and preservation in the National Parks, receive instruction on basic excavation techniques and use the newfound skills in field work and monitor and document archaeological site conditions and disturbances.

“The goal is to bring underrepresented youth without a great deal of experience with national parks into our parks,” said Claire Horn, who works at the Public Archaeology Facility at Binghamton University and oversees the two college interns who supervise the high school students. The UAC is partnering with Binghamton on the project.

On July 19, the UAC students (including Rubbo) were at the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site seeking evidence of the original rose arbor that led from the garden to FDR’s home, Jacob Bouffard, one of two Binghamton University graduate students overseeing the interns said.

Students carefully created a square hole that at first was only 10 centimeters deep and then got deeper as the day wore on. They were looking for post molds, a dark circular stain that could indicate that is where a wooden post had been located. Bouffard, fellow B.U. student Kristin Clyne-Lehmann and Rachel Bowen, a National Park Service archaeologist, oversaw the work, offered suggestions, techniques and encouragement.

The work reinforced skills learned in school such as measuring, geometry, writing and following directions. Students also got to tour a variety of historic sites and learn about them.

The field work could help inform the Park Service about the actual location of the rose arbor as they seek to put in a historically accurate recreation, Bouffard said.

By day’s end, they had found what they were looking for and that information was submitted to NPS.

Rubbo said he applied to the program because enter his senior year, he wanted to explore different career opportunities and to do something besides his job at a local grocery store.

“I always liked history and so far I’ve enjoyed doing the field work,” he said.

Rubbo said liked being able to visit the historic sites and doing something that will help them.

“I didn’t think it would be impactful, but each year they keep records and see progress. It’s more serious than I thought.”

Later in the week, students traveled to the Martin Van Buren National Historical Site where they were tasked with exploring the trash middens (piles of trash that decomposed) to see if they could locate non-Native American items from the historical period, Bouffard said. 

For Rubbo, archeology likely won’t be a career choice, but the exposure to the various historical sites made him think that he might be interested in becoming an architect. 

Clyne-Lehmann said the pilot is “going very well so far.” Students took quickly to the Volunteer Archaeological Monitoring Program (VAMP) process at the start of the program and she was looking forward to having the students discuss the program in the projects they turn in at the end.

“Their experience will help other people in a tangible way,” she said.

Students’ end projects will be used to help NPS staff design a volunteer archaeological monitoring framework for use in parks throughout the North Atlantic Appalachian region.

And, since it is a paid internship, the students will each receive $15 an hour for up to 120 hours of work, so they can have some spending money for the rest of the summer or money for college.

“If people have a spirit of volunteerism and want to help the parks, the VAMP program provides an easily-understood and fun way to help the parks,” Clyne-Lehmann said.