2002 Denver Annual Meeting (October 27-30, 2002)

Paper No. 12
Presentation Time: 10:45 AM


FLECK, Michelle Cooper, Geology Department, College of Eastern Utah, 451 East 400 North, Price, UT 84501, mfleck@ceu.edu

Twenty-four museum volunteers and eight museum professionals were interviewed in order to determine the optimal types of training for paleontology museum volunteers. The volunteers who participated in the study were highly motivated and committed individuals who had participated in one of three museum programs (Museum of the Rockies, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, or the Utah Friends of Paleontology) for an average of 6.8 years. The volunteers served as field workers, laboratory preparators, or docents, and were generally not formally trained in geology or paleontology prior to their involvement with their museum.

The data collected from the interviews indicated that these volunteers were initially motivated to participate in the museum programs because of their general interest in science, a desire for life-long learning, and for the opportunity to socialize with others who had similar interests. These same motivational factors also fostered the volunteersÂ’ long-term commitment to their museums.

Volunteers believed that museum-based training is important for three reasons: (1) To gain practical knowledge of proper field and laboratory procedures, (2) To gain theoretical knowledge in the fundamentals of geology and paleontology, and (3) To lessen the volunteersÂ’ levels of frustration, build confidence, and to maintain their level of interest in museum work. From the analysis of the texts of the interviews, the importance of both formal and informal training became obvious. Effective informal training methods included self-directed reading, one-on-one work with more experienced volunteers or professionals, and field trips. Formal training methods which the volunteers identified as most useful were classes or certification programs sponsored by the museums themselves, geology or paleontology courses offered by colleges or universities, and field schools.