The Veterans Curation Program provides five months of paid, intensive archaeological curation training to recently-separated Veterans, using collections from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Veterans are not only helping the Corps rehabilitate vast archaeological collections to museum standards to aid in future research but are also learning important career-building skills. These Veterans, turned archaeological laboratory technicians, rotate through work stations facilitated by professional archaeologists in data entry, report writing, photography, artifact processing and digitizing paper documents.
There are three of these specialized laboratories funded by the St. Louis District of the Corps across the country in Alexandria, Virginia; Augusta, Georgia; and St. Louis.
The laboratory in Alexandria held an open house Jan. 12, 2016, so the 12 employed Veterans could demonstrate their work in archiving and artifacts and discuss how the program is helping them to prepare for the future.
This particular class is sifting through dam inundation surveys from the Corps’ Huntington District. For any project or proposed project that is of federal interest – whether through funding or land – the Corps has an obligation to ensure that no cultural resources are disturbed.
“Half of what we do here is quality control, and the level of perfection these Veterans provide is amazing,” said Jessica Mundt, archives laboratory manager. “Coming from military backgrounds, they already have that high level of dedication, and we build upon the skills they already have.”
Along with skill development, the laboratory managers take the time to personally get to know their technicians, and they work with the Veterans to build their resumes and offer opportunities like guest speakers to promote growth and development.
Josie Beatty, current archaeological laboratory technician, served the nation as a services craftsman in the Air Force for 17 years. She lost her job in 2014 as a single parent.
“It’s hard to find a job in which you can come in fresh, and they allow you that flexibility.”
Beatty’s resume, along with her colleagues’, were laid out across a table during the open house.
Ignacio Reyes, archaeological laboratory technician, was an infantryman with the Army from 2005 to 2013 in which he deployed to Iraq and completed a Multinational Force and Observers Tour in Egypt. After completing the Veterans Curation Program in March 2016, he has a job lined up as a Warrior to Workforce procurement technician, with the hopes of one day being a contract specialist for the government.
The work here is really challenging and very specific and will prove to be a great asset as I transition careers again, said Reyes.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without coming through these doors,” said Dominic Amaral, who graduated from the program in 2013. “The program facilitators are personally invested in our future, and they even helped me plug away on job websites to meet the requirements for applications.”
Amaral, who was a tanker in the Army for nine years, is now an archivist and historian intern at the Carlisle Barracks in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. In that role, he curates documents of historic significance, including ones associated with Maj. Gens. William Tecumseh Sherman and George Armstrong Custer from the 1800s, as well as Operation Torch, the Allied campaign in North Africa in World War II.
Since its establishment in 2010, the Alexandria laboratory has trained 89 Veterans in archaeological curation, and, from this group, 99 percent have found employment or are continuing their education.
The Alexandria laboratory is managed by ERG-NSA JV, a joint venture comprised of environmental consulting and cultural resource management firms, Environmental Resource Group (ERG) and New South Associates (NSA).The Baltimore District has been on site to participate in the open houses.
View Veterans Curation Program open house photos.