Fort Sill museums seek volunteers
August 30, 2012
The three Fort Sill museums are looking for volunteers to serve in roles ranging from living history interpreters to tour guides to exhibit specialists to archivists.
Volunteers can choose the positions they want, are trained for their roles, determine the number of hours they want to donate and receive documentation for their volunteer hours.
"We are always looking to get more people involved in our programs," said Frank Siltman, Fort Sill Museums and Military history director. All three museums have a good cadre base, but need to expand their volunteer force.
The museums have about 50 volunteers including high school students to retirees and active-duty Soldiers to civilians working at the Fort Sill National Landmark and Museum; and the Field Artillery, and Air Defense Artillery museums.
With more volunteers, more facilities like the Cavalry Barracks can be kept open because they are staffed, Siltman said. When a building is open, like the guardhouse, it's a much better experience for the visitor if someone is there to talk to them.
"Well, let me tell you about the guardhouse and the things that occurred here during the early days of Fort Sill," Siltman said, imitating a historical interpreter. "That enhances the visitor's experience, and it's also the outreach and education aspect of a museum."
Living history interpreter Alvie Cater has volunteered about six years. He portrays a 19th century deputy U.S. Marshal from Fort Smith, Ark., who transports Soldier-prisoners from Fort Sill back to Arkansas to stand trial.
He said his interest in volunteering started when he saw a museum program at Fort Sill and then read the book "Carbine and Lance" -- a history of Fort Sill.
Cater said he finds volunteering at the museum very satisfying and gratifying.
Some of the major annual events historical interpreters participate in include the vintage baseball game, Frontier Army Days and the December Old Post Quadrangle Candlelight Stroll, Cater said.
Volunteering at a museum gives people an opportunity to learn about history, as well as to teach history to others, said Siltman, who used to volunteer at the National Civil War Museum in Pennsylvania, when he was a Soldier.
"The other thing is the commitment to preservation," he added. "The more people are aware of the history that's here, then the more interest they have in preserving that history for future generations."
Potential volunteers should not worry if they don't have a background in history, Siltman said.
"You don't have to know history and you don't have to have particular skills, but, if you have skills we'll certainly try to maximize and use them," he said.
The museum staff will take the skills and knowledge a volunteer has and try to fit them where they want to be, Siltman said. In the past, potential volunteers said they enjoyed woodwork so they volunteered in the museum's shop.
Some future volunteers already know where they wanted to work, like the Air Defense Artillery Museum, he said.
All volunteer hours worked at the museums are documented in the Army Community Service's Volunteer Management Information System.
A Boy Scout working on an Eagle Scout project had his museum hours documented and used toward the project, Siltman said. One library science graduate student had her volunteer hours documented and listed on her resumé.
Fort Sill is not just about the Army, Siltman said. It's the history of the region, of Oklahoma, the Indian Territory, the Indian Nations, the tribes and settlers.
"Everybody has a piece of this," Siltman said. "This is about preserving the heritage of the community, and the heritage of the nation ... I know there are people who are interested in that."