Museum needs living treasures – volunteers

Volunteers at the museum come from all walks-of-life, a wide range of age groups and have different areas of interest, and support the museum in a variety of ways. Many are older, having both time and life experience they’re willing to share with us. For this group, a love of what museums do and the ethos of giving back to the community are usually the key drivers for them.

Others volunteers are keen to get experience that may help them on a career path. We’ve previously had Eastern Institute of Technology students who’ve helped alongside their studies and, often, directly related to them. For example students studying tourism may seek to get some experience at customer service, guiding tour groups, completing retail transactions and so on. Whereas design students work alongside our exhibitions team helping with tasks related to exhibition design and development. These interactions provide mutual benefits for both parties.

This week our Friends of the Museum and volunteers were invited to a private curated tour of our latest exhibition The House of Webb: a Victorian family’s journey to Ormondville. During the subsequent afternoon tea, I found myself sitting between two current volunteers – one aged 15 and the other 83 (who started as a volunteer when she was 15).

Bridget Bewick, aged 15, from Napier Girls High School is our youngest volunteer. Bridget was seeking to add some value to the community, alongside completing an assignment towards her Duke of Edinburgh Award. Bridget has done jobs such as cleaning display cases (not exciting but it always needs to be done) and helping the exhibition team prepare base boards by covering them in fabric before objects are displayed on them. These have now been used in The House of Webb exhibition.

Sometimes a first interaction can lead to a lifelong passion and commitment – I wonder if a future Director will be talking to an 83 year old Bridget in years to come!

As with many not-for-profit organisations, volunteers are a crucial part of making the museum a success. Although the work can be hidden away at times, it makes a huge impact on what we’re able to deliver for the community. Some volunteers, such as Alva sit with our collection team scanning photographs and archives so they’re available digitally. While two volunteers, both named Carol, assist with mounting textiles for display (a meticulous and time-consuming job). Generally no museum has sufficient staff to keep on top of all the work that needs to be done and volunteers make a huge difference.

We thank and celebrate our volunteers in a number of small ways. Last week was National Volunteers Week so a special tour through our offsite collection store was organised. Not an area most of our visitor hosting volunteers get to see. What was really nice was that part of that tour was led by our collection volunteers who got to host and share with our front-of-house volunteers.

We’re lucky to have such a wonderful and dedicated group of people who help and support us in the work we do and they’re a very special and important part of our museum family.

30 June 2018

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 30th June 2018

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