I am very interested in SM&AG. I believe that a thriving and forward-looking museum service is important not just for education, culture and recreation, but also for tourism. This is why I volunteer and I would like to tell you about two very different aspects of my volunteering.
First, I am a member of the Friends of the Museum. There are more than 300 of us and we are here to support the Museum. I am Secretary at the moment and enjoy liaising between the Museum and our members, aiming to keep Friends updated with Museum news and events. The Friends put on a series of lectures at the Museum and arrange visits to historic houses, other museums and exhibitions. We also provide financial support for purchases and programmes.
Second. I am also a volunteer at the Museum. I have been volunteering here for more than five years, ever since the new Museum opened on 1 April 2014. I just do half a day a week, as a Gallery Guide, on Sunday afternoons. The Museum seems to have difficulty finding volunteers for Sundays, perhaps because a lot of us are retired and have family responsibilities at the weekend, but I have settled into this little slot and rarely miss a session. This has one lovely consequence – I find myself working alongside young people, often students from local schools and colleges, such as the Sixth Form College and this is very refreshing. On the other hand, it also means that I do not get to know many other volunteers, unless they also happen to be members of the Friends.
When I started I was a bit doubtful about being a gallery guide. I’m not a natural conversationalist and in previous volunteer jobs I had always undertaken research or something in the back room, which seemed more in my nature. But the Museum provided training and over the years I have become more comfortable approaching visitors and talking to strangers. I think this experience, gained on Sunday afternoons, has improved my confidence in other situations when I might have allowed myself to be isolated.
I am happy working in any part of the Museum but I like the Medieval Gallery best. I especially enjoy it when families come and I take the handling collection from the trolley and get the children to talk about the objects they are holding.
I am now in my late 70s, but am still fit and enjoying new experiences and situations. I admit to having the occasional lapse of memory, but the display posters and excellent notes in the gallery files are there to remind us all of the details. And so I hope to continue volunteering for a few more years.
I would encourage other people to join the Friends and, if they have half a day free, to volunteer. The staff at the Museum have always made me feel an integral part of the system and I feel as though I belong.
Rosemary Thornes, Volunteer and Secretary of the Friends of SM&AG
Volunteers have an invaluable role in enabling us to deliver our workshops, events, education programmes and much more. If you are interested in volunteering with us and joining our wonderful team, click here for more information or you can call (01743) 258885 or email [email protected].