Today’s Volunteers’ Week post is by Lisa, who’s been volunteering at MERL since 2012…
I joined MERL as a Volunteer in 2012 in order to gain some experience in the museum sector. At the time I was studying for my BA and it was MERL that influenced me to study my MFA Fine Art at the University of Reading and I enrolled the following year.
The museum has provided many opportunities to assist at one-off events including the annual Village Fete and the Whiteknights Studio Trail. I have also been involved in longer-term projects, including Toddler Time and more recently the Astor Project, which involves cataloguing the records held in the ‘Papers of Nancy Astor‘ archive held in the University’s Special Collections. I spend 2-3 hours each week transferring notes from the index books to an Excel spreadsheet so that the archive, which dates from around the 1930s, will be stored in a digital format for improved access and searching. I’ve enjoyed taking part in this project as it has shown me how the Special Collections Library operates and how valuable documents are filed and preserved properly in the archive store.
I am interested in writing so my involvement in the archive has had a positive influence on the art practice that I have developed during my time as an MFA student at the University’s Art Department. All the Volunteers and Staff at MERL have been welcoming and supportive and it’s been great meeting people with similar interests as I continue to work towards an academic career within art.
A few months after starting as a volunteer I was offered the opportunity to work on the front desk at the weekend as a Relief Assistant. It’s been fantastic to work directly in the museum with its visitors and to see how much they value the museum as a place to return to regularly. I continue to volunteer at MERL because it is such a great resource and provides many opportunities, but also because it is a place that means something to its whole community. And the cakes aren’t bad either.