Volunteers’ Voice: Alessandra

This week is Volunteers’ Week and we are celebrating the wonderful work done by our volunteers and thanking them for all the hours and effort they put into making the museum the best it can possibly be.

To showcase our brilliant volunteers every day this week we will be posting blogs written by the volunteers themselves about what they do at the museum, why they volunteer and why they love it. Every day they will give you an insight into the integral work that volunteers carry out across the Univerity’s Museums and Collections in their own words; today’s volunteer is Alessandra, an Erasmus trainee from Italy at the the Ure Museum…

AlessandraLet’s start by saying that mine is a particular volunteering experience; I’m actually doing an Erasmus traineeship at the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, this means that I’m working at the museum all day every day and I’m doing lots of different things.

I started my traineeship in the middle of March and I’m going to finish it in June, three months that will give me an idea of what it’s like to work behind the scenes at a museum and of everything I need to know about the inner mechanisms of this particular workplace.

As I said I’m at the museum every day, some might think that it may be a bit boring, but that’s far from true! Even if this is a small museum there is never a dull moment and there are many things to do.

I help around in any way I can, so I get to spend time with the other volunteers doing archiving or other much needed tasks that are always interesting and sometimes a bit funny, like when we came across some very unusual Christmas cards where instead of reindeers and snowmen there was a drawing of some orientalising style pottery. I also have the opportunity to do some research work and handling ancient objects to try and figure out where, and when, they are from.

This is not my first experience as a volunteer; when I was in high school I used to volunteer at the local kindergarten twice a week so it’s no surprise that my favourite task so far was helping around on the school and family events held at the museum!

It’s always great to be able to see children being excited about history, mythology and archaeology. They remind me of myself when I was a little kid, enchanted by tales of Heracles or Achilles (to be honest I was also quite smitten by Telemachus). Maybe among the children that I met while volunteering at the Ure there are some that will discover they have a passion for history, art history and archaeology and really, that would be the best reward!

Volunteers’ Voice: Celebrating Volunteers Week!

Assistant Volunteer Coordinator, Rhiannon Watkinson introduces this week’s celebration of volunteers at MERL…

At The Museum of English Rural Life we could not function without the hard work and dedication of our amazing volunteers. Around 120 volunteers ensure that the museum not only runs smoothly but is a place full of passion and friendly faces. In the past we have had volunteer tour guides, gardeners, archivists and social media whizzes. We have had volunteers who help with front of house, school sessions, our village fete and in our library. In short, volunteers permeate every aspect of our museum and we are all the better for this.

The Museum of English Rural Life is currently closed to the public during our major Heritage Lottery funded redevelopment project which has thrown up new challenges for our volunteers. There is no tour guiding to be done as the collection is packed away for safekeeping and no horticulture to offer as the site of our garden is now occupied by builders!

garden May 15

Our beautiful flower beds certainly brighten up the building site, but don’t worry, it’ll all be restored when work is completed in the garden this summer.

However, our volunteers have come up with new and unique ways to keep supporting the museum. They have thrown themselves into outreach by taking their play about the Berkshire Swing Riots to local libraries and history societies. They have worked through hours & hours of transcriptions for the archive team. They have even tried their hands at object handling (no pun intended) in preparation for the museum’s reopening. This involved learning how to hold pieces from the museum’s collection, how to facilitate visitors interacting with precious objects and researching a rural topic for an object handling session on everything from bodging to wattle hurdle making.

This year we are celebrating Volunteers’ Week with a party to thank our volunteers. There will be wine, fun and games as well as a chance for a good old natter with other volunteers and staff. We are also plunging our volunteers into the world of museums on social media with a blog post every day of Volunteers’ Week written by a different volunteer about their experience. We are looking forward to sharing the experiences of our volunteers and show the huge range of things that they get up to behind the scenes. We’re also going to do this by revealing the weird and wonderful contents of our office (and I’m not talking about the staff!)