Volunteering Adventures in Northumberland
By our Anonymous blogger
As the month of May is Local and Community History Month, I thought it would be interesting to interview a volunteer whose work involves caretaking the past.
I therefore contacted Bailiffgate Museum (in Alnwick) and they put me in touch with Mick who is one of their volunteers. Mick is a retired Head of Department who had previously lectured at a college in the midlands. He taught Sociology and the Humanities at A Level and admits to a long term interest in history.
I had an interesting chat over the phone with Mick, who described his role as “the go-to person” regarding objects in store and putting an exhibition together. Mick defined his role as rather like a collections manager, in as much as he supervises 7-8 other volunteers and organises and prioritises jobs and tasks for his group of helpers. Mick said he enjoys collating archives and cataloguing items for the exhibits, but also said he particularly enjoys the digital restoration of photos, which he scans and Photo-shops, to bring more clarity to old images.
To find out more about Mick’s motivations and how he began volunteering, I asked him a series of questions:
ME: Hi Mick can you tell me why you decided to volunteer?
MICK: Yes, when I retired I moved to the North East (almost five years ago now!) where I have family and grandchildren, and I thought the experience would give me a focus, an interest. It was also a way to meet new people as I was new to the area. I also help out at the amateur theatre groups in Alnwick and this way I did get to know the town and the people.
ME: Did you have any pre-conceptions about what your role would be?
MICK: No, not really! I did know that there wouldn’t be too much pressure or expectation regarding the number of hours worked, like there is when you’re employed full time. It is totally up to me how many hours I do and how often I work. For instance, I normally volunteer Tuesdays and Fridays and do approximately 20 hours a week, but sometimes I can do up to 4 days per week. I don’t mind because I enjoy the work and I also take some digital work home with me.
ME: What have been your most positive or negative experiences?
MICK: Oh, when I first started I was given a role ‘front of house’ working in the Reception, which could sometimes be less satisfying when the museum was not busy. While I do like meeting and greeting people, working behind the scenes gives me more flexibility of commitment and I like the work I’m doing now, where I can express preferences through choice of collections etc.
ME: What support are you given in your role?
MICK: I was given good support I suppose, but I have to admit it has improved over the years. I had an induction when I started and now I also have regular reviews and appraisals, which I find helpful.
ME: Do you get any help with expenses?
MICK: I only live 20 minutes away so it’s not an issue as I walk to work, but I do get travel expenses if I go to meetings out of area.
From my conversation with Mick it is obvious that he has a lot of autonomy within his role, and finds volunteering very rewarding and enjoyable.