By Edmund Connolly, on 29 May 2013
The Vexation of Volunteering
Volunteering in museums has being a bit maligned, are budding young enthusiasts being taken advantage of ? (such as this MJ article). Unfortunately, there may appear an unfair element to volunteering, and they are essential in the running of many, if not all, museums. However, where the Petrie flys in the face of the nay-sayers is our commitment to offering our volunteers as holistic an experience as possible when they join our team.
For the Museum
Front of House
Perhaps the most quintessential form of volunteering, here our volunteers get to meet all our visitors, introducing them to the collection. For anyone as nosy and gregarious as myself this is good fun, talking to people about a mutually interesting topic really is a great way to spend an afternoon.
The majority of events take place after hours and are an opportunity for our volunteers to play host to a plethora of special guests and inventive uses of the collection. Recent events have had our volunteers writing hieroglyphs, making time models (nb: mine looked like a deflated sausage roll, truly awful) , and testing some of our 3D museum technology, courtesy of 3D Petrie.
Perhaps our most popular volunteering opportunity, these projects are ideal for volunteers who wish to fill in gaps in their CV, or with a clear trajectory for a museum career. At the moment we have volunteers working on archiving, creating library catalogues, managing social media, marketing, evaluation and on-going conservation projects.
For the Volunteer
Naturally any volunteer gets some material for their CV and the option to use us as a referee, but we offer more. Volunteers often come to us with a particular passion and interest, this can be from cultural heritage marketing to 4th Dynasty stonework, but we will try to find tasks that are suitable and of interest. Allowing our volunteers this level of flexibility means they can have a better experience with us and we can rely on dedicated, knowledgeable and hard-working volunteers. Many of our volunteers enjoy events, not least because they get a chance to see be involved in our invariably fully booked events with 10+ person waiting lists, but because they showcase the different ways an Egyptian collection can be used for a host of different people. Our recent Museums at Night event (It’s Elemental) allowed the Petrie volunteers chances to add other collections to their armada of experience (the Art Museum and Rock Room, both well worth a lengthy afternoon’s visit).
Getting the most out of Volunteering
Unfortunately we cannot guarantee employment from volunteering, but that’s not really what it is about. Volunteering offers you the chance to populate your CV and to realise the options and opportunities within museums.
The key to successful volunteering is to ask. Small, but busy museums like the Petrie have projects and tasks popping up constantly, letting the right member of staff know you are keen on a certain facet of museum work can help you have a more productive experience.
Being professional. Act like an employee and you may just become one. Whilst volunteering is for free, volunteers who are professional, efficient and hard-working get noticed. Being punctual and professional are obviously essential, but putting in that little extra, maybe staying an extra 5 minutes to stack chairs or clear away objects, makes the world of difference.
Try things out Whilst a volunteer I worked on public programs, conservation projects, marketing, social media mapping, the works! I was able to realise what it was I wished to focus on, but also have a good holistic grasp of nearly all aspects of working in museums (…sort of…).
Enjoying a collection Many of our volunteers help out out of pure love for the collection, and for many it is a way for them to be within a vibrant Egyptian and Sudanese archaeology environment.