As a long-time member of the Young Archaeologists’ Club held at Salisbury Museum and someone with a passionate interest in history and archaeology, it seemed perfect to me that such a brilliant organisation, based so locally, was willing to take me as a volunteer for my Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. From January to March, I was delighted to assist Engagement Volunteers Christine Mason and Mike Mitchard in their roles in the museum and help Katy England in running the wonderful Young Curators’ Club.
Initially applying for the student placement was a smooth and trouble-free experience, particularly when aided by the helpful Volunteer Co-ordinator Bridget Telfer, and something I’d recommend anybody with a bit of spare time and an interest in history to do. From then on, I had arranged to work alongside Katy, Christine and Mike for a few hours on Saturdays. Thankfully, on my first day in January I quickly picked up the induction information and was ready to begin the placement.
Young Curators’ Club was my first mission. I arrived bright-eyed and bushy tailed at 10am; eager to help out with whatever tasks would be thrown at me. I was tasked with some necessary duties for the new year of the club, but soon we ventured farther into the museum and were allowed entry into the museum’s costume gallery, where all of the members were so eager to engage in the fascinating local heritage showcased in the museum. Needless to say, it was an interesting insight into the running of clubs which spark so much interest in young people, just as YAC did for me.
My other role in the student placement was in engagement volunteering; a role I value greatly from the immense amount I learned during my placement. Not only had I become familiar with the vast array of incredible exhibits open to the public in the museum, I also learnt about the role of stewarding at museums and was able to try my hand at it myself.
Throughout the entire experience, with the help of Christine and Mike, I familiarised myself with all of the collections that a visitor might ask me about when stewarding. As someone currently studying History GCSE and hoping to pursue the subject at A Level and beyond, I could not have asked for a better opportunity, not only to enhance my knowledge of local heritage, but also in skills applicable throughout the entire discipline. Public engagement, spontaneity and retaining information were all skills that I practised and improved during my placement, skills I’m sure will be invaluable for both my further pursuit of history and life in general.
For me, the absolute highlights of this experience were definitely when I was allowed free rein in stewarding by Mike: patrolling the Wessex Gallery eager to answer any questions thrown at me by interested members of the public was an exhilarating and highly enjoyable experience. Secondly, I was allowed by Christine to look at some of the Rex Whistler project collections she had been working on. Getting a glimpse behind closed doors in a building that I have been visiting for years was a unique experience, one that I shall treasure for the rest of my life, particularly as I could view such an amazing collection that the Museum rightfully prides itself on.
For this incredible opportunity I’d like to thank Bridget Telfer, Katy England, Christine Mason and Mike Mitchard especially, but also the friendly community of volunteers working at the Museum who were so encouraging and welcoming. For this experience I could not be more grateful.
For me, the absolute highlights of this experience were definitely when I was allowed free rein in stewarding by Mike; patrolling the Wessex Gallery eager to answer any questions thrown at me by interested members of the public was an exhilarating and highly enjoyable experience, and also when I was allowed by Christine to look at some of the Rex Whistler project collections she had been working on. Seeing behind closed doors in a building that I have been visiting for years was a unique experience, particularly whilst seeing such an amazing collection that the Museum rightfully prides itself on, one that I shall treasure for the rest of my life.
Henry – thank you for your memories and thoughts, and most of all your help and enthusiasm.