From Ranihket to mammoth teeth - discover a Reading Museum volunteer's journey! We caught up with one of our long-standing volunteers, Evelyn, to find out how she got into volunteering with us and where her journey led her!
Volunteering at Reading Museum is a way to participate locally in something which matches my interests. When I applied for an advertised role on the Reminiscences Project in 2010, I had been looking for a job for too long and was about to start evening classes training to teach English as a foreign language.
I occasionally checked local Museum websites for volunteer roles and this one at Reading Museum looked interesting. I actually had a lot to learn about the Museum, as the project was not the sort of thing I knew that Museums did.
My roles at the Museum have accommodated my changing routines over the years as I coasted into retirement. After volunteering for about a year, I got a part-time job which was on the wrong days for reminiscences groups, but I was still interested in volunteering. After a period on the substitutes bench, I participated in the Historypin project.
Reading Museum was one of the first places to pilot Historypin. The idea was to use modern technology to pin digital copies of old photos onto google streetview. My interpretation of the ethos of the project was that every little memory or image mattered and that by sharing them and the stories attached to them they were not lost to the community.
The next project was Revealing Reading’s Hidden History funded by the Happy Museum. This was another innovative heritage related project where the Museum participated in the early stages. Reading’s idea for this project was to challenge today’s perception of three areas in Reading by drilling down through history.
I worked on Dee Park, an area I knew nothing about before I started the project. At the time the Dee Park redevelopment had started but Lyon Square had not yet been demolished. The main output was a booklet about the area and we also attended a summer event in Lyon Square.
It is not all about looking back at the past, though. Where's Reading Heading? looked forward to the future of Reading and tackled issues of sustainability and climate change.
Every project I have had builds on the last one. The focus is now on the re-opening of the Abbey ruins in 2018 and I have contributed to two projects associated with that. The first culminated in the Reading Abbey Quarter: Then and Now exhibition and the second one was researching the links between Reading Abbey and South Reading.
The important thing is that whatever I produce I know that there will be an output that benefits the public. This can be just a caption on an object in an exhibition, a booklet, the Museum’s online catalogue or adding to information in the Museum’s archive.
Volunteering gave me the impetus and confidence to engage with members of the public and participate in what goes on in Reading.
It is not easy to decide on the best moments but some stick in the memory more than others, so definitely the evening opening of the History pin exhibition for Reading’s Nuit Blanche in 2011 and the Alice in Wonderland tea party at Dee Park.
I looked after a loan box including artefacts such as mammoth teeth and hand axes, similar to those which had been found in the Dee Park area.
This is one of my favourite photos. It was a very windy day and that is why there are tins of gunga peas holding down the paperwork.
Reading Museum looks after and values its volunteers. Since I began volunteering it has gained and retained Investing in Volunteers accreditation. I felt very proud to see a list of names of all the volunteers who had helped with the Reading Abbey Quarter: Then and Now exhibition on the wall in the Madejski Art Gallery.
I have accomplished things through volunteering that I did not expect I would ever do and it continues to stretch and develop my talents and capabilities in new directions. Importantly, Reading Museum is a respected local museum that I love to feel part of.
If you would like to get involved with the work of the Museum, we’d love to talk to you about starting your volunteering journey with us! See our Get Involved page for more details.
You may also find it interesting to read our earlier museum blog: Why people volunteer at Reading Museum?