To celebrate national Volunteer Week we’ve been speaking to volunteers across the University of Cambridge Museums, to find out why they give their time to support us.
Flora Miles, Volunteer Gallery Attendant at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, shares three reasons why she loves volunteering.
Since April 2016 I have spent one afternoon a week volunteering as a Gallery Attendant at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA). It has been varied, educational, and a lot of fun! Here are three reasons why I love being a volunteer at MAA, and why I think you would love it too:
Learning fascinating new things
As a Social Anthropology student, I enjoy using my knowledge to answer visitors’ questions in the varied galleries of the MAA. But you don’t need previous knowledge to be a volunteer, and I am constantly learning new things myself through the role. Our visitors provide delightful insight into the objects on display, bringing their own knowledge to the collections. Gallery attendants have lots of opportunities to interact with visitors and engage with these insights, whether it’s a professor telling you something incredibly specific about an object or a small child pointing out something you had never noticed before.
The museum frequently puts on free talks for its volunteers. I recently attended an excellent talk by senior archaeology curator Chris Wingfield on the new Benin Bronzes display, followed by a very engaging discussion about how the display came about. As well as talks like these, similar events at other cultural sites in Cambridge are open to volunteers at the MAA, including tours of the Botanic Garden.
Meeting great people
I always look forward to seeing the other volunteers at MAA. I love meeting and becoming friends with people from all sorts of backgrounds – whether they be other students, retired, or working people with one afternoon a week to give. It’s a lot of fun to come together with our varied experiences to volunteer in a place that we all love! The museum is a fun and relaxed place to be, and the staff members are without exception friendly, welcoming, and helpful to volunteers.
Varied and challenging tasks
Regular volunteering slots also open up opportunities to get involved with annual or one-off events at the museum. In February I volunteered for Twilight at the Museums at MAA, an evening in which families are invited after usual closing time to carry out activities by torchlight. My tasks on this evening ranged from explaining activities as children and parents came through the doors to drawing thematic decorative images on the floor with glow-in-the-dark pens!
Why not consider volunteering with the University of Cambridge Museums and Botanic Garden yourself? It’s a fun way to meet new people, broaden your knowledge, and gain great experience, all working flexibly around your schedule and how much time you are able to give. Visit the University of Cambridge Museums website for more information and ways to apply!