Hello, this is Kevin and I am both a volunteer within the Museum Service and a casual museum assistant at John Muir’s Birthplace. I’m here to tell you about what I do as a volunteer. I volunteer once a week, usually on a Wednesday, helping with the upkeep of the collection. The collection is a gallimaufry of objects of all shapes, sizes and varieties. I deal with the weird and wonderful, usually both simultaneously, that comes into the collection and am often found inputting new objects into our new online collections database. Each object is something new to learn about, an insight, however minute, into the life of this county in years past. Last week I was making a list of objects found in the back of a shop in Haddington High Street and was particularly interested by the masons’ marks on the various pieces of stone donated. Sometime I need to read up on that.
Volunteering here is an ever-varied enterprise. There are seven other volunteers here. We don’t often get to meet each other since we usually come in on different days, though today two of my comrades are here cataloguing archaeological artefacts in the Store. I am helping tidy the workroom, where new objects are kept in preparation for accessioning and storage, as well as sorting out some documents. We all have different areas of interest or expertise that we can add to our work – I usually accession objects relating to Dunbar, where I live, though when working with other objects I can sometimes bring some other obscure knowledge to the fore, for example about politics in the case of objects relating to curling.
I just went into the Museum Store, a climate controlled space where the vast majority of the collection – numbering around twelve thousand objects, at last count – is kept. I never fail to be distracted and drawn to some object far away from what I am looking for. In the Store I may be putting objects away, preparing others for display in exhibitions or taking photographs of objects as part of an audit. When I first visited, as a school student on work experience a few years ago, the stuffed seagulls and rodents and the small paddleboat from the old outdoor swimming pool in Dunbar particularly intrigued me. Now, older and slightly more refined, I get waylaid looking at paintings. I like landscape art and we have a few examples, including one I saw a moment ago on a beach looking out to sea with a few tiers of waves crashing to the shore. Having just checked the database entry, it is by Patrick W. Adam and depicting the low tide at Gullane.
Volunteering here is never dull and always throws up some new challenge, just to keep things exciting. It’s been nice to share some of that today. Bye for now.