Focus on Volunteers

14 May 2015

Burgh House has a small but dedicated team of volunteers who help keep things running smoothly. We're very fortunate to have two UCL Museum Studies students volunteering with us at the moment: Ruth Britt and Jennifer Esposti. We caught up with both of them to find out more about their individual experiences at the House, and how volunteering fits in with their long-term plans.


What does your Museums Studies course involve?

Ruth:
The modules cover all aspects of museum work, teaching us both practical skills and theoretical knowledge.

Jennifer:
I’m taking the Museum Studies course at UCL as a full-time student. The programme is designed to give students a well-rounded introduction to all aspects of museum work. The first term consisted of weekly museum visits and four core courses. These core courses cover museum management, museum communications, collections management, and the history and theory of museums. The second term involved two courses that we selected for ourselves. I took Collections Curatorship, in whichI worked as part of a group to conduct in-depth research on a museum object. I also took a course on cultural heritage, globalisation and development. Each student also writes a dissertation and does a placement. I selected to do my placement at Burgh House.

What attracted you to volunteering at Burgh House?

Ruth:
I was attracted by the friendly team and the potential to gain behind-the-scenes museum experience.

Jennifer:
I wanted to volunteer at a small museum so I could gain skills in a wide-range of museum work. I’m interested in museum education and outreach, so I wanted to volunteer at a museum that is actively used as a community space. Burgh House appealed to me because of its size, the fact it's used and enjoyed by the local community, and because it allows me the opportunity to become involved in a variety of projects.

Could you describe what you’ve been doing at the House?

Ruth:
I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to help out with lots of different projects and types of work, including: auditing and digitising the collection; writing and editing content for the website; maintaining the House's Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube pages; helping with craft events; and helping to hang new exhibitions and displays.

Jennifer:
My placement at Burgh House has focused on two areas. Firstly, I am assisting with the collections audit and temporary-exhibition development. The collections audit involves going through boxes of museum objects, documents and photographs. I update the information regarding the collection and upload the entries onto the Burgh House website. I am also helping with the development of temporary exhibitions at Burgh House. So far I’ve written some interpretation panels, helped hang the pieces for the Bryan Senior retrospective, and am developing a new family trail.

What do you like best about volunteering here?

Ruth:
The sense of community that comes from working in such a small, dedicated team.

Jennifer:
There are several things I enjoy about volunteering at Burgh House. My favourite is being encouraged to test out new skills and to become involved in anything that appeals to my career interests. Becky, our Curator, has taken me along on gallery visits, encouraged me to write blog posts, and been open to anything I want to try out as a volunteer. I’ve volunteered in several museums both in the UK and USA and in my experience it’s rare to find such a supportive environment.

What has been the most useful thing you’ve learned so far whilst volunteering here?

Ruth:
I have learnt so much from Becky and Mark, our General Manager, over the last year and a half, but most of all, I have learnt the joys of working in a small, independent museum.

Jennifer:
I’ve gained a new appreciation for how much work goes into staging a temporary exhibition. It’s been informative to see how the exhibition develops over time and how the team at Burgh House organises themselves and keeps everything within budget.

Where would you like to be career wise in the next five years?

Ruth:
Working in a collections-focused role in a small museum.

Jennifer:
I'd like to be working in the museum sector doing outreach and exhibition development. I’d especially like to work in a museum or heritage site that has a deep connection to the local community. I see myself working in a small museum, since I would be able to participate in several areas rather than having to focus on one specific job.