Volunteer Story: Pippa
“I’ve had some fascinating chats with visitors”
Hello! I’m Pippa, a history student at the University of Sheffield. I’ve been volunteering since I came to university here – I walked into Weston Park during my first week, asked what I could do to help, and never left! My first role was helping the wonderful Barbara research the products for the shops to accompany each exhibition. Since then I’ve done a huge range of volunteering, from working in the top-secret stores with the ceramics collection, to helping thirty Year 4s turn into Anglo-Saxons and storm the museum!
Some personal highlights have included cataloguing the ceramics collection with another volunteer, working together to identify all sorts of objects, everything from garishly coloured Victorian jugs to beautiful Derbyshire plates and teacups. We took all the information from the many drawers of old record cards and digitised it, along with a photo of each item. I loved being able to handle all these strange old objects, find out more about them, and wander up and down the aisles of treasures to see what else Museums Sheffield was hiding! I think it’s this role that’s made me as passionate as I now am about working with collections in the future.
I still love working with visitors, though. Lots of my recent roles have been front-of-house at Weston Park Museum – the Anglo-Saxons school session being a particular highlight. I’ve done several ‘Talking Tables’ sessions too, when I wheel a trolley full of interesting objects out into the gallery and leave some objects out for visitors to pick up, think about the origin of them, and hopefully that sparks a conversation about the objects too. I’ve had some fascinating chats with visitors this way and love hearing the interesting and unexpected stories people tell.
My absolute highlight has to be working on the Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing exhibition. I loved chatting to people about the genius of Leonardo and enjoying the buzz around it. The best bit was watching people sit down at the drawing table, even after years without touching a pencil, and spend hours creating works of art and enjoying every minute – the drawing station was a great idea! The exhibition has been incredibly popular and it’s felt like a real honour to be part of it.
All in all, I really enjoy being a volunteer – it breaks up my days in the library as a student, gets me to connect with the wider Sheffield community, teaches me so much about how museums operate, and reminds me why I do the degree I do.