Volunteer Story: Vivien

Volunteer Vivien at the Millennium Gallery © Museums Sheffield

“There’s so much I enjoy about volunteering that I hardly know where to begin”

As I approached retirement, I began to think about ways of staying active, busy and involved in the community. Having had a lifelong interest in history and world civilisations, I naturally felt attracted to Museums Sheffield, and began volunteering in 2014.

There’s so much I enjoy about volunteering that I hardly know where to begin – the range of opportunities is so wide! When I help with the school children who visit, with their teachers, to learn more about Ancient Egypt, Classical Greece, Anglo-Saxon England, and what it means to be a museum curator, it’s fantastic to see their eagerness and engagement. (I’ve also learned a thing or two myself!)

Chatting to visitors who come to examine a selection of the museum’s objects at the Talking Tables is fascinating - the visitors have such interesting information to share, particularly those who know a lot about Sheffield and its history. And every time I include a whale’s tooth in the display, at least one of our younger visitors is sure to identify it as belonging to a dinosaur – they love dinosaurs!

Every Christmas for the past five years, I’ve helped Santa in his grotto at Weston Park (it’s great fun dressing up as an elf) and as well as answering the most frequently asked question (‘Are you really an elf?’), I’ve had some lovely Christmas songs sung for me by children as they wait to see Santa. Christmas means gifts – and every year you can buy beautifully crafted artefacts at the Millennium Gallery’s Handmade for Christmas shop. Helping to unpack, check, and display these exquisite items is a real pleasure.

Family activity days in the school holidays, helping to conduct visitor surveys, taking part in fund raising events – all of these are excellent ways to interact with visitors. But I also want to mention the museum staff alongside whom I volunteer. They’re all so friendly and supportive, and ensure that I feel well briefed and prepared for each session. All of this makes me feel that I’m part of a team involved in a really worthwhile enterprise – working to give visitors the best possible experience of Museums Sheffield.

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