13 March 2017

A Volunteer’s Journey

Without the fantastic help of our volunteers we would find it very difficult to run our three museums. This week, Phil Hall, one of our volunteers shares his experiences of volunteering with us...

"It’s now been a year since my wife and I agreed to start volunteering for Ripon Museums. We had never planned to volunteer we were just walking past the Workhouse Museum and saw the advertisement asking for new volunteers. We had recently moved into Ripon and volunteering seemed to provide the ideal opportunity to make new friends, help the local community and be part of something important, the preservation of three ‘Law and Order’ museums.    

Volunteer at Ripon Museums

It’s a great icebreaker when you meet someone for the first time and they ask you what you did over the weekend. I can say well I looked after a ‘Workhouse’ and helped people learn about law and order in the nineteenth century.  My wife and I dress up in Victorian clothes which  adds an air of authenticity for our visitors. We often get visitors talking about their distant relatives who were in the workhouses and how it brings home to them what the conditions they had to endure.

When you first agree to volunteer, you don’t know what to expect or where your volunteering journey will take you. To ease you into the volunteer role, everyone attends a short Induction course. It’s all nice and informal not like being at work, everyone sits around a table chilled out drinking tea or coffee while the Wendy the Volunteer Manager explains what is expected of you and lets you read through the many roles that are available. For example, welcoming visitors to the museums on the front desk, admin tasks like event planning and project meetings and even gardening in our authentic Workhouse Garden growing Victorian fruit and vegetables. They suggest that you try out all the roles at least once and find our which ones you like the most.

Many of us do the same job day after day and would love the chance to try something different but something holds us back. Often, we also have hidden talents just waiting to shine and we just need to take the first step. Volunteering give you a safe environment supported by friends where you can let your hair down and find out what you enjoy.

My volunteering experience has increased my confidence when dealing with people and I can happily talk to visitors explaining what's in the museum and answering their questions. I also feel at more at easy offering suggestions in meetings and being valued for my input. I have also enjoyed being the 'official' photographer at museum events like the ‘Mad Hatter's Tea Party’ and the 200th anniversary of the Police and Prison museum. 

One big area volunteering has helped me improve in my personal life is to develop my skill at researching history which is helping me to build up my family tree. I recently got hold of my great grandmother’s marriage certificate from 1907 which had lots of fascinating details like her job, her address and the names of my two great great-grandfathers and their jobs. All this new information has allowed me expand my family tree back into the 1840s.

My wife has also learnt many useful skills like fundraising which she used it to great effect on the ‘Mad Hatter's Tea Party’ and dealing with local businesses. She loves dressing up in period costume and learning about life in the workhouse.

For anyone who is thinking of volunteering ask yourself the following questions:
Are you passionate about Ripon?
Would you like to make some new friends?
What would you like to preserve our historical heritage?
Would you like to learn some new skills?

If you have a few hours to spare, and are interested in volunteering with Ripon Museums either call in and see us at The Workhouse Museum. email us [email protected] or call 01765 690799

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