From the 12 to the 16 of November it was #IWill week in which young volunteers across the country made pledges for social action. Within the workhouse young volunteers Poppy and Lucy took over our Instagram; here are some of their experiences volunteering with Ripon Museums.
Studying A-Level History at the local grammar school we were fascinated by Victorian social history, particularly the stories of those in the fringes of society. Volunteering at the workhouse seemed the perfect opportunity to expand our knowledge as well as get to know the local community. However, we also had our own individual agendas. Lucy, wanting to study History at a higher level, wished to see the impact of history on a local community as well as gain experience for future career choices. Whilst Poppy, having visited the museums with her primary school, wanted to learn more about the museum as the gateway between history and the public.
From over our short time here we’ve learnt so much! Firstly, our understanding of social history, the workings of the workhouse, the has magnified having visited the three museums, not only with respect to the inner workings of a workhouse, the methods used to confine criminals but also the workings of a Victorian courthouse and the penalties for theft etc. Furthermore, Lucy has also done some individual research, directly engaging with the people’s stories who were affected by the workhouse. We’ve also learnt about the community of Ripon through talking to visitors and museum staff; young and old. Lastly, we’ve experienced the everyday running of the museum, learning the extent of the work behind the scenes through talking to an older volunteer about the new block.
Encountering this new experience has taught us invaluable social and communication skills. Not only have we got to know each other, having previously only shared one class in school. But we’ve also got to know the community and the volunteers. Talking to visitors has been eye-opening, learning the plethora of reasons for their visit, ranging from a rainy day out to finding it more about their ancestors. We admire the way in which the museum participates the community, with ghost walks and school visits.
The staff and volunteers from all ages have all been very welcoming, telling us stories of their relationship with the museums as well as getting to know us. Not forgetting the friendships Poppy formed with the locals!
Participation is key to our enjoyment and learning experience as volunteers. Volunteering over may half-term Poppy took part in many activities that’s helped mould her time here. From creating fleas to manning circus games, she got to engage directly with visitors and impacted upon the impressions of their time at the museums. Choosing to volunteer in may half-term meant she could engage with activities outside the workhouse museum’s normal timetable, developing her own opinion of the museums. Furthermore, participating with getting dressing up in Victorian attire helped us integrate into the museums and relate to their history more thoroughly.
Our last pledge as volunteers is to thank Ripon Museums for all the experiences they’ve given us, from learning to allowing us to get involved.
Poppy Robinson / Lucy Bourdais