Tag Archive | Volunteer

Archaeological Finds Volunteers

Today’s blog post comes from the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). For those of you who may not know, the Portable Antiquities Scheme is a voluntary scheme for archaeological objects found by members of the public. The scheme encourages finders to record these discoveries with their local Finds Liaison Officer, who will then record the objects onto the national database for researchers to study and the public to view. As a general rule, items over 300 years old are recorded but if an item is of significant interest and should be recorded, then it will be.

We have 3 volunteers giving their time at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery to support the team in photographing and recording new finds. The volunteers work with Teresa, our Finds Liaison Officer who is based here at Birmingham Museum. Teresa writes:

“Volunteers are incredibly useful for us, and all the other Finds Liaison Officers based around the country, as they help us manage our large workloads. Tasks that our volunteers have undertaken include: photographing archaeological finds; photo-editing; identification and recording of archaeological finds of all kinds; illustration of archaeological finds and research into different artefacts and distributions”.

One of the volunteer at work

One of the volunteers at work

Riccardo, one of the volunteers, writes:

“I come from Italy and I started volunteering with the Portable Antiquities Scheme in March 2014. During this period I worked on different finds taking photographs and setting them for the database. Last week I started to insert into the database some objects which I had worked on, many of which were Roman coins. I studied Archaeology in Italy with a particular interest in the Western Roman Provinces and it is fantastic for me to have the possibility to handle and study Roman materials from Britain. Apart from that, I am finding it very interesting discovering a world of archaeological materials which I hadn’t dealt with before such as those of Medieval and Post-Medieval period. I took advantage of this to learn more about the English History.  Joining the PAS volunteering team, I am experiencing the policy on the metal detectorists’ activity in England and Wales, and how it is useful in providing the registration of the finds.

I am definitely learning more about using editing software in order to manipulate the pictures of the objects and most of all I am acquiring the analytical method of identifying and cataloguing them.

I am really enjoying this experience in a good environment with experienced and helpful people.”

Riccardo, one of the volunteers, at work

Riccardo, one of the volunteers, at work

We aren’t recruiting for more volunteers within PAS at the moment but if you’d like to be added to our volunteer interest list just email alex.nicholson-evans@birminghammuseums.org.uk and we’ll let you know as and when we launch new roles.

Alex Nicholson-Evans,Volunteer Development Officer,
Teresa Gilmore, Finds Lisiaon Office,
Riccardo Caravello, Archaeological Finds Recording Assistants

Volunteering at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Art is something I have always had an immense amount of interest in; from an early age I was reading about artists, visiting galleries and getting involved in every art class I could find. Pursuing courses in art at school, I became more interested in looking at other’s art works rather than creating my own, and thinking about the historical, biographical and social contexts of works. When the time came for me to leave school I stumbled on information about courses of History of Art. This seemed perfect for me, so I decided to take the plunge. Once I had finished my course I moved back to Birmingham and for the first time was at a loss for what to do with my future. I greatly missed the challenge of academic study, and spent a while thinking about my future and what I wanted to achieve. I knew it would have to be something art based, but I wasn’t sure what job it was that I wanted exactly, or even how to embark upon a career in which I had no practical experience. After many unsuccessful job applications, I decided the best course of action was to go back to what I knew I enjoyed the most: visiting art galleries. It was then I saw the vacancy for volunteer positions at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, and I sent an application without any real hope that I would be accepted due to my lack of experience. However, I couldn’t believe my luck when I was told I had been successful!

Kendall enjoying a visit to an exhibition

Kendall enjoying a visit to an exhibition

Volunteering has become an essential part of my weekly routine. Being at the gallery twice a week has renewed my interest and passion in art; spending time talking to the public and answering their questions about pieces in the collection pushes me to constantly expand my knowledge. Many questions and opinions that arise in general conversation are things I had not considered myself, and I love being educated by others who are as enthusiastic about the works in the gallery as I am. Volunteering in a gallery like the Staffordshire Hoard often draws in people with specialist knowledge, and it is so inspiring and reassuring to see the passion and sense of pride that local people feel for their art gallery. I really try to pass on any small amount of knowledge I may have so that others might find the same appreciation for the art as I do.

Recently I spent an afternoon at an object handling session with Ancient Egyptian objects. It was a fantastic experience for me to engage with families, and in particular children, in one of my areas of great interest. Using the objects to interact with the public was a really rewarding experience for me, as it helped to draw people in for conversations. The opportunity for us to touch actual artefacts was a real treat, and it really helped to create a strong connection and understanding of the art, especially for children. It was so gratifying to see people really understanding the objects on show, not only on a visual level but by physically exploring the objects to reaffirm their understanding of them, for example, being able to examine a kohl pot with remnants of makeup in it expanded understanding of the object on a deeper level than being told of its use by display information.

Every day volunteering at the gallery is enjoyable, spending time around such beautiful and amazing works of art has led me to develop a deep appreciation for all the works, and it is a real pleasure to speak to all the staff and hear their own experiences of working in the gallery. The building itself is a work of art, and a pleasure to spend time in. I hope to volunteer until a more permanent career path becomes more obvious to me; until then I will continue to enthusiastically drag my friends and family, such as my sister pictured below, to the gallery to experience what amazing things Birmingham is lucky enough to be home to.

Kendall's sister at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Kendall’s sister at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

For more information about volunteering at Birmingham Museums visit: bmag.org.uk/support-us/volunteer

By Kendall Russell,
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery Volunteer

 

International Women’s Day: Birmingham Women who inspired change

Saturday the 8th March is International Women’s Day.

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‘International Women’s Day celebrates the social, political and economic achievements of women while focusing world attention on areas requiring further action.’

In this blog we wanted to highlight the stories of some of the Birmingham women featured in the history galleries who have inspired change.

Ann Fuller

Portrait of Ann Fuller, 1786

Portrait of Ann Fuller, 1786

This rare portrait of an18th century businesswoman depicts Ann Fuller who was a pawnbroker in Digbeth during the late 18th century.  Ann took over her father’s business at 53 Digbeth shortly after this portrait was painted.

We know very little about Ann other than she was one of a small number of businesswomen in Birmingham at the time.  Research for the history galleries revealed other women including Catherine Sawyer who ran the Boarding School in The Square, and Mary Lloyd who was the owner of the Hen & Chicken’s Hotel.

You will find Ann’s portrait in the Strangers Guide to 18th Century Birmingham (1700-1830).

Nellie Hall

Nellie Hall’s hunger strike medal, 1913.

Nellie Hall’s hunger strike medal, 1913.

Nellie Hall was a suffragette who lived in Edgbaston.  She became an active campaigner as a teenager, and suffered imprisonment in Winson Green prison in Birmingham.  Later she was sent to prison again in London, went on hunger strike and endured forced feeding.  Birmingham had a very strong suffragette movement, which involved women from prominent local families including the Cadburys and the Rylands.  The equality for which these women risked their freedom, and sometimes their lives, was a long time in coming.  Women over 30 gained the vote in 1918, but full voting equality with men was not granted until 1928.

Nellie Hall wrote to her father from prison in 1914:  ‘No free spirit has ever been wrecked by a mean spirited oppression yet.  And mine won’t be either.’

You will find Nellie’s hunger strike medal in Forward (1830-1909)

Mary Newill

 Sleep after Toile 2

 Sleep after Toile 1Stained glass panel in two parts entitled ‘Sleep after Toile’ by Mary Newill, c.1905.

Mary Newill studied at the Birmingham School of Art.  In the late 19th century the ‘Arts and Crafts’ movement was reviving hand crafts, in a reaction against mass production.  The Birmingham School of Art encouraged students to try new techniques, and pioneered art education for women.  Female students were encouraged to work with metal, wood and stained glass as well as textiles and painting.  Mary Newill was one of the women who forged ahead in techniques traditionally practised by men.  Newill also worked as an illustrator and embroiderer, and became a teacher at the School of Art.

You can see Mary Newill’s stained glass panel in Forward (1830-1909)

Lilly Duckham OBE

Lilly Duckham in her Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps uniform c. 1917.

Lilly Duckham in her Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps uniform c. 1917.

Lilly was born in Birmingham on the 14 October 1892.  She left school aged 14 and went into domestic service.  In 1917 she enlisted with the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps aged 25.  Lilly was one of 10 women sent to the Western Front to be in charge of the Officer’s catering.  Many disapproved of women working on the Western Front.  In this extract from an interview with Lilly in 1981 she explained why she believed it was important for her, and other women to serve alongside men.

‘When I read of the quantity of boys that were being killed and that they, they wanted more men they wanted more people out there and they were going to try and experiment with girls you see I put my name through […] They asked if I wanted to stay at home or go abroad, well I very much wanted to go abroad there were only about five of us the rest were wanted to stay in England you know but I wanted to get out […] to do what I could […] I felt that was where the help was wanted was needed and that’s why I thought that’s where we should be and I mean the hardships and everything it was no more I felt it was no more for us than it was for the boys’.

Lilly was demobbed 6 months after the end of the war.  Shortly after returning to Birmingham she was awarded an OBE for her war services.

You can listen to extracts from Lilly’s interview as well as other Birmingham women’s first world war stories in An Expanding City (1909-1945) in the Birmingham at War display

Shahin Ashraf

Shahin Ashraf,  fundraiser for Islamic Relief.

Shahin Ashraf, fundraiser for Islamic Relief.

Shahin Ashraf was born in Birmingham in 1971.  She is a fundraiser for Islamic Relief, an international aid organisation which began in Birmingham in 1984.

Shahin began volunteering for Islamic relief in 1989 after the Kashmir earthquake.  In this extract from her interview for the history galleries she recalls what it was like as a volunteer.

‘We were basically going around the country collecting clothes in a big truck, there was a group of us and we were the only women that could drive at that time.  [We then delivered] them back to the warehouse and […] helping […] sorting out clothes, making sure the clothes […] were okay for the country that they were going to. I mean a lot of people gave summer clothes and it was winter there so […] we couldn’t take those clothes’

Islamic Relief [was] in its infancy and then what happened was that […] Central News in Birmingham […] picked it up and suddenly there was an influx of clothes and the warehouse was full to the brim but they had […] hardly any volunteers

So this was the call for volunteers and I was one of the very few volunteers.  In those days there was no texts, there no sms, there was no email, it was just word of mouth and Doctor Hany [the founder of Islamic Relief] had gone to the different colleges within Birmingham and he said I really need your help so if you could come to the warehouse […] and suddenly there was about 4-500 volunteers’.

You can listen to extracts from Shahin’s interview in Your Birmingham (1945-today)

Jo-Ann Curtis and Henrietta Lockhart, Curators – History

Stories from the Mill

A lovely blog about volunteer millers at Sarehole Mill.

Sarehole Mill will open again for the season on Saturday 12 April 2014. Please see http://www.bmag.org.uk/sarehole-mill for more details.

The Iron Room

I used to think I had the best job in the world, education & outreach officer at Birmingham Archives & Heritage; a sublime mix of delving into the past through archival documents and photos and working with young people and community groups to document their lives and our changing city.

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Then in January I answered the call for volunteer millers at Sarehole Mill.  Suddenly every waking thought was about millstones and wheel revolutions, about chutes, tuns, hoppers and damsels and I found myself in a new world of the old.  Now of course it all makes sense; a seamless path from researching and recording stories about Birmingham’s history to real life hands on experience.

I am part of a team of volunteers learning how to operate the mill following it’s major  £450,000 restoration and refurbishment project.  Sarehole Mill is one of only two surviving working watermills in Birmingham (…

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Give a personal touch to the Sikh Fortress Turban!

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Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery hosts the magnificent fortress turban, on loan from the British Museum (26 January – 28 April 2013). The display gives visitors from Birmingham and beyond a rare opportunity to explore the intriguing story of Sikh warriors and learn more about Sikh faith and history. You can get involved with the museum’s work and help us unravelling the mysteries of the dastaar boonga to our visitors. Join our enthusiastic group of wonderful volunteers and act as a gallery interpreter. If you can help us, come along to one of the Info Sessions on Saturday 16 February, 11am-12pm or Saturday 2 March, 11am-12pm. You can also contact Josefine (Josefine.Frank@birmingham.gov.uk) for more information. We look forward to meeting you.

What does a gallery interpreter do?

As a gallery interpreter you can play a crucial part in enhancing our visitors’ experience of the Sikh Fortress Turban exhibition. Gallery interpreters engage visitors in discussions about the turban and help them discover how and why turbans symbolise Sikh faith and identity. We want to provide informative, engaging and meaningful experiences for our visitors that explain why the turban remains important for the Sikh community in Birmingham today. Gallery interpreters are vital in helping us achieving this.

How is the volunteer programme organised?

Gallery interpreters work in pairs and are asked to sign up to a flexible rota and commit to a minimum of 2-3 sessions throughout the duration of the exhibition. Sessions take place on Saturdays between 11.00am–1.30pm or 1.30pm–16.00 pm. Before you start we ask you to attend a training session where we will tell you more about the Sikh Fortress Turban and what to expect as a gallery interpreter.

Are there any requirements?

You do not need to be an expert on Sikh history or faith. All that is needed is being enthusiastic about sharing your own experience and knowledge of Sikh faith and culture with visitors.

What’s in it for you?

Benefits include

  • gaining in-depth knowledge of the Sikh Fortress Turban
  • developing customer service and interpretation skills
  • easy access to all events around the exhibition
  • seeing how a museum works behind the scenes
  • up to £4 daily reimbursement towards your travel
  • possibility to attend other training courses (e.g. on customer service, disability awareness)
  • potentially become a long-term volunteer
  • Lots of fun!

Get involved with the Sikh Fortress Turban exhibition at BMAG and give the display a personal touch!

If you can help us, please contact Josefine (Josefine.Frank@birmingham.gov.uk).

 

Volunteering in the Staffordshire Hoard Gallery

“Where’s the big stuff? I want to see the really big stuff”. It was a familiar request; visitors to gallery sixteen at Birmingham Museum are often a little thrown when they peer in to the glass cases for the first time and wonder what on earth they’re looking at. Small pieces of shiny metal, many of them studded with red gemstones – what are they? Who do they belong to? Where are they from?  Why has such a fuss been made in the media about this find?

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My name is Donna, and I’m only one of a group of volunteer interpreters who staff the Hoard at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.  Our primary role involves answering questions about the Hoard and encouraging visitors to engage with the objects on display. Volunteers are all passionate about the collection, for different reasons. Most of us are graduates; some of us are still studying. We all give our time freely, well almost freely – we do get a cuppa and a biscuit during breaks!

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Photo: Two Staffordshire Hoard gallery volunteers at the 2012 Volunteer Party

So what do volunteers in the Hoard gallery do? Well, there’s a bit of housekeeping for starters. First thing in the morning we set the gallery up: we turn on the lights, set up the ipads and, last of all, fire up the short documentary which is a great introduction to the Hoard. Visitors often ask if we know the script of that film off by heart: we do!  There is a small amount of paperwork, a gallery check to make sure all is working, clean and tidy for visitors and then…we wait.

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There is never much of a wait before the first visitors arrive. The Staffordshire Hoard remains very popular, and totting up the numbers is another volunteer responsibility. We regularly log over 300 visitors, even on a rainy weekday. There is rarely a dull moment in the Hoard, and our visitors are always so interesting, as well as interested.  For me this is the best part of volunteering: the opportunity to talk with such a diverse range of people. I started volunteering in the Hoard in January 2012, and since then I’ve learned as much from the public as I have from books and documentaries. I’ve been privileged to speak with jewellers who understand the intricate complexity of the filigree work; with metal workers who have explained how the swords would have been made and even an expert in marine life who enlightened me on sea horses off the south coast of England.

But you don’t have to be an expert at anything to appreciate the Hoard (I’m certainly not!) or to engage our full attention. There is still so much mystery surrounding the find and, as I often tell visitors, everyone’s interpretation is as good as anyone else’s when it comes to the Staffordshire Hoard. One of the really nice things about working in the gallery is hearing the ideas about how the gold came to be stashed there, and why. It seems unlikely that we’ll never know, but a very happy ten minutes can be passed debating it.

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The day passes very quickly as a conglomeration of chatty, enthusiastic school trips, overseas tourists and mooching couples pass through the gallery. And there are quiet times too, during which we go around with a cloth and wipe the fingerprints off the cases.  At five o’clock a call comes over the radio advising that it’s time to start closing down the interactive exhibits, and Terry Herbert utters his final ‘why me?’ of the day. The lights are turned down, the doors closed and it’s time to head home.

If you are planning a visit to the Staffordshire Hoard – and why wouldn’t you? It’s fab and free! – please take advantage of the volunteer interpreters in the gallery. We can’t promise to answer all of your questions, but we’ll have an interesting time together trying!

Donna Taylor
Staffordshire Hoard Volunteer

For more information about the Staffordshire Hoard please visit: staffordshirehoard.org.uk

From Volunteer to Documentation Manager with Volunteers!

Hi, I’m Lucy Blakeman and I’m the Documentation Manager at BMAG. I started my museum career at the Barber Institute of Fine Art, working with the Education Manager. To gain more Curatorial experience I also volunteered at BMAG in the Art Department with Tessa Sidey and then in the History Department with Phil Watson. Having gained experience in several different areas of museum work, it became apparent that I was leaning more towards documentation and after 2.5 years volunteering I took my first paid role as a Documentation Officer at BMAG and haven’t looked back!

My experience as a volunteer has helped me see the value in volunteering from a personal perspective as well as from an institutional perspective. I now take on volunteers of my own as I feel it’s essential to my work in at BMAG, as well as providing keen up-and-coming-museum-professionals with the experience they need to get museum jobs.

I have 2 long-term volunteers that work on Documentation projects with me – Misaho, who has also written a blog about volunteering today, is one of them and has been coming to BMAG for 3 years now. Her work is of an exceptional standard and she is dedicated and professional, which is exactly what we need. Without Misaho I wouldn’t be on target with our collections audit, we wouldn’t have solved many of the documentation anomalies that have occurred over the years, and her expertise in Ancient History is a real bonus in solving these.

I also work with four of the Friends as part of their 80th Birthday celebrations this year. They have been inputting funding data and accurate credit line info for all the objects that the Friends have helped us acquire over the last 80 years. Working closely with the Friends has been a lovely experience – several of them have been a part of BMAG for much longer than me, and although I may have taught them a few new skills, they have also taught me a great deal.

Documentation is one of the most important aspects of collections work and without the help and hard work of volunteers we wouldn’t have the level of documentation that we currently do. I can’t thank volunteers enough for the work that they do.

Thank you very much all you fabulous volunteers!

 

Volunteering for the Documentation Team at BMAG

My name is Misaho and I have been volunteering for the  Documentation Office of BMAG for 3 years now. I was always interested in history, arts and culture, and wanted to work in the museum sector.  

I applied for postgraduate Museum Studies course in distance learning from the University of Leicester because I wanted to gain the practical experience of a real working environment at the same time. The great thing about being a volunteer while studying was that it helped me greatly to understand academic theories as practical ones. Also I was able to ask questions and get lots of advice and tips from my supervisors and the staff to do my assignments!

Currently, I am helping the Museum’s on-going auditing project at the Museum Collections Centre. I check the existing objects with the database records and update any changes. I take responsibility for resolving numbering issues that arise and also make new entries to the database by researching the objects. 

I have also been able to gain experience from other departments such as the Conservation Department and the Events Team. This has made me understand the various types of jobs available in museums. The Museum also gives me opportunities to attend training courses and these have been very useful. 

I’m now looking for a job as a documentation officer. It is difficult time to be looking for a museum job but I hope that I succeed, and until then I will continue to develop my skill and experience professionally as a volunteer. 

 

Volunteering on the ‘Make Do and Mend’ project at BMAG

Hello, my name is Kim Lane and I’m a Leicester graduate who studied Museum Studies. I completed an 8 week placement at BMAG in July for my course and have been here ever since as a weekly volunteer!

During my placement I was asked to update the documentation for the 1940s costume collection in preparation for a community engagement project called ‘Make Do and Mend’. Thus, I continued this project as a volunteer and am currently helping to run the ‘Make Do and Mend’ sessions at the Museum Collections Centre.

Makedoandmend

The Birmingham City University Fashion Design students have been asked to make an outfit for the new history galleries in the style of 1940s make do and mend. This involves working with the university students, as well a group called BARRA who provide the students with a ‘real life’ account of make do and mend during wartime and after for many people.

For me the best part of volunteering at BMAG is being able to access the museums collections, and being able to provide a service for the public through the museums collection.