Alison Lodge tells us about her experience as a volunteer in Aberdeen with Aberdeen Treasure Hub:
When I became a Museum Studies postgraduate student last year, it became more important to me than ever that I broaden my experience in museums. This involved exploring what was available in Aberdeen, since I had already volunteered in several National Trust for Scotland properties in the Aberdeenshire area, in cleaning conservation, archives, curating and interpretation.
I decided to sign up to be a volunteer with Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums, which enabled me to take the opportunity to try a number of new experiences. I was excited then to be placed with the team working at the new store for the museum, the Aberdeen Treasure Hub in April of this year, which had opened at the end of 2016.
Volunteering behind the scenes at a museum is a great way to meet a broad range of people, and provides a great number of opportunities to learn new skills and improve your level of experience. As a volunteer I have unpacked many storage crates and boxes and carefully placed all kinds of items from babies’ cradles to books, mechanical parts, typewriters and top hats on the shelves.
The Treasure Hub is not just for museum storage, it has the ability to be used for example, for teaching for students from local schools as well as research and special open days where all of the community can come in and view, handle and comment on the collection and their own experiences perhaps relating to similar objects or historical periods. Tours are also taken weekly of the facility for all those interested to see.
So, new facility and broad collection and staff to be involved with. What did I learn? Well I believe that I am still learning every week that I attend volunteering at the Treasure Hub. Adapting to the circumstance of the pieces(s) you are working with is certainly key. Despite the size of the amount of storage, no space is wasted on the shelves. This is so that the maximum amount of space is used and there are still many items of interest that visitors can view as they take the tour.
An example of my colleague and I maintaining an interesting display without using all space on the shelves is this collection of decorative flowers. 14 in total, they are potentially fragile, and different shapes and lengths. With advice, we aligned the flowers onto a foam backing, threading tape through the back and around the delicate stems. This is an example of practicality, protecting fragile objects and creating a thing of interest and beauty if I do say so myself!
My colleague and I were also asked to remove from display a number of vintage bottles so that a new exhibit could be placed within the case. This involved packing them away carefully to protect them from damage and displaying their labels while still allowing the visitor to view the interesting shapes and necks of the bottles. This does not of course, mean that some items do remain wrapped or packed away for reasons such as damage or they are simply too large to put out altogether.
Every week at the Treasure Hub is different due to the sheer range of objects to be unpacked or retrieved and due to their sheer size, weight or height and fragility. Of course, we have lists of the items contained in the boxes but this still does not make up for the full visual on the object sometimes!
I thoroughly enjoy my time at the Treasure Hub. It has also led to my becoming involved in other volunteering projects with fine art, also in Aberdeen. I look forward to becoming involved in more in the future.