At the heart of the Museum there is a team of over 280 active volunteers and in the last 12 months, they have given over 37,000 hours of their time. From interpreters and stewards to shop assistants and maintenance, they work throughout the year to ensure that everyone’s experience of the Museum is memorable.
With National Volunteers’ Week taking place from 1 – 7 June 2023, we are celebrating our wonderful team by shining a spotlight on a handful of volunteers, so you can discover more about their roles, interests and experiences at the Museum.
In a series of daily blogs, we start with one of our longest standing volunteers, Carol Brinson….
I began volunteering at the Weald & Downland Living Museum in the early 1970s, just a couple of years after the Museum opened. John Lowe was then the part-time Museum Director, and he made me very welcome. John also connected me with West Dean College where I was able to find paid work. Duties at the Museum included working in the ticket office, helping in the shop in the Littlehampton Granary, stewarding the car park and Winkhurst, when it was at the top of the slope. In the winter, many cheerful Saturdays were spent in the woodland area learning to thatch and make spars.
As well as continuing as a volunteer steward, frequently on car parking duties, I was also Minutes Secretary and then Hon Sec for Friends of the Museum. In 1988 came the chance to be one of the paid Wardens, a rarely-dull, part-time post which I was able to slot in with other work and roles at the Museum including rag rug making with young visitors, organiser of the adult education courses and then Events Co-ordinator, until the end of 2005. Now, I am still volunteering with a variety of tasks involving the history and archives of the Museum.
We receive many direct enquiries to the library, many of which are from the MSC students running their course through the Museum. Having received an anonymous donation, we were able to spend the money directly on books for the students, although they are also available for all visitors to enjoy. We are lucky enough to have books about the Weald & Downland Living Museum but also a wealth of other titles on subjects including building construction, restoration and conservation as well as local and social history.
An aspect of the Museum which has struck me for some time is the continuity of the friendly atmosphere and dedication of so many people. The Museum becomes a bigger and more complex organisation, but that same spirit carries through. Volunteers and staff change, but new ones are absorbed into the ethos.
In joining the team of volunteers, I’ve been able to meet so many wonderful people. Working with the other volunteers is one of the things I’ve enjoyed the most in my time here, as well as knocking the bookshelves into shape!
To find out more about volunteering at the Weald & Downland Living Museum click here.