Monday, July 27, 2009

Museum Mondays--How to Get Involved

Kid says wow Image courtesy of Mike Baird

Every Monday in July I'm doing a post on museums to encourage people to visit one during their summer vacation. The first week I talked about orienting oneself in a museum; the second week I discussed what to see and where to see it; and last week I talked about small museums.

So now that you've been to a whole bunch of museums, you probably want to live in one like the two kids in From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler! (I'll take your silence as a yes.) Unfortunately, you can't. But you can get involved at your museum by volunteering.

Like all jobs, volunteering can be fun or a pain. It all depends on your attitude going in. Be sure you know what you want to do at a museum before you pick one to volunteer at or contact them. Volunteering can require a wide variety of skills and duties, so you shouldn't feel like you don't have anything to offer (there's a double negative for you).

Step One--Figure out what you want to do & how much time you want to do it

You probably won't be curating exhibits right out of the box, but if you're interested in curation you can work with the curatorial department. There's also education, administrative, gift shop, research, library, and security volunteers in most museums (not to mention a lot of other departments in bigger museums).

You should also know ahead of time the number of hours per week or month you're going to spend volunteering, and whether it will be temporary or long-term. Then stick to that number--this will help you not to feel like you're being taken advantage of by the museum.

Step Two--Figure out which museum you want to volunteer in

Is it close to you, does it have exhibits and opportunities you're interested in, etc.

Only after you've picked these two things out should you contact the museum about volunteering. Look on their website for instructions on how to do this. With smaller museums, the process tends to be fairly informal--you just e-mail or call, then maybe come in to discuss your postion. With larger museums, they might advertize for volunteer positions just as they do for jobs, want a resume, or want you to fill out an application. The larger and more well-funded the museum, the more competition there is for volunteer jobs, and the museum can afford to be more picky. But that doesn't mean they don't want you or your skills any less than a small museum. If there's a museum you really want to volunteer at, go for it!


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