I have decided to become a volunteer on my second year of university. I am studying history of art and I am interested in every aspect of “behind-the-scenes” of art institutions. When I made this decision I started doing my research for placements on-line and (like a sign from Heaven) Victoria and Albert Museum was looking for Front-of-House volunteers, and it was last day of recruitment (I know, right?). In rush, I have sent my CV hoping for miracle, which happened a couple weeks later when I received an email inviting me to a group interview. After a group interview I got an email another couple weeks later telling me that I had been successful. I then attended training and this is how my adventure with V&A started – in a several sentences.
After so many months I still remember my first few shifts at V&A. I am not a very confident person and I was scared to death that I might ruin something, give the wrong answer, not being friendly enough and generally that everything I might do would be good enough. I had no idea what I was doing. Of course, I had attended the training, where I met members of staff and more experienced volunteers, which prepared me well for that role but still, at the back of my head that idea still existed. I soon realised how wrong I was. The staff and other volunteers were very friendly and expressed understanding of my position (after all, everybody had first day at some point).
On my first day, I came to the building couple minutes before my shifts started. At first I have met the fellow volunteers and supervisors who helped me to go thought the day. I got information about basic facilities for staff, where the lockers to leave my bag and coat are and where I can get a drink and some food if I need to. I gained also knowledge about what are the main things I need to know, which sort of depends of what is your position on the day. I am currently working behind the desk at Main Entrance, so I have a luck and cheat a little by using computer to search my answers sometimes (because why not?).
Every time I am at the V&A I am lucky to meet and talk to people who are interested (like me) in various types of arts and designs. Every time I learn more and more not only about the way that the museum works but also about, sometimes ridiculous, stories behind the objects or beings their represent.
After 6 months at Victoria and Albert Museum, for me, personally, I have gained way more confidence. I am not afraid of talking to visitors who sometimes can tell you stories from their life. For example (my favourite!!!) – an ex-pilot who was flying from USA to Cairo as a courier in 70’s and 80’s came to the museum. He mentioned the stories about his journeys and travels around Cairo when he had a break from work, all together for about the hour. At one of his journeys he had a chance to meet group of archaeologist who were about to rediscovered one of the pyramids. This man joined the group and had a pleasure to be one of very few people to get into the pyramid (first time from 3000 years!!!) before all of the archaeologist works. I am at V&A every week only for 3,5 hours every week but so far I love atmosphere and experience itself. In these short shifts, as well as building my self-esteem I also increase my knowledge about the way that museum works which helps me in my personal research. I have met new friends.
I am waiting for more to come.