Volunteering at Night at the Museum – our Student Interns tell all!

Published on: Author: Harriet Gaston Leave a comment

A student post from Sara McQueen and Liam White.

In October 2016, Sara McQueen and Liam White were appointed, via University of Glasgow’s Internship Hub, as Volunteers Coordinators for the The Hunterian’s Night at Museum (NATM) events. Now in their third year, the events continue to grow as more and more people come along to the museum after dark to see the exhibitions, watch performances and hear from speakers on a variety of themes. Here, Liam answers a few questions on the roles he undertook alongside Sara and what he has gained from the experience.

How would you sum up a typical NATM event?

Sara and Liam.

I would describe a typical NATM event as enchanting, festive and fun. The NATM events are always popular, with tickets often selling out fast. Visitors come to see the beautiful Hunterian museum after dark and engage with cultural heritage in a new and exciting way. The museum’s stunning displays are bathed in shades of purple and turquoise as the house lights are turned down and the festive evening lights come on. Each event plays host to a number of wonderful performances, speakers, multimedia showcases and exhibitors. Visitors may also visit the bar and enjoy a drink as they wander around the museum. Indeed, based on recent feedback, it is the fun and festive atmosphere and the entertaining and informative performances which visitors have enjoyed the most. Each event is based around a theme and gives The Hunterian and The University of Glasgow the opportunity to showcase something from their collections and archives. The NATM events are attended by students, families, individuals and couples as they really have something for everyone. I look forward to seeing how the NATM events develop in the future.

Is there such a thing as a typical NATM volunteer?
The wonderful thing about the NATM events is their popularity on campus at the University of Glasgow. This has ensured that securing volunteers for recent events has been an easy task. The first briefing session I organised in 2016, attracted an excellent group of energetic and enthusiastic students. Some were undergraduates and some were postgraduates. Some had volunteered with The Hunterian as MUSE guides while a few were quite unfamiliar with the museum and its collections. Some of the volunteers were students of history and museum studies while others studied English literature and languages. Yet, what they all had in common were their reasons for volunteering. They all sought to develop new skills and experience, engage with the museums wonderful collections and have fun.

What was your strategy for making sure the volunteer team was ready to support the events?
The most important thing to ensure that the volunteers were ready for the events was regular communication. By using social media, we were able to be in constant communication with the team and address any questions, concerns or problems. There are always occasions however, where face to face meetings are more informative and valuable. To that end, we arranged several briefing sessions to give us the opportunity to meet the volunteers, get to know them better and make them fully aware of what was expected of them.

What has been the best part of the experience?
The best part of this experience has been meeting such an incredible team of people, from the volunteers to the Hunterian and university staff. I have made valuable connections, learned a great deal from my colleagues and made some lasting friendships.

What has been the most challenging part of the experience?
Balancing the demands of this internship with my other commitments. As a final year student at The University of Glasgow my time has often been occupied with coursework, my dissertation and applications for graduate careers. However, despite sometimes being stretched for time my coursework never suffered. This has largely been down to the incredible support I have received from my partner coordinator Sara and student engagement officer, Ruth Fletcher.

Which skills or experiences will be the most memorable as you graduate and leave this role behind?
The most valuable skills which I can take away from this experience are interpersonal communication, team management and time management to name a few. Setting up strong communication links with a team of 25 volunteers and liaising with various Hunterian and university staff has taught me valuable lessons about interpersonal communication. Moreover, leading a team of volunteers has been a rewarding way to develop my leadership, coaching and management skills. In recent applications and interviews I have been able to explicitly refer to my experience as a volunteer coordinator for the NATM events. I am confident that my experience with the NATM events has driven recent successes in the recruitment process.

What advice would you give to the next students to take on the coordinator role?
Have fun! At times the preparation for the NATM events can seem overwhelming, and leading the volunteer team during the events can be stressful. However, don’t forget to enjoy the experience yourself. The NATM events are a great opportunity to enjoy lively performances and speeches and learn more about the Hunterian museum and its collections.

Liam White is a final year student at The University of Glasgow, studying MA History and Politics. After graduating this spring, he is planning to enjoy a summer break travelling, before taking on a recently offered graduate role.

Sara McQueen is a final year student at The University of Glasgow, studying MA English Literature and French. Sara aspires to work hard in a creative or heritage-based industry in order to support an anticipated large canine family

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