Volunteering at the National Museums Collection Centre

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Over the ten years that I have been a volunteer with National Museums Scotland, I have handled and labelled a significant number of articles and have seen many more.

My work with the Science and Technology department at the National Museums Collection Centre in Granton enables me to see an incredible number of items. These can be both very small pieces and also equipment that is larger than the elephant I see from time to time at the Collection Centre. Although it is me who is doing the walking about, not the elephant who is in a semi-permanent in the location and is stuffed!

You may think that after ten years I would be used to the environment, to the view of all the articles around me and the repetitive work of moving, documenting and labelling items. In truth, it is just the opposite and I feel a sense of enjoyment at all times during my volunteer work. This is because I never know what I will see on searching for an article, or I may actually come across something that takes me back to memories of my life many years earlier. How many people can say they have seen their very first electric razor in a museum? I can, but I will not divulge my age or the age of the razor!

I wonder how many other people have had the opportunity to see some of the original paperwork of the construction of the Forth Rail Bridge up close? There are prints of the ongoing work and many details concerning it. Did you know it is 8296 feet long, 361 feet high, has two spans of 1710 feet and cost a mere £3,500,000? Sounds like a pub quiz question to me.

John at work with the drawings at the National Museums Collection Centre.

For me, the whole experience of working within this environment is a privilege. To be able to work within this structure, plus to see and touch articles (with gloves on I hasten to add) on my visits. From time to time we come across unrecognisable items, which then become a challenge – as we try to find out more about them and how they were used.

When I first joined the Museum I was placed on an Asbestos awareness course and was asked what my role/job specification was.  In a jest, I replied “Trainee Fossil”, perhaps I was right!

Find out more about how John started volunteering with National Museums Scotland in this previous Volunteer Week blog.

Volunteering with National Museums Scotland

National Museums Scotland has over 500 volunteers making a valuable contribution to our work. Volunteers help in many of our departments and play an important role, increasing our visitors’ enjoyment and understanding of our collections. Find out more about current volunteer opportunities. 

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