Peter Hayes is one of our newest volunteers at the Ashmolean Museum Broadway. Here he explains why he decided to volunteer with us.
When I took early retirement one of my priorities was to find something to provide a bit of shape to my week, something to get me out of bed and off the sofa! I called in at the Pershore Volunteer Centre and had a long talk with Carol, the manager. Among the opportunities available was one with the Ashmolean Museum, Broadway. The paperwork explained that volunteers staffed the front desk, greeting visitors and taking payment but also providing a short introduction to the museum and selling souvenirs in the small shop. This was a completely new area of work for me and loving old things made me keen to pursue this opportunity.
Louise, the House Manager, arranged for me to visit and I was immediately drawn in to the world of the 17th Century Coaching Inn, the 20thC American banker, Ben Chandler and the Arts and Crafts restoration of the building, and its later purchase by Mr Keil, the Antiques man. I was introduced to Elias Ashmole and his London neighbours, the Tradescants. The Ashmolean museum provides the majority of the exhibits, curates these and arranges the temporary exhibitions.
Many villages will have a local museum with a few bits and pieces but Broadway has a museum with world class exhibits. Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, Edwin Landseer all have works permanently displayed. There are links to the pre-Raphaelites and some wonderful 19thC paintings. Alongside are examples of furniture, clocks, glass, ceramics, a “cabinet of curiosities” and artefacts reflecting the history of the building from 17thC Inn to 21stC Antique centre.
One interesting feature is the dedicated exhibition area on the second floor. This houses temporary exhibitions which change two or three times a year. Details of the current exhibition can be found here on the blog and on the website.
Having been given a guided tour by Louise I was hooked and volunteered on the spot. New volunteers are given an eight-week induction period with a “get out” clause if it doesn’t work out after which you have earned your badge which you now wear with pride!
It is not onerous work and one can pick the days and times which fit for volunteering. It is good when two volunteers are present as one can do a more extended introduction and even act as a “room person,” meeting and greeting in one of the exhibition rooms.
As a volunteer you have opportunity to develop one or more skills. Perhaps writing an introduction to a room, delving into the history of the building, researching one or more of the exhibits or reading up on the temporary exhibition. It is important not to worry about not being an expert. There is always a manager on duty and there are quite a number of introductory papers one can read.
The visitors themselves come from all over the world although many are local. In my experience their reaction to the museum is overwhelmingly positive.
The Ashmolean, Broadway, is a partnership between the Keil family, the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford and the local community. Without the volunteers it would not be possible to continue. If reading my story has whetted your appetite, then why not pop in or give us a call?
To sign up as a volunteer, you can pop in to the museum, or contact us by email firstname.lastname@example.org, or telephone 01386 859047. Volunteers are asked to help on front of house duties but if you have a special skill or interest we can try to find special projects for you to make use of that and benefit the museum.