by Ieva Anušauskaitė, student of Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences
In May, before leaving my homeland Lithuania I had visited one very bright priest, who was an ex-parson of my home-town parish. I was writing an essay about the history of my home-town church. That’s why I needed to visit him. I bragged to him that I am going to do an internship in England in a museum for whole summer. Later he said: I am jealous of you, I love museums. When I visit a museum I get new ideas and inspiration. He added that those nice sculptures which stand now in front of our church were an outcome of one of his visits to a particular museum.
The experience which I get whilst volunteering in Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery is very varied. Literally, I have a touch to England’s and World’s social history by auditing, cleaning, photographing and packing objects from the Social History collection. Most of the objects are local, but there are some which came from different countries, as for example British-Indian passport or photographs of Istanbul during First World War, which were taken by a British army officer, coins from Canada, Hungary, Argentina, France which were in use in 19th century…and lots of the other interesting things! Yesterday I handled a Bible which was printed in 1643. It was the oldest book which I ever had in my hands!
Other kinds of experiences are collecting stories and feedback from visitors. The majority of ladies indicate prams as their most favourite objects on the display and the majority of gentlemen state that the guns display is their favourite. The diving suit, JFK’s nightclub sign, “Ha Penny Bridge” sign are very popular as well. Most frequently people are curious about “the exercise bikes” and the “cot bed with Jesus in”.
However, my most important impressions are related with people who I met whilst helping in the gallery and being “across the road”. I was amazed by the members of staff work and administrating the volunteers. It is very nice to see how attentively they communicate and lead all work. That is a good example of a leadership. I am having a very good time with all the volunteers. I will not forget the lady from Scotland who I volunteered with and who taught me a Scottish phrase “she doesn’t like grass growing under her feet”. With another lady Sheila I skived off one afternoon and went to Mount Edgcumbe. With another lady Irene I had unexpectedly nice afternoon in Mount Batten where we went by water taxi. With other volunteers we liven our work by having interesting conversations in different subjects.
One more very useful and interesting experience I had was story telling for students from summer school of arts. Project assistant Laura picked several objects for me which have very interesting stories: a wood carving from Miss Pinwill collection; a table knife which belonged to T.E. Lawrence known as Lawrence of Arabia; a barber’s shop price list and a silver snuff box with wooden container which was presented for local surgeon for devotion to his patients during a cholera outbreak in 1832. The idea of the school children’s visit was to understand, that even though some objects in a museum look ordinary, they can have very unusual and interesting stories. I found this experience most useful and challenging, keeping in mind that I am going to be history teacher.
It is very nice to see how museums in UK do their best to involve visitors in interactive activities. I enjoyed participating in “Big Knit”, “Adventures in music” events and school sessions. It was useful to find out about “Discovery desks”. I have never seen such activities anywhere. During the time spent in a museum I definitely changed my opinion about museums.
Back to the introduction of my post, now I understand what the priest meant. I got dozens of ideas for my future work in school and I will definitely try to realise them. I would like to encourage all who are even a little bit interested in history to be involved in volunteering in a museum!