Nicola Moss, our previous collection assistant, talks to us about the important role volunteering has in her path to becoming a museum curator…..
I’ve found all my volunteering experiences to be incredibly interesting and exciting. They have allowed me to face new challenges and have encouraged me to build upon my skills and knowledge that are really vital for a career in the museum sector.
Some many moons ago, with only an undergraduate in Fine Art and an interest in the curatorial aspects of running a gallery, I decided to volunteer as an Invigilator at several contemporary art galleries. These gave me the opportunity to get to grips with some of the basics of the cultural sector and with this experience under my belt, the ‘volunteering bug’ kicked in! As I was ever keen to get some more experience, I began to volunteer in more Front of House roles including as a Tour Guide and as a Film Festival Volunteer. All of this experience certainly proved worthwhile when in 2013, I was employed as a Visitor Assistant with The McManus in Dundee.
However, by now I was keen to develop my curatorial knowledge and ‘behind the scenes’ skills, so yet again, I began to look for some local volunteering opportunities. It was most certainly sheer luck that The Black Watch Castle and Museum were holding a volunteer recruitment drive while I was searching for these lucrative opportunities! I applied and was fortunate enough to be accepted as Volunteer and began to assist the Collections Assistant with some aspects of the collection.
This role allowed me to develop my knowledge of what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ in a museum such as preparing objects for movement and display, as well as labeling and packaging them for storage. One my many tasks involved an inventory of the picture store, which gave me the opportunity to learn about the different paintings and prints held in the Museum. I also helped to check the environmental monitoring equipment – which is a must for any museum or gallery to ensure that items are being looked after correctly. I absolutely adored this role and I was incredibly fortunate that I was able to successfully apply for the Collections Assistant role nearly a year later.
I developed a variety of different skills as Collections Assistant, which held me in good stead when I gained a Curator’s position earlier this year. In reality, without the wide range of experience that I gained through my various volunteering roles, I wouldn’t have gained the necessary experience and skills that are required for a post in the heritage sector. I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity to work with so many wonderful organisations and I hope that others will continue to develop themselves through volunteering.