Thursday, October 1, 2009

Volunteers are Work.

By Maria Mortati, Sr. Exhibit Developer

I read a blog post called "Managing Volunteers in Informal Science Learning" by Brad Edmonton. It's part of the National Sciences Digital Library "Expert Voices" blog. The above quote is from him, and it's a good read on "How to recruit, train, supervise, and reward volunteers in informal science institutions."

As most of us know, it's not always easy to make the volunteer thing work. They wanna show up and leave when they like, and how can you plan for them when you don't  know if you can count on them?

When I was an Exhibit Developer at the Exploratorium (do I really have to give you that link?) the wonderful Deirdre Araujo (Manager of Volunteer Services) would get groups in from a large corporation to "help out" for a day. She needed work and I had work to do.

Sometimes, they turned out to be a great bunch, and it went smoothly. Other times... not so much. However, I would end up having a lot of fun with people I would not normally meet. They got out of the office and got their hands dirty. 

From my time there, I saw two types of volunteers: those who were there because they had to, and those because they wanted to.

I felt the most "evangelistic" towards the former group, because I believed they were future visitors or donors. Plus I wanted them to go back to their corporate office believing it was worth it to spend a day at a museum.

From their dirty happy faces, I think it was. At the very least, a hand full of souls learned how to clean the sand out of Fading Motion.

Exhibit photo courtesy of the Exploratorium.

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