volunteering

Volunteers’ Week 2015 : Meet our Volunteers – Catriona

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Hi my name is Catriona and I am the Learning and Volunteer Intern at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum !

How long have you been volunteering for at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum?

6 months, I volunteer along side my job here in the Learning Team.

Why did you start volunteering at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum?

I volunteer with the Learning Team to gain invaluable experience in Heritage and Museum education. Also get to work alongside an excellent team of staff and volunteers and contunue learning about 18th century Scotland (one of my favorite things ), and I get to understand Robert Burns and his work abit better. I grew up in Ayrshire and Burns featured strongly in my school education, it is nice to learn the more gritty things about his life !

What kind of things do you get up to when you volunteer?

I do a variety of things, from maintaining school stats to delivering workshops to organising events to drinking lots of tea and eating biscuits!

What has been your most memorable experience volunteering here?

It is really hard to pick out one experience. I think the whole of January and most of February was memorable experiance – we were ran of our feet with schools, events and Burns ‘fans’ coming to the museum. I discovered that I love being part of museum education although it was the sheer enthusiasm of the school pupils and visitors which kept me going !

That whole month and a bit is a blur!

What is your favourite thing about RBBM?

School workshops, particularily when you get a class who are very disengaged at the start and by the end they dont want you to leave because they are loving what they are learning it makes the volunteering all worth while ! …… close second is the catering though…. the scones and cakes are pretty awesome.

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Volunteers’ Week 2015 : Meet our Volunteers – Maureen

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5 years ago, I saw an ad in the Ayrshire Post . Volunteers needed for a new museum opening in Alloway, this was the New Robert Burns Birthplace Museum

I had just retired and was looking for something to fill my time, not just to do charity work but to keep the learning ethos on going , hence I started on the journey (I shall call it ), my knowledge of Robert Burns was very limited. As a school girl we were bused down from Paisley to visit the cottage, I was so bored I threw toffee papers at the film of Tam and Meg as they galloped over the fields.

Today it is a different story ,I am now a guide at RBBM .I am often to be found taking school groups around the site in all kind of weather, I was standing on the Brig O’Doon ,the snow swirling round me ,I was telling a class of 6yr olds about Robert Burns, one little schoolgirl tugged my coat and asked “are you Robert Burns sister” as I knew so much about him

Now another hat I wear is shop assistant in the “Burns an’ a’ that ” shop in the town, we sell NTS goods and local crafters work .

Maureen at the pop up shop in Ayr
Maureen at Ayrshire Gifts an’ a’ That

Its a great way of interacting with the public, I am often to be found at the Highlight Talks held in the Museum every Wednesday where   one of the volunteers will give an in depth talk on one piece in particular ,it’s an excellent way of getting the knowledge to enhance the visitors experience.

So I would say to anyone thinking about volunteering with the NTS, jump on board ,the journey is amazing.

I am so glad I answered the advert in the Ayrshire Post!

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Volunteers’ Week 2015 : Meet our Volunteers – Sheona

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I have been volunteering at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum as a Guide since it opened in November 2010.

Being an Ayrshire Lass I was fortunate to be brought up learning about Burns, his life and his poetry. I also took part in many Burns Schools Festivals and still perform at many Burns Suppers in Ayrshire and beyond.

As a Volunteer I carry out many varied duties – my main one is guiding visitors around the museum, the wider site which includes the Cottage, the Auld Kirk, the Brig O’Doon, the gardens, the Monument, the Poet’s Path etc., etc.

My Guiding role involves taking school parties, adult groups, overseas visitors, dressing up in costume as and when required for various events and activities – for example Evening Hallowe’en Tours, Mini Burns Suppers which are held in the Cottage and various Burns events centred around the museum and wider site in January.

My most memorable experience and honour was being asked to record “The Cottar’s Saturday Night” for one of the exhibits in the museum.

I carry out many varied duties but first and foremost I try to give all our visitors a memorable experience. This involves passing on knowledge about Burns – his life, family, poem, letters etc. I also inform visitors about the products and services provided e.g. brochures (for all National Trust for Scotland properties), guide books for the Museum and wider site, the resteraunt shop, Garden Shop, Education Tours, etc.

Providing information, advice and assistance to visitors is invaluable.

I always try to present a friendly and positive image to visitor to ensure that they are receiving excellent Customer Service and feel genuinely welcome. At the outset I want them to know they will be well looked after and receive the necessary information and an enjoyable and informative visit.

Asking children if they are learning about Burns or other Scottish poets at school is so special, particularly hearing them recite what they have learnt – after a little encouragement!

I inform/direct visitors to other NTS properties – remembering to mention membership of the NTS. This is so worthwhile especially for visitors who are just beginning their holiday and hope to visit other places of interest.

If visitors leave having learnt something they did not know before this is so satisfying and I feel I have done a good job. Also if visitors leave wanting to return that is a bonus.

It is so enjoyable meeting people from other parts of the world and passing on knowledge,

I have many favourite things about RBBM – the contents of the Museum, the Cottage, the Brig O’Doon, the beautifully kept gardens.

I am so fortunate to be working in such a warm friendly environment with such excellent, helpful colleges and staff.

Sheona

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Volunteers’ Week 2015 : Meet our Volunteers – Roger

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Roger with fellow volunteer Sandy working on a book bench!
Roger with fellow volunteer Sandy working on a book bench!

I retired from full time work 6 years ago and having spent the first 5 of those with The Conservation Volunteers, I came to the RBBM just over a year ago as a “Buggy” driver which involves meeting and greeting visitors, transporting them on the buggy between the Museum and Burns Cottage, or any other places the buggy will reach, and helping with other information and advice where I can.

As with most volunteering the role rarely stops there and I now find myself helping out from time to time in all sorts of other ways which I find very rewarding , stimulating and helps me feel part of the team.

Driving the buggy allows me to meet a whole range of interesting folk from all four corners of the planet and I am constantly amazed at how well Robert Burns is known even in the smallest and most remote of islands but these global travellers offer a wide range of stimulating conversation which is rarely restricted just to the “Bard”.

The Volunteers at RBBM also help run a Garden shop, situated in the grounds of the museum, and a gift shop in the nearby town of Ayr which offers a wide variety of goods manufactured by local crafters and is also a shop window for the RBBM itself. The main purpose though of both these venues is to raise funds for the restoration and improvement of the Burns Monument which is just one of the bold and innovative ideas being developed by the management team at RBBM.

One variation on the theme, which I particularly remember, was the great fun we all had on Halloween: volunteers and staff together, creating and acting out a costume drama incorporating the Burns Cottage, Poets Path and “Auld Kirk” and providing lots of “bloodthirsty” and scary moments for those visitors brave enough to come back after dark !

I find volunteering a great way to keep fit, active ,meet new people and maintain a standard of life which rarely falters and you may go a long way before finding a better place to do all this than with the team at RBBM and the beautiful countryside surrounding it.

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Volunteers’ Week 2015 : Meet our Volunteers – Tricia

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I was one of the second group of volunteers taken on board at the RBBM.   I started as a Tour Guide, moving on to driving the buggy, assisting with Craft Fairs and helping out with the Pop-up Shop in Ayr – “Ayrshire Gifts an’ a’ that”.

Ayrshire Gifts an' a' That
Ayrshire Gifts an’ a’ That

When I heard about the role of volunteer at the RBBM, it captured my attention as I thought it would be good fun  –  which it is!    The variety of the “job” is amazing, from taking part in events, helping with the admin side of the Pop-up Shop, assisting in the organisation of the volunteer/staff day trips, to trying to answer people’s questions about Burns (the most popular one is “what did he die of?”).  I have also taken part in special events, such as Alloween, playing the part of an old witch in the kitchen.   Some people may say that I was typecast !!

It is difficult to pinpoint a single memorable experience, as the customers are all different, and I have a lot of good memories from meeting “neighbours” of the Museum to those from the far corners of the globe, and other volunteers from other properties of the Trust.    I was also very lucky to be one of the few chosen to go on a trip to London to visit the British Museum (for afternoon tea, a private tour and then for a Museum awards ceremony that evening).  HRH Prince Charles donated tickets for a Highgrove Tour and I was fortunate to win a pair too !!

My one favourite thing about the RBBM …….. hmmmm, I would have to say Eric (my husband !).
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Volunteers’ Week 2015 : Meet out Volunteers – Annabel

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An orange sunset fading to blue over Burns Cottage I have been volunteering now for over 4 years, in fact since the museum opened. I mainly volunteer at the weekend, guiding visitors round the museum. I find it enjoyable and rewarding. After I took early retirement from my employment as a Radiographer I was employed at an Historic Scotland property and I particularly enjoyed doing that. When I read about the opening of RBBM I wrote hoping they would require volunteer guides. I was lucky as training was just about to start and I was invited along to take part. I am very proud of the museum and want to make it come alive to as many people as possible. Seeing how much our visitors appreciate the collection and how much pleasure they get from their visit matters to me. It is important that our visitors take away a greater understanding of Robert Burns’ life and work. Occasionally after the tour, visitors seek me out and want to learn about other attractions in the area. I am pleased to help as it is very important for tourists to leave with the best impression possible. There is much to experience during a visit to the RBBM site and it is important to be enthusiastic and informative about everything that we have to offer. I get a lot of pleasure and satisfaction out of guiding. It has heightened my desire to keep on learning as much as I can about Robert Burns. To ensure that I have first hand knowledge of the places that were important in Robert’s life I have visited related sites in Dumfries, Kilmarnock, Kirkoswald, Mauchline and Tarbolton. I could say my favourite thing about RBBM is the Cheese Scones! Seriously I just think the whole package has so much to offer……something for everyone. Team Burns are a talented, lively group of people and I am proud to be part of it. Volunteerweekcomp

Volunteers’ Week 2015 : Meet our Volunteers – Sandy

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My name is Sandy. I volunteer at RBBM as a Buggy Driver and Guide.

Sandy dressed as Tam O'Shanter for the launch of the newly extended X77 bus route which comes to the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum
Sandy dressed as Tam O’Shanter for the launch of the newly extended X77 bus route which comes to the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum from Buchannan Street Bus Station, Glasgow

How long have you been volunteering for at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum and what is your role? I started in 2011, at the time to be 4 hours every fortnight on a Friday. Later I was asked if I would take a school party on the Tam O’Shanter trail which led to taking on other interested parties, from this country and abroad, around the site. While on the Buggy I relate the story of Tam O’Shanter and tell them about the sculptures along the path. I have appeared in costume as Tam O’Shanter for visitors while doing the tours.

What kind of things do you get up to when you volunteer? I am involved in the running of the Garden Shop, also appearing in the Christmas Panto at the cottage and the Ghost walk at Hallowe’en, and the Book Club which meets on the last Tuesday of every month.

What has been your most memorable experience volunteering at Robert Burns Birthplace Museum? Taking a wedding party on the Buggy from Alloway to the Church next to the Brig O’Doon Hotel (Dressed as Tam of course!).

What is your favourite thing about Robert Burns Birthplace Museum? During this time I became very interested in the Old Kirk and its headstones. I have given talks on the Kirk which then led to a project which has taken a year, looking at the headstones and their condition since 1995. In 2014 I was awarded the Volunteer of the Year Award for the National Trust for Scotland. Which was a huge surprise and great honour. Why have I been at RBBM for 4 years? I worked for the Scottish Ambulance Service for 38 years, when I retired, I was very interested in the construction of the museum, so was down many times to watch the progress, often I was asked about the museum, or how to get to the cottage. I enjoyed helping them, which led me wishing to know more about the area. So it’s the satisfaction that I have made the visitors’ visit interesting, knowledgeable and enjoyable! And if you wish to meet me look in the Kirkyard!

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