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Volunteer Voices3rd June 2024

Volunteers’ Week: Conservation from a Volunteer’s Point of View

Volunteers’ Week: Volunteers’ Week: Conservation from a Volunteer’s Point of View

In today’s Volunteers’ Week post, we are also honouring Museums Week and today’s theme #BehindTheScenes with an insight into being a Conservation Volunteer written by volunteer, Kirsty-Louise.

“I am a part-time university student who is studying History and wanting to pursue a career in museums and conservation.

History was always my favourite subject at school and I knew that I wanted to join a field where I’m surrounded and working with history daily whether that be hands-on or in a research and observation capacity.

I have been volunteering at the Dockyard for 16 months now. I decided to join the Conservation group because I love the idea of being able to conserve and preserve history for other people to view and learn about. The things I like the most about conservation are the hands-on experience you get with the objects; how much care goes into looking after objects and how much you can learn in a day. The Dockyard has such a vast collection of objects and I often find that I learn new facts or hear stories about them from visitors as I’m working.

When I first get into Slip 3 in the morning, I will take a walk around and assess the conditions of the objects. If any objects are in poor condition, for example, covered in dust, I will clean those first. We use soft brushes to remove the initial layer of dust and then use a clean undyed cloth with a conservation detergent mixed with distilled water to clean it fully.

Some of the objects do require a wax coating to protect them from external forces, which I apply after the object has dried. There are some that we only dust rather than clean because of the delicacy of the object and/or because the detergent is not safe for the object. For these objects, we just use a soft brush, water, and cloth. On some occasions, we will be told what to clean by Karoline Sofie, the Dockyard’s Conservator, specifically if any preservation work is needed on a certain object.

Most days I have the freedom to choose what I want to work on. For some of the bigger objects, like The Royal Engineers’ Collection, we use hoovers and brooms to further the upkeep and cleanliness of the objects. There’s a small variety of objects that require two people to clean which is fun and allows us to learn from others.

Alongside the conservation bit, we also clean the information signs for the objects so they are accessible to visitors, assist Karoline with any other tasks on-site and regularly check our inventory to make sure we have the correct equipment and chemicals.

I would have to say my favourite objects are the cutters we have on display in Slip 3. I love the designs of each, their uniqueness and the good condition they are in. It’s fun to carefully climb inside and clean them. My other favourite object would be the Giant Viper from the Royal Engineers’ Collection because of the history behind and it’s associations with the Centurion AVRE and Chieftain AVRE.

Volunteers’ Week celebrates volunteers’ amazing contributions to communities across the UK.

The celebration starts on the first Monday in June every year. It’s a chance to recognise, celebrate and thank the UK’s incredible volunteers for all they contribute to our local communities, the voluntary sector, and society as a whole.

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