Volunteers Week feature:  From the Museum of Cambridge

Volunteer Blogs: The World of Front-of-HouseOur volunteer David- and the people he met along the way! It does not feel to me as though there has been a Friday morning recently. I guess that there must have been, but I carelessly let it pass unnoticed! Over the last four or five years I have become accustomed to my Friday mornings being focussed, interesting, enlightening and fulfilling while volunteering Front of House at the Museum. That’s the way I like to spend it.

But Social Distancing etc. came sweeping in and, all of a sudden, my Friday mornings were transformed – and not for the better! Since March 2020, days have come and gone with a lack of texture and context.

Whilst certainly far from dull, my Friday mornings are just so very different nowadays – no visitors to welcome for a start! The visitors are, for me, what makes Front of House volunteering so special. The Museum’s visitors are of course all different, but they are all consistent in possessing the same quality- that most splendid of qualities- curiosity.

Over the years, my murmured enquiry of “what brings you to Cambridge today?” has initiated such a range of enthralling responses. And many memorable conversations have ensued.

Just a few of those fascinating visitors spring instantly to mind…..

The delightful Brazilian professor (over here for a Conference on “Ocean litter”) who was a fascinating polymath, He could chat about anything and everything!

The French Art Student who was on his way back home to Reunion after visiting dozens of Scottish islands. We shared the same opinion that Callanish is one of the most achingly beautiful places in Britain (especially if you are blessed with a sunny day).

The couple from Greenwich who had some great stories about their frequent beachcombing strolls along the Thames foreshore. They told me all about gathering and transforming all kinds of flotsam and jetsam into a bizarre range of art forms for their house and garden.

The couple whose home was a narrow boat that wandered Britain’s canals (the husband specialising in mending clocks and all-things-mechanical on his travels).

The family from Alice Springs who were delighted to discover that their home-town was specifically named (OK, actually re-named) after the eighteenth-century Cambridge resident Alice Todd.

The couple who were touring Britain as part of a play that was on at the Arts Theatre. Gosh, they were the source of many cheeky and amusing tales!

The local chap whose great Uncle (Mr Fenner no less) had founded the Cambridge University Cricket Ground.

The retired couple from Mauritius who were travelling the globe, writing a book about the World’s wonderful Botanic Gardens.

The man from Christchurch, New Zealand, who was visiting anywhere and everywhere that had an association with Antarctica. He had (of course) been to Scott Polar Museum, British Antarctic Survey (and the Whipple to see the clocks made by John Harrison) and he wanted to make time to visit our Museum before setting off for Dundee to see RRS Discovery.

I particularly enjoy the sheer curiosity of the youngsters who visit the Museum. It is always fun to set them a task or two as they start their visit, although I am only too aware at how testing their own subsequent questions can be an hour later!

Oh, so many interesting and interested people! They are too numerous (and too humorous) to mention. It is always great to hear of their affection for our Museum and our City; they have made a great impact on me and I miss them.

I should have been keeping more detailed notes about the great conversations just in case I find myself faced with an irresistible urge to write my own book! And although I have been too lazy to even start that book yet, I might at least have found a working title. Perhaps Musings at the Museum might possibly do? I am left wondering, though, if I could do justice to all those wonderfully curious visitors!

I am keeping my fingers crossed that the “new normal” is about to arrive. Let’s hope it is as exciting as its predecessor.

This post was written by David M., a volunteer at the Museum of Cambridge.

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