Whether they give tours, process artifacts, or bring the museum to visitors online, museum volunteers do important work. In honor of Volunteer Appreciation Week, meet five of our volunteers.
Daniela Resh has been a highlights docent at the museum for over two years, giving tours to visitors.
"I decided to become a volunteer because I love the city of Washington, DC, so much that I wanted to do something that was true to Washington, but not politics," says Resh. "The Smithsonian is such an incredible organization and a true staple of Washington that I knew I wanted to be a part of it."
Her most rewarding moments? "Watching the faces of our visitors as they absorb the history behind the artifacts they're looking at is a truly unique and humbling experience," she says. "At the end of my tours, when the visitors thank me and tell me how much they enjoyed the tour, it always reminds me why I love spending my Sunday afternoons at the museum!"
What does she aim to achieve on her tours? "To give them a take away, to leave them with an impression, to engage them, to grow their curiosity, and share an education of this great nation—it's a very incredible thing to do!"
But not all volunteers interact with the public.
Martha Smith is a behind-the-scenes volunteer with the Object Processing Facility, where all museum objects (new acquisitions, loans, movements to offsite storage, etc.) are processed. Volunteering at the museum since July 2010, Smith previously worked as a museum conservator specializing in paper materials.
Smith was seeking some structure to her retired life when a museum staff member "crept up on me in the Tai Chi class and said, 'If you ever want to work with three-dimensional objects, why don't you come work with me?'" After her career specializing in paper conservation, this was an intriguing offer.
The best part of the job? "Seeing the objects. For some people, it would be seeing the people. Well, I like the people here... but the objects are just gripping. There are all kinds of things, a huge variety of objects. I get to examine them, which means looking close, and photograph them."
Virginia Eisemon is a behind-the-scenes volunteer with the Division of Home and Community Life. Working with the National Quilt Collection, she pays particular attention to "the many inscriptions on the quilts that initially intrigued me to research and write about the collection," says Eisemon.
"The stories they reveal provide insight into many periods of American history and it's nice to be able to share them on the website."
Her favorite quilt inscription?
"There is so much good in the worst of us
And so much bad in the best of us
That is scarcely behooves any of us
To talk about the rest of us."
Michelle Martz doesn't even come to the museum to complete her volunteer duties—she works online. Online engagement is important as many people experience the museum through the web. As a graduate student at The George Washington University's Museum Studies Program, Martz pins images and text to the museum's Pinterest boards.
"Pinterest is a social media site that helps users collect and organize things they find on the Interent," explains Martz. "Every day, millions of people use Pinterest. The museum uses Pinterest to share their collections, programs, and information with current and potential visitors," such as in the Cool Jazz board she recently created for Jazz Appreciation Month.
"'Pinning' or sharing artifacts, like, Dizzy Gillespie's bent trumpet or lesson plans for teachers, I help the museum educate people on American history," she says. It's a job that requires an eye for visual harmony as well as keen writing skills, both obvious in this board in which museum artifacts give Valentine's date advice.
Mary Kate du Laney is another online volunteer, in charge of keeping our Facebook and Twitter fans connected to our collections through daily "This Day in History" posts.
"I love helping to research and write posts, as well as comb through our collections to find relevant and intriguing items to share with our ever-growing audiences," says du Laney. "I also love to be able to analyze and report on our social media endeavors through our various data collection and aggregation."
Du Laney's favorite experience as a volunteer was blogging about the Wicked object donation and performance. "It is a personal favorite show and was a wonderful experience working with my supervisor from start to finish of a project that was so important to so many of our blog/podcast followers," she says.
Manager of visitor programs Andrea Lowther, curator Tim Winkle, and education specialist Erin Blasco contributed to this post. Interested in volunteering? Opportunities abound.