History – An inside peep

The workshop
The textiles room

Did you know that your local Warkworth Museum was not only started by volunteers in the 1970’s but is staffed by an army of some 70 volunteers today? These volunteers manage all sorts of jobs under the leadership of their part-time paid manager/curator. They bring with them skills from their lives, learning new skills where and when needed. As the president of the Museum Committee said recently, “Amateurs run the museum to a professional standard.”

You will find builders and farmers doing maintenance and restoration work, retired store owners and business people managing the front desk and welcoming visitors to the museum or mastering digital and technical skills – cataloguing, researching. There are retired teachers working with visiting school groups to bring our history alive for them. Some volunteers bring history with them, being descendants of local pioneering families and early settlers. Unexpected talents emerge; perhaps hidden artistic skills show up in setting up displays or marketing skills previously untapped or who knows what?

As the museum is self-funded, many of the volunteers are involved in fundraising – whether it is helping to manage the Museum Op Shop, run bingo sessions or supplying and helping with the plant shop at the museum. The volunteers in the textile area, for instance, assess each item that comes in, record the relevant history of the item and go about preserving it according to methods used for years by other museums. Items are then considered for display when they relate to some family history or a particular event. They may be antique wedding dresses, embroidery or handmade baby garments made in an era before we had TV and computers to distract us.

Out in the shed, volunteers get ancient engines such as an old Anderson or Lister running sweetly, preserve old farm machinery, maintain the many buildings and signs around the museum, and build items to help with displays. On those open, working days at the museum, their reward is seeing their well-tended machines operating as they did more than a century ago.

Skills and knowledge for preservation and cataloguing are shared. Some volunteers have had professional training for the areas they choose to work in. Others bring skills with them. Now the collective of northern museums will be providing the welcome opportunity for some professional training for new volunteers.

Many of the volunteers enjoy the flexibility and the camaraderie in whatever role they find themselves. Some enjoy the fun or challenge of learning new skills, and surprising themselves with unknown talents.

For others it is an opportunity to learn more about the area that they live in and meet new people.

For the museum, each one of this army of volunteers is essential to the running and success of our amazing local history hub. If you would like to join us, please pop in to the museum to learn more.

If you would like to join us, please pop into the museum to learn more or email warkworthmuseum@xtra.co.nz or phone 425 7093.

History - Warkworth & District Museum