Volunteering at the National Museum Cardiff

Part of me wishes I could go to work. I have looked online at jobs and I’ve seen quite a few I would be happy with. Even some that have 2.5 hours 3 days a week. It seems perfect and I think let’s apply. But when I think of the actual reality of it, at the moment my body just wouldn’t be able to cope with it.  That’s why I decided to look into volunteering. I thought of places I might like to work and be involved in, looked them up online, hoping they would mention volunteering opportunities. That’s how I came across the museum opportunity. They were looking for volunteer activity helpers and tour guides. I had to fill in an application for the position I wanted to apply for. I was fortunate to receive an email asking me to attend a training session. The staff that met us were very friendly. We went through health and safety, did some examples of the crafts, workshop activities and storytelling, as well as a tour of the wriggle exhibition. The Quentin Blake exhibition hadn’t opened at that time of the training session. 

I was excited to start my first volunteering session. 

On the rota I put down one session a month. I didn’t know how my body would react. Also seen as it was going to be the summer holidays when I started, I wasn’t sure on our plans and child care is a big issue too.

My first afternoon was in the Quentin Blake exhibition. Some schools had started their summer holidays and some had not, and it was a very sunny warm day, so I wasn’t expecting a huge number of people. I was excited to see what it was like because there were drawings from a selection of Roald Dahl books. I loved reading his books when I was a child. I will be encouraging my children to read his books too.  I would like to decorate one of their bedrooms with a Roald Dahl theme. Say, Matilda wallpaper, curtains, bedding, cushions, etc. 

Do I have a favourite Roald Dahl book? It’s so hard to pick one! I have favourite parts in different books. I’m a fan of Matilda, The Witches, The BFG, George’s Marvellous Medicine, The Twits, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. 

To enter the museum from the front, if you are a wheelchair user or have a pushchair, and can’t use the steps, you buzz the telecom. Someone from the front desk answers and they come down to meet you to let you in. You then use the inside lift to come up to the main level. 

I was slightly nervous with it being my first session. I wasn’t sure what to expect. At the desk I had to sign in and put on ID. 

I waited around reception until the start time, as I expected someone from the team to meet me. When my start time came and no one had turned up I made my way up to the Quentin Blake exhibition. (I later emailed to ask if someone was suppose to meet me on my first day. Someone was but they were busy interviewing. I would have been grateful if they could have let me know, but sometimes these things happen). 

When I went in, I noticed a museum assistant in the room. Part of me hoped that person would have approached me and said hi, recognising the badge. I walked past him and smiled trying to see if they would speak to me first. I’m quite a shy person and can find it hard to start conversations off with strangers. 

I decided to have a ‘roll’ around and familiarise  myself with everything that was on display. The Quentin Blake exhibition is well put together. The contrast of his drawings on the wall is well thought of. The glass cabinets showcasing story boards were fab. The one end has a table with paper and pencils, along with the books the artwork has been taken from. Children and adults can draw their own inspired pictures and can pin it up on the wall. There are bird drawings on the wall taken from the book The Twits, that have clips placed at the end of their feet, so it looks like the birds are carrying the pictures. 

I wasn’t sure where to start or what to do but I used my own intuitive. I kept the area as tidy as possible, put pictures up and made sure there were no inappropriate drawings or messages displayed, wandered around incase any visitors wanted to ask a question. I also did some of my own drawings. I am no artist. I’m not a very good drawer but I had a go. 

Eventually I plucked up the courage and went over to the museum assistant and introduced myself.  He wasn’t aware of my volunteering position and seemed unexpected to see me there. 

When the next museum assistant came in off of their break, I introduced myself again. I asked them a few questions, things such as the no photography rule in the Quentin Blake exhibition and how to approach someone if I see them taking a photo. I would have loved to have taken a couple to show you how fab it was. I guess you will have to go and visit to see it for yourself! Another thing I didn’t know they did is that they keep count of how many visitors that come into each area. They carry a gadget in their hand that they click every time someone comes in, and give it in at the end of the day, to see how popular each exhibition is. 

I used my volunteer discount in the shop at the end of my first shift. I get 20% in there and also 30% in the cafe. I choose 2 Quentin Blake postcards and bought a congratulations card for my cousin Sophie for passing her degree. 

At my latest session, myself and another volunteer got to listen to a lunchtime talk on the research behind the wriggle exhibition. It was very interesting! I hope I’ve remembered some facts to share with visitors next time. We split the time between us,  I stayed in Wriggle, and Stella went to Quentin Blake, and then swapped around half way, so we both got to spend time in both. 

I’m hoping we will get a behind the scenes tour at some point. I would love to see what the public doesn’t normally see. Where they do research, store specimens, experiments, the labs and more! 


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