Behind every great team of volunteers is a Volunteer Manager who ensures that their team reaches their full potential. In honour of International Volunteer Managers Day this November 5th, the ROM turns the spotlight on some of the staff who activate our many fun and exciting volunteer programs.
Meet Ann Macpherson, Assistant Coordinator, Hands-on Galleries. Ann has been managing volunteers for approximately 11 years now. She currently works with more than 200 volunteers within the Hands-On Galleries.
ROM: What are the top three tasks your volunteers do?
- Encourage visitors to use gallery activities
- Help visitors explore the themes of biodiversity or world cultures and history
- Provide great customer service!
ROM: What is your favourite part about working with volunteers?
I love getting to meet so many people who are interested in working with the public and keenly interested in educating the public in history and/or biodiversity. The people who volunteer with us really want to be involved and get experience in a museum and education. They have generally been working towards a degree in the field of biodiversity or history, and are either working on or already have their BA’s, MA’s, and even a few with PhD’s. We have great discussions on many topics related to museum life.
Some of our volunteers have gone on to get jobs at the ROM, usually in Paleontology, Interpretive Planning and ROMKids. They have also gone on to get external jobs in their field, such as Education Coordinators in a few smaller museums to volunteer coordinators in tourist attractions like the Vancouver Aquarium, to teachers in other institutions such as the Ontario Science Centre.
ROM: What has been your biggest challenge in working with volunteers?
AM: Keeping track of 200+ volunteers and shifting schedules is a challenge. Students make up the larger base of our volunteer team, and for many students, their schedules change every term. In September, January and April, we play a game of “Everyone Switch Their Shift!” This doesn’t necessarily mean everyone, but it does affect a good portion of our team, so it sometimes feels that way. One September, we had 75% of our volunteer team switch their shift!
ROM: What is your most memorable experience working with volunteers?
AM: I once walked into the Discovery Gallery and did a double take when I saw a volunteer who I was sure should have been in the Hands-On Biodiversity Gallery instead. I checked the schedule, but it showed another volunteer on shift in the Biodiversity Gallery.
So I chatted with this volunteer for a bit, and as she was marked as new to the team, I introduced her to the other volunteers. All the time, I kept thinking, “Aren’t you in the Biodiversity Gallery?”
Finally, I asked her to remind me of her last name. It turns out, she was the sister of the volunteer I was thinking of. They’re a couple of years apart, but they look almost identical!
ROM: The theme of Volunteer Manager Day 2015 is “Volunteer Managers are the power behind superhero volunteers.” If you could give your volunteers a superpower, what would it be and why?
AM: I would want them to have Mr. Fantastic’s (Richard Reed) superpower. He’s a member of the Fantastic Four. He can stretch all parts of his body to great distances, and he’s considered one of the smartest men alive.
With this superpower, volunteers would be able to stretch to help visitors in the Discovery Gallery try on a helmet as well as reach the Roman Senator armour, all while helping visitors dig up dinosaurs in the Dinosaur Dig. Or in the Biodiversity Gallery, they could lift up a specimen to discuss the teeth and feeding habits, while also moving the bee curtain over so that other visitors can see the bees dance.
As for the superpower of being smart, oh yeah, they already are.