National Volunteer Week: David Grafstein

Posted: April 7, 2014 - 09:56 , by Amanda Girgis
David standing under a blue umbrella ready to begin a ROM Walk.

National Volunteer Week (April 6-12, 2014) is a time to recognize, celebrate and thank Canada’s 13.3 million volunteers. Volunteers play an essential role in any organizational plan -- The willingness of individuals to work keenly in a collaborative environment for the betterment of their community is a truly invaluable resource. The Royal Ontario Museum has 1219 volunteers, who have worked 198 637 hours in the last fiscal year alone. Their financial contribution in volunteer time annually amounts to a whopping $2.5 million.

The Department of Museum Volunteers (DMV) at the Royal Ontario Museum has been in existence for over 57 years. The DMV work tirelessly to offer a wide range of services that play a large role in supporting the mandate of the museum. Their services include gallery interpretation and the organization of tours and travel designed to stimulate learning in museum related subjects (e.g., ROMwalk, ROMbus, ROMtravel).

The DMV embraces a working environment which radiates commitment, co-operation, reliability, initiative, and excellence. David Grafstein exemplifies these very attributes. He has proven to be a professional, diverse and integral part of the DMV and the Royal Ontario Museum. His fellow executive committee members, Toni Fiore Lisi & Velma Jones said:

We really appreciate his keen sense of humor and thoughtful input. He fills such a diverse role and brings a wealth of knowledge to the DMV.

David Grafstein works extensively to support the Museum’s vision, to inspire wonder and to build understanding of human cultures and the natural world. We sat down with Grafstein to learn more about what he does and why he does it.

ROM: What do your DMV duties entail?

David Grafstein:I do a number of things in the DMV, among them:

  • I am the 2nd DMV VP which means, among other duties, I maintain contact between the DMV Executive, various ROM groups and DMV committees.
  • As a docent I provide tours to visitors for both galleries and special exhibitions, e.g., Forbidden City
  • As part of ROMwalks, I lead architecture/history tours in various neighbourhoods, e.g., Yorkville
  • I'm a Gallery Interpreter, bringing objects, e.g., Hercules beetle, into the galleries for visitors to examine up close as a way of helping them better understand and appreciate the displays.
  • I'm a member of the DMV Outreach committee, which makes presentations of ROM artifacts and exhibitions to groups that are usually unable to come to the ROM, e.g, seniors' residences and Sick Children's hospital

ROM: What do you do when you’re not volunteering at the ROM?

David Grafstein: When I'm not volunteering at the ROM, I do a lot of reading, I walk a lot, I cook, and I do as much home maintenance as I can bear to do.

ROM: How long have you been a volunteer at the ROM?

David Grafstein: I've been a volunteer at the ROM for 6 years.

ROM: What inspired you to volunteer here?

David Grafstein: I came to the ROM hoping to  provide visitors with interesting experiences.  I also came wanting to learn both about the ROM and about the objects in the ROM's collections.

ROM: What’s been the highlight of your volunteer experience so far?

David Grafstein: There have been many highlights, including attending the 100th Anniversary Party a few weeks ago, giving a tour for the Prime Minister of Israel, and helping develop a tour for visitors with Alzheimer's.

ROM: What have you gained through your volunteer experience?

David Grafstein: Over the past six years, I've gained a considerable knowledge of many aspects of the natural world and human cultures throughout the world. I've also gained an appreciation for the amount of effort and level of expertise that go into the exhibits in the ROM.

ROM: Name one thing about the ROM you didn’t know until you started volunteering here?

David Grafstein: There are many things I didn't know about the ROM when I started (and many yet to discover), one of which is that the ROM has a huge collection of now-extinct passenger pigeons.

To conclude, a thank you to all volunteers from the Governor General of Canada, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston:

On this national volunteer week, I would like to say Thank you. To all the volunteers across Canada who do so much to make this country a better place. I often meet Canadians who are helping others and giving back to their communities; this is so important. Time and again, I’ve seen how volunteers can change our lives and our communities for the better. We can all make a difference when we give our time and resources to those in need. So let me say another thank you, to all the volunteers out there for your generosity. Your giving moments are building a smarter, more caring Canada.