What kind of volunteer projects have you been involved with at the Western Illinois Museum?
My first project was cataloging the many postcards from the early 20th century that the Western Illinois Museum has in its collection. Since then, I have worked on a number of other projects of accessioning a variety of different artifacts from clothing to tools to toys. I have also helped out in installing new exhibits by doing research on the related topics and with the window displays. The fundraising and community events that the Museum puts on are always a lot of fun to volunteer for –there’s good music, great crowd, and wonderful experience.
I started volunteering over the summer in June 2014, when I was still in high school, because it was something to do. After working at the Museum a couple of times, I realized there were opportunities to learn and to grow from by volunteering there. Sue always gave a good variety of projects to work on, and there is always something to do at the Museum; therefore, I kept coming back to volunteer. (Also one of the perks is that because there is so much to do, the times when you could come in a work are pretty flexible.)
What do you enjoy most about volunteering at the museum?
The people are the best part about volunteering at the Museum – Sue, Anna, Karen, Carmen, Lois, Lowell, and Mary Jo – are always supportive and engaging. MCVB is staff – Nikki, Jan, and Noah – are also fantastic. The Ukulele club and the Genealogy are always great to interact with as well!
What benefits do you think preserving local history provides?
It is easy for some to falsely believe that a small, rural town like Macomb has no interesting history. The truth is that majority of towns in the United States are like Macomb. To preserve the local history is to preserve the history of the country. If you have an understanding of local history, you have a better understanding of your community and can be a more dynamic member in turn.
Why do you feel the museum is an important place to volunteer?
The Museum serves as a front of what our community was and what it could be for visitors and locals alike. You will never stop learning, and the Museum provides an amazing opportunity to get on hands experience with history and to learn in an engaging manner.
In summer of 2015, we had an exhibit about pharmacy in our region, which was a lot of fun to set up. My most memorable experience was an interaction that I had with two of the visitors who inquired about the exhibit. The elderly gentleman and his wife were from Germany and were visiting their grandson at WIU. Both of them were entertained by the amount of strange ingredients in the potions and the different remedies that doctors used at the time. I was able to elaborate more because of the research that the volunteer group has done during the exhibit installation. They left the Museum saying that the next time they are in the United States, they would love to visit Macomb again!