Story by Conner Hufnagel, photos provided by Stillwater History Museum at the Sheerar
Did you know that the 2018 National Volunteer Week runs from April 15-21st? Established in 1974, by President Richard Nixon, National Volunteer Week is a way to recognize and celebrate the efforts of volunteers. This week is also a great time to think about volunteering. It is a week to say thank you to all the volunteers who touch your life and a time to think about how you might be able to contribute. There are volunteer opportunities for almost every passion and many organizations offer one-time or flexible ways to contribute.
At the Stillwater History Museum at the Sheerar, we offer a variety of volunteer opportunities ranging from one-time special projects to day-to-day operations. In 2017, the museum had over 60 volunteers contribute 1,638 hours of service to the museum. That is almost the equivalent of one additional full time staff member. Just think what one extra person would mean to your organization? For the museum these volunteer hours meant we could offer more programs and engage more visitors. We wouldn’t be able to accomplish what we do without the support and dedication of our volunteers.
Over the years, the Museum has been supported by numerous community volunteers and has sponsored numerous interns and student volunteers. Allowing students to practice their classroom skills in a real-world environment has not only helped students, but has helped to keep the museum functioning and expanding its exhibits. According to museum director Amy Loch, her primary source of help with the day-to-day projects at the museum comes from interns and volunteers.
The Museum is always looking for new volunteers to help keep up with the work that needs to be done to keep our history preserved. “They can do a wide variety of things: inventory and collection processing, computer work, marketing, education programs. It really depends on their interests and what we need done,” says, Amy Loch.
Interns and volunteers not only “provide benefit to their chosen institution, but they also gain valuable experience in the field and learn more about how to work with and manage volunteers by being one.” Says Dr. Mark Janzen, Director of the Museum Studies program at UCO. And this experience is not limited to volunteers interested in Museum Studies.
The museum currently has a number history and professional writing interns that are honing their ability and putting their theoretical knowledge to the grindstone. And the opportunities don’t stop there, no matter what areas volunteers are interested in: history, advertising, organizational, clerical, or really anything, chances are, the museum can find something that relates to a volunteer’s interests and provides hands-on experience.
“I have really enjoyed my time spent at the Sheerar Museum this past semester. It has been a very rewarding and educational experience. Through volunteering, I have been able to meet a wide variety of people, learn about the behind the scenes aspects of museums, and so much more. Taylor Grissom – Junior at Oklahoma State
With its connections to area universities, the museum’s need for volunteers fluctuates heavily with the school year. At the end of the spring semester, many of the museum’s current volunteers will be returning home for the summer or moving off to start a career. This puts the museum in need of consistent volunteers who could help out on weekends or during the week on a project that peaks their interests. The museum is flexible on hours and will work with volunteers to make the experience work for them.
One of the key museum programs that relies heavily on volunteers in the “How Oklahoma Began” third grade school program. Each spring the museum hosts around 500 students from Stillwater and the surrounding communities for a day of fun and interactive learning. The program features an interactive map experience, games, a craft, and museum exploration. Each programs requires at least three volunteers and programs run most mornings and afternoons from April 18th-May 18th. Training is provided for all volunteers and it is a great way to get involved.
If you are interested in volunteering, or would just like more information on opportunities at the museum, please visit the museum at 702 S. Duncan, Stillwater, OK or call at 405-377-0359.
From all of us at the Stillwater History Museum at the Sheerar we sincerely thank everyone who has contributed their time and talents over the years, we truly couldn’t have done it without you.