I’m a volunteer at the National Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port. I joined five years ago. When we came to the museum, the idea was that I was coming to look to volunteer – but they started talking to my wife, she’s a reference librarian, and they said: "Really! We’ve just brought the archives up from Gloucester!"
When I started, there wasn’t a lot of regime to the work, so a colleague and I decided to sit down and actually map out a complete maintenance programme for the site, which is still being used today. For site maintenance we have a team of about ten volunteers, and we just break into small groups – we’ll be painting, we’ll be repairing doors, it’s just general site work, and some of it will be getting new exhibitions ready. There’s a whole host of different skills needed. We’re constantly looking at improving the museum and making it more interesting for visitors.
A couple of years ago, I was asked to be lead volunteer. It’s been a really exciting time. I then became Volunteer Project Manager for the recent Arts Council Resilience Fund project which has meant lifting the boats, moving them into a store, and recommissioning the dry dock in the museum. And now we’ll start the conservation process. We’ve always threatened to get the boats out of the water and we’ve never done it. And a lot of people thought we would never do it, but that’s one word I don’t believe in! And we did it.
What keeps me coming back is I can see how we’re making progress and improving the museum. And we’re learning as we go along, it’s a continual learning curve, which is great!
Barry, Ellesmere Port, Shropshire Union Canal/Manchester Ship Canal