The Value Of Unpaid Work

I don’t know if I’ve said anything about it yet, but I started volunteering at two different places in town.  Before we  moved down here, I started looking at the job market.  Since I’m my career interest lie in historical preservation, that meant museums and archives.  No jobs have come up yet, at least that I am qualified for, but as always, they needed good, reliable volunteers.  I remain adamant that the best way to make contacts in this field and showcase your abilities is by volunteering.  Sometimes it’s tedious, and most often you don’t get to do exciting work that’s at your experience level.  On the positive side though, it shows that you’re remaining active in the field even if you don’t have a paying job and sometimes, especially with smaller organizations who desperately need help, you can get great mentorship and training that will help you later on.  Plus your name is at the top of their list if someone needs contract work quickly or a position becomes available.  All that aside, I just love doing this stuff and it keeps me busy while I’m hunting for that perfect job.

The first volunteer opportunity is like a historical society but it focuses on maintaining the historical buildings and landmarks in the local area.  Their archives are woefully under-kept.  They have stuff that needs filing, and their past volunteers have not had the experience to make judgement calls on what’s relevant and what’s out of scope.  They have files like “Smith Historical District–and others,” “Mount Vernon” (we’re not even bordering Virginia), and “Restaurants.”  It’s a mess.  I’ve been making new files, weeding and re-processing existing files, and overall making sense of lots of newspaper clippings that have been stacking up around them.  As a way to meet people, it’s not very helpful.  I’m suck in a back closet all alone, but I very much enjoy what I’m doing.

The second opportunity is at a local museum, one of the biggest in the whole state, and although it is a history  museum, it’s emphasis is in art.  They need a library reference person to help patrons, re-shelve books, and file away magazines as they come in.  I’m also creating a searchable database for their magazine collection.  They also have a separate library of educational materials that needs maintaining, so I’m keeping up with checking in materials as they come and inputting new items into the database.  It’s also a fairly solitary activity because they don’t get a lot of visitors, but library experience is so hard to get.

It’s paid off already.  The art museum also offers internships, which of course I applied for right away.  The Educational Director got my materials and said he’d look for a project for me way before the June start date of most internships.  Yay!  The only down side is I don’t think I’ll get one of those coveted paid internships because I’m already volunteering there, but you can’t put a price on great training.  Plus it’s an art museum, which tends to segregate itself from the rest of the museum world since it requires specialized knowledge.  This is my last chance for a student internship and I could get experience with art.  Bonus!

The only problem I’m facing is that the Educational Director is pretty flaky and unorganized.  This process is taking forever because he can’t get his poop in a group.  I’ll gladly deal with it though because I’m loving what I’m doing, and it looks like I’m going to be getting great nuggets for my resume.

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