Anne Watson

speaker program volunteer, former forum representative, Elizabeth Farm

After an excellent training program I began my guiding life at Elizabeth Farm. For the last seven years I have felt privileged to be involved with this unique part of Australian history, which I now call my ‘other home’.

Guiding has given me the opportunity to meet many interesting people from around the world and to form special friendships with other guides. Being involved in the Volunteer Guides Forum and the Speaker Program has also been very interesting and at times, challenging. Volunteer guiding has given me another focus in my life, which I have found to be extremely rewarding.

Janet Whitten

speaker program volunteer, former forum representative, Justice & Police Museum

I applied to be a volunteer guide just 5 years ago. My motives then were a love of history and an enthusiasm for meeting and communicating with a wide variety of people. Both aspects have been more than met. At the Justice & Police Museum, opportunities to learn abound – the history of the buildings, policing in NSW and some landmark crimes and their solutions. Also, appreciating the basic rationale of heritage preservation and museum culture has been part of my learning.

My experience as a volunteer guide continues to be very rewarding. With the support of staff and other volunteers in our team, I have learned what questions to ask visitors to find out what aspects of the museum will most likely interest them and, importantly, when to walk away from visitors who prefer to read all the labels for themselves.

I believe that in return for a limited amount of time and enthusiasm, HHT [now SLM] recompenses me generously with outings for volunteers, free access to all its properties, museum shop discounts, and endless exposure to new aspects of our history.

James Griffith

guide, Rouse Hill House & Farm

Volunteering as a guide at Rouse Hill House & Farm lets me talk about my passion: agriculture.

Tina Camilleri

project volunteer, Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, The Mint

I began working as a volunteer in April 2007 in the Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection. After completing my MA in Creative Writing, I was looking for some enjoyable, hands-on work that could combine my love of art, history, research and writing. I was thrilled to be accepted as part of the volunteer team!

Initially I sorted through archives relating to the 1980s exhibition at Elizabeth Bay House, The Decorated Wall: Eighty Years of Wallpaper in Australia c1850–1930. I spent hours leafing through beautiful old black-and-white photographs, illustrations and advertisements all relating to wallpaper – from the oriental motifs popular in the 1870s to the simple straight lines of the early 20th century. By the end of the project I was even dreaming about wallpaper lining great hallways and chandelier encrusted dining rooms. Since this I have been working on the library’s collection of The Home magazine. From 1920 to 1945 the magazine was an ode to Sydney’s social elite and its pages are filled with home decorating tips, advertisements for high-end fashion and lingerie, and details of important social soirees. Women in shimmering silk dresses sip tea from Royal Doulton china, while men discuss politics, art, and the latest garden ornaments all in the same sentence. Illustrations by Hera Roberts, Thea Proctor and Margaret Preston appear alongside photographs by Harold Cazneaux. In one series of images, the dancers from the Monte Carlo Russian ballet pirouette across a dimly lit Sydney stage. ‘Just like a dream’, the caption says, and I would have to agree. Working as a volunteer at the Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection has been just like a dream come true.

Emma Friezer

special event volunteer, Fifties Fair at Rose Seidler House, Public Programs Unit

After completing a Masters in Museum Studies in 2006, I joined the HHT [now SLM] as a project volunteer in May. I was thrilled when I was soon invited to coordinate the kids’ activities area at the Fifties Fair, held on the grounds of Harry Seidler’s stunning modernist feat, Rose Seidler House.

From June to August I worked with Julie Ryan in the Public Programs Unit researching 1950s popular culture, designing activities and sourcing materials. The 1950s is renowned as the decade that launched rock ‘n’ roll, so I devised the theme 'rock ’n’ roll idol'. Based on the emergence of popular music TV shows in the 1950s like Hit parade, Six o’clock rock and  Bandstand, the theme also tied in with the popularity of contemporary shows like Australian idol.

The kids' tent was set up as a 1950s music studio, with old vinyl records strung down the walls and colours – gold, red and royal blue – derived from the Rose Seidler House mural. The space was arranged so kids could participate in activities that converted them into a rock ‘n’ roll idol. Kids kitted themselves in fifties garb by personalising a neck scarf or slicking their 'do' with Brylcreem.

‘Rockin’ box guitars’ and ‘Rollin’ shakers’ were crafted from shoeboxes, bottles and colourful decorative materials. Those with a colourful streak designed their own record cover, which incorporated the house’s mural design. A jukebox complete with flashing lights kept the music jumping and formed the perfect backdrop for swingtime dance classes, hula hoop school and limbo competitions throughout the day. As in past years, children also enjoyed the classic favourite Punch and Judy show.

It has been a fantastic experience working with Julie and designing activities to celebrate the colour and music of the fifties with children today. The enthusiasm of my fellow volunteers in helping the kids was inspiring, and wearing fifties dress was fabulous fun – the bobby socks are ready for next year!