An old saying contends that an army runs on its stomach. But for museums, there’s no running without volunteers.
Last week, the New Mexico History Museum’s many volunteers were honored with a prestigious award by the Governor’s Commission for Community Volunteerism. The Governor’s Nonprofit Program Award recognized the museum’s 112 volunteers who last year donated 9,342 hours of unpaid service.
The award was given during a banquet at the Hilton Hotel in Albuquerque, where an estimated 600 volunteers and program staff represented efforts that ranged from foster grandparents to combating homelessness, addictions and teen pregnancy. Lt. Governor Diane Denish, co-chair of the commission, said that volunteer efforts in New Mexico last year accounted for $1 billion worth of work that might not otherwise have gotten done.
Patricia Hewitt of the museum’s Fray Angélico Chávez History Library nominated the volunteers. From her nomination:
(They) conduct tours of the Palace of the Governors, assist hundreds of school groups from throughout New Mexico, man our Information Desk, lead informative historic walking tours of downtown Santa Fe, act as Gallery Guides for the new 26,000-square-foot exhibits space, and answer “wayfinding” questions throughout the Museum’s campus. Our volunteers assisted at every major 2009 History Museum event including Opening weekend, Spanish Colonial Days, Gem and Mineral Show, Mountain Man Rendezvous, Native American Artisans Indian Market Celebration, Christmas at the Palace, Las Posadas, and new exhibit openings and lectures. They provide the personal touch that insures that visitors from youngsters to senior citizens have a welcoming and memorable museum experience.
Our volunteers who work behind the scenes at the Museum assist staff with archival processing and arrangement of photographic and manuscript collections to aid in proper housing and storage of fragile materials, and to assist with access and research. Volunteers in the Museum’s Collections department helped to successfully move over 12,000 museum objects, including 3,706 costumes, accessories and textiles, into our new environmentally sound 8,381-square-foot storage vault. As staff perform curatorial, administrative, and archival duties for our collections and exhibits they greatly appreciate the many talented volunteers who assist “backstage” at the Museum.
John Ramsay accepted a last-minute invitation from Patricia to attend the event and said it was just another never-know-what-to-expect day in the life of a volunteer. For the last 14 years, Ramsay has volunteered at the History Library, most of that time “in the bowels” of archived documents. While helping with cataloguing and such, he’s honed an interest in Southwest history deep enough to lead him to contribute a chapter to a book that will be published by UNM Press this fall.
“I’ve always been interested in history, and I’m a Southwesterner, really,” said Ramsay, who’s a retired chemist from Los Alamos National Laboratory. “I got involved back when Tom Chavez was there and got to see original documents about New Mexico history. It’s just intriguing.”
Ramsay also serves as treasurer of the New Mexico Historical Society and says that tending to such interests is part of keeping active.
“You’ve got to have an interest in what you’re doing,” he said. “Whether it’s volunteering for the handicapped or some of the things these other people you see here do. I like what I’m doing because I just find a satisfaction out of it.”
The History Museum applauds every one of its volunteers for the sacrifices they’ve made to make us a better institution. To us, this award simply confirms what we’ve long known: We can’t do it alone. Whether it’s meeting new people or working with old photographs, sharing your knowledge of the past or getting out the word on new exhibits, the History Museum can help you expand your horizons. For information on our volunteer programs, contact David Rogers at 476-5157.