Helping those who help us

GIVING TIME: Rocky Hill museum volunteer Judy Fowler explains the challenges of running the facility with six helpers. John Procter (left) and Carol Olsen were also among volunteers who attended the meeting.Follow @LouThrower
Nanjing Night Net

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CAROL Olsen hasn’t had much of a break from her volunteering role at Rocky Hill museum over the past three weeks.

One day at home was “just wonderful” she told a recent Economic Development and Tourism Advisory Committee meeting.

But she’s not the only one. The council-run museum, fast gaining a reputation for staging quality exhibitions, has just six volunteers.

Their ranks have dwindled by three, partly due to the passing of several members.

Like Goulburn’s other museums, Rocky Hill war museum is not open fulltime to the public. The issue is something of a bugbear for Marulan Region Chamber of Commerce president and committee member David Humphreys.

With the council promoting its tourism assets, he says it’s essential museums and galleries are open more often.

At his initiative volunteers thrashed out the challenges at the committee’s meeting last week. Members decided to conduct an audit of current volunteers and numbers needed to keep facilities open for four, five and six days a week.

“We need to help volunteers increase their numbers, be innovative about it and reward them,” Mr Humphreys told the meeting.

“…It would be lovely if we had all the museums open at the same time, encouraging people to stay an extra day and generate more money.”

But under the current tourism and marketing push, Council had a responsibility to boost stocks in all museums and galleries, not just the ones that fell under its banner, he said. Mr Humphreys wanted all facilities put on an “equal footing.”

Council’s museums advisor Desmond Kennard said he’d been very critical of the irregular opening hours. Opening six days a week should be the benchmark, he argued.

There was also room for night tours to generate interest. Mr Kennard said in trying to boost volunteer ranks it was important to not just target seniors but tap into youth skills in information technology, photography and design for brochures, as well as the unemployed.

As museums advisor to Junee Shire Council he established a training program for guides, which he said could work here as well.

The possibility will be discussed at the next Museums and Galleries Group meeting. But rewarding volunteers was just as important.

Mr Kennard pointed out the Powerhouse Museum held an annual lunch for its 300 helpers, organised tours for them monthly and distributed a newsletter informing them of what was happening in other sections.

Goulburn Mulwaree hosts a Christmas lunch for its volunteers. Rocky Hill museum volunteer Judy Fowler said Council treated them very well and she had no complaints.

Ideas to boost volunteer ranks included an expo showcasing facilities, just as Kiama Council had successfully done. Corporate services director Brendan Hollands suggested Council could act as a “central registry.”

Mr Humpreys said it was time Council started recognising its museums and galleries as an economic benefit and that none were left “fending for themselves.”

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