Volunteer Stories: Jim Henry

What is a Collections Volunteer and what sorts of things do they get up to?

We caught up with Jim, a volunteer at National Mining Museum Scotland, about his many hours of volunteering for the museum.

Q: What is your volunteer role?

I was involved with the early negotiations that saved the Lady Victoria Colliery from being dumped down the shaft way back in 1981. My then colleague Eamon Hyde and I spent time gathering items which probably became the first assets of the museum.

I wanted to renew links with the Museum when I retired in 2011. I had friends in George Archibald and Brian Murray who were volunteers. I also felt my geological / interest in mining background would allow me to make a useful contribution to the museum.

A further attraction was that the Museum was a short bus trip away from my home in Edinburgh. It takes me out of the house and I have the enjoyment of socialising with other volunteers committed to the work of the museum. The staff make you feel welcome, involve you in the work of the museum and clearly show your contribution is valued.

As a retired town planner, I enjoy working with both topographic and geological maps, mine plans, engineering drawings, etc. I have enjoyed working on evaluating the worth of retaining/disposing of these items, prior to accessioning those we wish to keep. As part of this task, as I love working with records of old workings especially those in map form, I have particularly loved tasks which involved examining maps and plans in the museum collection not previously geo-located.

Q: What is your favourite part of volunteering?

A favourite task has been the building up a record of mining and mining related memorials in Scotland prior to and subsequent to the opening of the Memorial Centre in the museum. This has been a “fun of the hunt job” which has resulted in me locating about 150 memorials, visiting most, and building a photographic and information record held at the museum.

I have tackled many tasks – some have been quite humdrum and mundane. However, provided I can see the rationale behind undertaking them, and I know that the task needs to be done for the benefit of the museum, I will do it. At the museum there is an opportunity to discuss and agree the scope of tasks which is also helpful – nobody is pushed unwillingly out of their comfort zone. 

I like to try to maximise my contribution and prefer to start at about 9 am and work through to about 4.30pm with am, lunch and pm breaks as appropriate. You have a freedom to come and go and, if necessary swap days if there is a clash with other personal commitments.   

Thanks to Jim for chatting with us, and for his immense contributions to National Mining Museum Scotland!

Are you interested in volunteering with museums, galleries, archives, zoos, parks, historic sites and other historical, cultural and nature organisations in Scotland? Check out the Make Your Mark in Volunteering portal to see what’s available in your area.

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