Volunteering at ‘Devil’s Porridge Museum’ – Alistair’s story

Devil’s Porridge Museum – Dumfries and Galloway

I have been volunteering at Devil’s Porridge Museum for about 4 months now, along with 3-months of work experience I did back in 2016. I came back with ‘Employability Scotland’ to expand my work experience, gain more understanding in museum activities and improve my social skills with staff. Since returning I have tried to prove myself a cable (or at least reliable volunteer) to the other more experienced volunteers, the staff and myself. Though I should mention that many members of the Museum have been (very) patient in helping me to get to grips with the various tasks necessary for working in the museum.

Over the course of my time here I have worked front of house, which involves managing the till (which sounds easier than it is let me tell you) and seeing to customers. Working front of house is not something I had any real experience with, and to be honest I was nervous as interacting with people is not one of my strong points neither is working under any kind of fluid situations. What I mean by that is you need to be able to prioritise tasks when the place gets busy, which it can really fast.

You may be making teas or coffees (trying to remember with saucers and cups go with which) and a person may come to the desk wanting to pay for something or wanting tickets and you need to jump on to it or ask one of the others to drop what they are doing and handle it.

Doing front of house is something that I never really thought about or really wanted to do but I have come to be ok with it and even enjoy the sense of being able to know where things are and make very basic refreshment in a short period of time.

I do thank Arna for helping me speak and respond to what people say, people can be a little confusing even at the best of times.

I continue to volunteer, sadly not as much as I would like to due to other commits (I really thought 18 was when things get busy but my early 20s are so far turning out busier then I imagined) as I want to expand my skills both within the museum and outside of it.

Animals at War Exhibition

My original reasons for volunteering still hold true as social skills are something you always have to work on or you lose the feel, if that’s the right word, of how to do it. There are many more opportunities here than I thought. Judith (the manager) is very kindly flexible with my hours, she is great at persuading me to take part in a range of activities including; creating a picture by picture show linked to the story of a real life land-girl, and researching information on the ‘Animals at War Exhibition’ which even landed me on TV!

The exhibition was run by Steven (Bogle) who I do thank for allowing me to be a part of the project and reassuring me when needed, I am even more thankful for not sending my parents a DVD version (close call).     

I’ll finish with the most difficult task I have ever had to do (for dramatic effect) which was speaking at the poppy remembrance service. Speaking in public is hard enough and doing it well and feeling like you did it well is even harder. Especially when you are speaking a poem written by a soldier who fought in WW1 (no pressure).

Fortunately I got a lot of helpful advice from a fellow volunteer, Dorinda, was a real help to me and definitely deserves half the credit for the end product which I’m am told was good. That event was hard and nerve racking, due to the fear of failure, worries of what to do about eye contact and even not being able to speak loud enough. But I think it did me good as being pushed to challenge oneself is good in the long-term.

You can hear about the ‘Animals At War’ Exhibition in which Alistair appears here https://www.itv.com/news/border/2019-11-07/watch-border-life-07-11-19/

More on Devil’s Porridge Museum here – https://www.devilsporridge.org.uk/                

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