How wrong was I? I was worried that not all of Team CASPA would make it to the Museum of London Docklands to take part in the final piece of their work experience project – public engagement. In fact everyone turned up, all eight, supported by Sarah from CASPA. I can’t tell you what it felt like to see all of them sitting in the foyer ready to go.
I know a couple in particular were incredibly worried about the public engagement. One guy was so worried he hadn’t come on previous weeks, the anxiety, the nerves were too much. It is so hard when you have a child who suffers from anxiety. You want them to try new things, experience the world, make new friends and yet every turn can be fraught with fears and worry. But for today whatever worries and concerns the group had were put to one side. To be honest I felt like cheering and we hadn’t even begun the day.
The morning was spent looking round the fantastic Tunnel exhibition which focuses on the archaeology of Crossrail. After lunch we set up tables, displayed our Fulham treasures and began two hours of public engagement.
Team CASPA were split into groups, two had original photos of Fulham Pottery in action in the 1970s along with John Dwight’s early attempts at making porcelain. The others sat with a tray of medallions from drinking gorges featuring animals like the ‘lamb and flag’ that advertised the pubs that the drinking vessels were sold to.
Two more sat at a workstation re-packing bags of material and writing out new labels. Having work to do that was a recap on previous weeks proved really useful for those who were nervous about talking to the public. It gave them something to do rather than sitting there patiently waiting. It also made it easier to talk about the last few weeks and their knowledge of Fulham Pottery because, worst case scenario, if they forgot all the facts they could talk about the process involved in re-packing. The final two of Team CASPA were roaming, their job was to entice museum visitors over to our tables.
I think I must have spent the entire time smiling like a loon, because they did it. They engaged over 40 people, young and old and everything in between; mothers, young kids, couples and students. Their knowledge of Fulham Pottery, John Dwight and 17th century ceramics just flowed out of them. The took turns on all the different tables and really made the most of the experience.
They made me prouder than I can say. If I look back to 9 weeks ago when I first met these young people the change in them is dramatic. They are confident, proud of themselves and they really feel like a team. I sat next to one young lad, it took a while before he spoke to anyone, but when he did the smile on his face said it all.
These last few weeks without a doubt have been the best volunteering experience I have had. At times challenging for me, knowing how much to support and when to push. But this last day has been a gift, as I left the group at the end of the day they all gave me a hug and it reminded me why I do all this, the volunteering and the blogs. It is something I won’t forget.
I hope Team CASPA take this day and all those feelings; the pride, the sense of achievement, their knowledge and experience forward into tomorrow and into the future. I hope they realise this public engagement is not the end but the beginning for them.
I really want to thank Adam and Lucy and the Museum of London for running with this project. Before I began volunteering I never realised thousands of boxes in an archive and bits of broken put dug out of the ground could make such a difference to people’s lives. I also want to thank the fantastic Sarah and Helen from CASPA, the project would not have worked without your support.
Museums can make a difference, collections can be the facilitator but it takes amazing staff and funding to really make it all come together. The Arts Council fund the Volunteering Inclusion Projects at the Museum of London, it is how I started and it has taken 8 young adults just starting out in life and I hope it has given them something to be incredibly proud of.
So lastly, thank you Team CASPA, thanks for turning up every week, thanks for getting the job done and thanks for being my inspiration. You can do anything you put your mind to.
To find out more about CASPA please take a look at their website – http://www.caspabromley.org.uk/Pages/default.aspx
To read more about this project please take a look at my other blogs – https://tinctureofmuseum.wordpress.com/?s=teamCASPA
To find out more about volunteering opportunities at the Museum of London please keep an eye on their volunteering page – https://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/support-us/volunteer