The vital role played by volunteers
Without the contribution of Kew Bridge Steam Museum's army of volunteers the Museum could not exist. Countless people from all walks of life have freely given their time and effort to our restoration cause, inspired by the extraordinary magnetism of our pumping station and its historic engines, by the magic of steam power, by the restoration programme and by the friendly people who bring life to the Museum.
Like any Charitable Trust that is continually developing we always need to increase the number of regular volunteers to help our full-time staff run and maintain the Museum.
We want volunteers with all sorts of skills. At weekends, we need at least one volunteer to run the shop, one to act as a guide and two volunteer engine drivers. If we are to get any restoration work done, we need at least another three. So, on a typical operating day, between four and ten volunteers are needed. In addition, we have regular volunteer sessions when restoration and maintenance work is carried out.
What are the incentives to becoming a volunteer at Kew?
There are main ones: doing a rewarding job and joining a friendly team of like-minded colleagues. Some of the work is done as a team but there are also plenty of jobs that you can do on your own.
How do I apply?
What jobs are volunteers asked to do?
These can be divided between "front of house" jobs (those that involve contact with the public) and "behind the scenes" work. In addition to running the shop and engine driving there are other "front of house" jobs such as helping with publicity activities and acting as Museum guide or steward.
Running the shop is combined with running reception. This involves handling admission and shop charges, answering the telephone and answering any questions posed by the public to set them on their way around the Museum. Engine driving requires an affinity with engineering, an interview with our driver training officer, and, subject to suitability, 12-18 months of training to become a fully qualified driver. During training, you will be expected to attend driver instruction twice a month.
On the publicity front, work involves manning the Museum's stands at exhibitions, distributing posters and leaflets and, once experience is gained, the option to give talks to clubs and societies. As a guide, you will need to acquire knowledge of the Museum's engines, of the exhibits in the Water for Life Gallery, and be prepared to act as a steward during our special event weekends when attendance numbers can increase four-fold. Guiding sometimes involves assisting our Education Officer with visiting school parties.
What about behind the scenes work?
There is always mechanical work to be done in the workshop under the guidance of our engineering team, but if you don't have specific machine shop skills there are always jobs like dismantling, cleaning, painting and reassembling items of machinery undergoing restoration. For those interested in the past, there is much to be done helping our archivist in conducting further research, maintaining computer records and labelling documents and illustrative material. We are very fortunate in having a brand new archive room for this purpose as part of our Heritage Lottery Award. We are also seeking and recording anecdotal material from former Water Board employees. And then there are opportunities for people willing to help our office staff with time consuming work such as bulk mailings.
If I become a volunteer, will I have to commit to coming on a particular day?
That really depends on your choice of activity. Engine drivers, shop volunteers and guides are rostered and undertake to attend on the designated occasions. When a special project is planned, we give those offering to help a day and time to attend. However, many of our volunteers are either retired, or are self-employed and can come on weekdays as well as at weekends. In addition many volunteers attend at the weekend especially on Saturdays. Otherwise, we try to accommodate specific volunteer availability.