Introducing a volunteer’s view

Sarah Morris is a Museum Studies student at Newcastle University and has been volunteering at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Hartlepool for the last year. She talks about her experience working with the museum team and what it was like to work alongside amazing exhibits.

As a Museum Studies student at Newcastle University, gaining practical experience through volunteering has been vital to enhance the theory that I have been taught on my year-long post graduate course.

I’ve always loved history and decided to include this as a part of my American Studies course at the University of Portsmouth.

After graduating, I spent six months volunteering at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and from day one I was sure that a career in heritage was for me. Perhaps, my love for all things historical came from being inspired by Indiana Jones as a child. The reality is unsurprisingly different.

Even though Indiana Jones was an archaeologist, the films featured museums over the course of the trilogy. Put simply, I connected the dots that museum work would be just as glamourous and rewarding.

During my masters, I have been volunteering at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Hartlepool as a Curatorial Volunteer. This has allowed me to experience a side of museum work I have rarely been involved in. In my role, I have been able to photograph and clean items from the collection from the museums’ galleries and many of the items are not currently on public display.

At Hartlepool, the biggest item of the collection is the ship, HMS Trincomalee, built in Bombay in 1817. Yet within the collection store and galleries there are many artefacts that connect to sailors’ of the time.

Previous to the National Museum of the Royal Navy taking over the site, many of these items have not been accessed for suitability or public display. Whilst volunteering, I have looked through countless boxes of artefacts to identify donors and to locate more information about them. It has been a challenge to find items but it has opened the door to a world of curatorial work that goes on behind the scenes.

I now understand how important the role of a Curatorial Volunteer is to the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Hartlepool. The role offers a perfect insight into the stories of the ship and the artefacts associated with its history. This is often overlooked or not discussed, as some aspects of the collection are not on display to the public but the preservation efforts are vital for future generations to enjoy.

If you feel inspired by Sarah's account of her time working with the team, why not the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Hartlepool. Buy your tickets online here

HMS Hermes returning from the Falklands