Volunteering at Your Local Museum: a Meaningful Experience

Are you looking for an enriching experience that at the same time helps your community? The Yellowstone Gateway Museum is looking for people who enjoy playing detective, investigating the stories and examining the artifacts of Park County history. We are also looking for volunteers who like to greet and orient visitors. And we could always use people who can assist us with maintenance, small carpentry jobs, and keeping the museum spiffy. Here are a few of our ongoing volunteer opportunities:

The museum offers cataloguing work which requires detail-oriented people who are comfortable working on a computer but who also enjoy handling artifacts, archives, and photographs. With training, volunteers learn PastPerfect museum software, describe and photograph or scan items, adding important documentation to our collections. Ellen Zazzarino has been inventorying and archiving Doris Whithorn’s personal papers, an important collection that will then be ready for cataloguing, making it available to researchers.

Volunteer Nikki Fox is inventorying original railroad photographs that were once on flip panels in the museum, carefully storing them in archival folders and readying them for scanning and PastPerfect data entry. It’s important to scan these photographs for future use and properly store the originals away from damaging sunlight. They can then be used safely in future exhibit layout panels. Other photographs that chronicle the stories of Livingston and Park County people, ranches and other businesses, recreation, and schools, for example, are awaiting volunteers and their skills that will help bring them back into the light, so to speak. Experience Works employee Paul Deyerle is currently cataloguing and scanning Yellowstone postcards into our database (among many other duties).

Bruce Graham is busily scanning issues of the Park High School Geyser as well as adding publications to our research library. There is additional work that needs to be done in our library—so if you are a retired librarian or are a bibliophile, we would be grateful for your help!

When area students and teachers visit the museum, we occasionally need help with programming. There are also opportunities to present curriculum-based teaching trunk programs in the classroom or in the museum. Give us a call if this is something you’d like to help with.

We are researching and developing new exhibits for next summer and beyond, including the themes of transportation, Yellowstone, fire, and communication, and so are looking for people who enjoy helping with research, exhibit installation, and more. Old exhibits need to be dismantled and carefully put away, making room for new stories. Bob Ebinger, Roddy Stanton, Norm Miller, and Bobbie Williams are helping with our new fire and transportation exhibits. Roddy is also creating spreadsheets of maps and plans from the City of Livingston from the 1930s forward—a revealing look at how the town has changed over time.

Our oral history team welcomes new volunteers; we have 100s of Park County residents whose stories need to be preserved. Join Shannon Burke, Camden Easterling, Sherry Hatfield, Betty Lahren, and Alta LeDoux as they record oral histories using small digital recorders. Team members are trained in the art of the oral history interview.

The museum has a new iPad, courtesy of the Park County Community Foundation, that will feature stories, photographs, and video footage from our collections. If you are a videographer who enjoys shooting footage of our county’s historic buildings, ranches, and landscapes, as well as capturing stories, we have your audience!

With only two fulltime employees at the Yellowstone Gateway Museum, we also need people who can perform maintenance tasks and small carpentry jobs like building shelves or supports for file cabinets. We’d also like to find volunteers who can help us keep things tidy and clean.

As you can see, there is a lot of behind-the-scenes work in a museum. But equally important are our front-desk volunteers who are the faces of the museum. Because this is a slower time of year, front-desk volunteers have other projects that they can contribute their talents to. For example, when Judy Bonnell is not greeting visitors, she is sorting through donated boxes of miscellaneous papers—so far, she has discovered valuable railroad documents, school district registers dating to the early 1910s, organizational ledgers, and more.

I’ve mentioned only a few of our volunteers—we are very grateful for each and every one of them!

Please consider volunteering for the museum this year—this is the perfect New Year’s Resolution because it’s one that’s easy to keep. We strive to make the experience as valuable for you as it is for us and will work with you to find a project that is a good fit. Whether a half day, or a day or two per week, we’re very flexible with scheduling. Please give Paul Shea or Karen Reinhart a call at 406-222-4184. The museum is located at 118 W. Chinook and is open Thursday-Saturday, 10 AM to 5 PM, but the offices are open from 8 AM to 5 PM Monday-Friday. www.yellowstonegatewaymuseum.org.

The museum is a fun place to volunteer!