Susan Bourton [COSFORD]

When did you first start volunteering at the Museum?

I first started volunteering in November 2015 with the Access and Learning Department. I decided to join the team because it felt like a really exciting opportunity – both to assist with current workshops and to design my own. The role seemed to fit perfectly with my studies at university and was both flexible and engaging. Ultimately, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to gain valuable experience in heritage education – something that I hope to do as a career – while also being supported by a friendly and enthusiastic team.

Tell us about your role at the Museum.

No day is ever the same in the department. But, as a general rule I arrive at the Museum with just enough time to take my coat off before the coaches pull up full of excitable school children! I help the team present a workshop usually on the First World War in the Air. This generally involves activities on rotation – personally I am responsible for the object handling section, in which the children get to handle genuine artefacts from the First World War. After a quick spot of lunch, I usually get on with various preparations for other workshops, such as making parachutes for the team’s science, technology and engineering sessions.

What experience have you gained during your time volunteering? I have gained experience in working with a team as well as independently. Occasionally, I have been thrown (gently) into the deep end – where I have learnt how to adapt to different situations. I have also become far more confident in myself: both personally and as a member of the team. I hope that this experience will stand me in good stead for my future career. From the age of fourteen I knew that I wanted to work in heritage or museum education, and this voluntary role has given me the skills to deliver a workshop and even plan my own – essential elements for my future job.

What has been your favourite part of volunteering at the Museum?

Two very special occasions have really struck a chord with me while I have been volunteering at the Museum. One of the best was helping with the visit of children from an underprivileged school. The children’s enthusiasm was tangible and one child’s eyes shone with excitement when they heard that there were even more planes inside the Museum beyond the car park! Another favourite was when I independently ran a one-to-one workshop for a student who had missed out on their school visit. I felt so sure that I was doing what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and that wonderful feeling has been with me throughout my time at the Museum.

Would you recommend volunteering at the Museum to others?

I would absolutely recommend volunteering at the Royal Air Force Museum to others. If someone is wanting to gain experience in a museum setting, then this one is perfect. I have gained priceless experience which will set me up for life. A volunteer is not just put to do the photocopying, they become a full member of the team with responsibility. The different teams are all so welcoming and knowledgeable that a new volunteer is made to feel at home straight away. Plus, with the RAF’s Centenary celebrations coming up there has never been a better or more exciting time to join the Royal Air Force Museum.