Volunteers - Isobel's story

Isobel's Story

collection cleaningI have always been fascinated by history. When I was younger, the stories and the personalities gripped me. Museums, galleries and heritage sites were a regular feature of my school holidays. Whilst studying for my History A Level and degree, I grew interested in the theoretical side of historical study. I find studying social structures such as nationhood and/or gender fascinating and enjoy asking the tricky questions that arise when looking at such issues. European Revolutions, particularly the French Revolution, and the history of American immigration are my particular passions.     

                                                                                                                                                       (Isobel cleaning a pair of spurs at the museum)

My love for American history pushed me towards a heritage career whilst researching for my dissertation in Washington DC and New York. Here I was exposed to the political nature of the museum for the first time. I was taken to the National Museum of the American Indian by some relatives and learnt about the controversy surrounding its initial interpretation. I narrowly missed the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture but visited an exhibit that explained how the new museum had acquired the collection from scratch. It also gave a snapshot of how the museum planned to tell difficult stories. Seeing that the questions I was grappling with in my studies were being publically debated in museums made me realise the powerful role that museums have in society. 

IsobelMe having a hard hat tour of Ellis Island in New York in 2016. It was a private tour to a bit of the island that nobody but park rangers are normally allowed to visit!

Since graduating and volunteering at a variety of sites, this understanding has been confirmed. I believe that museums are vital spaces because they hold so much potential to affect positive social change. They have the capacity to demonstrate that things change, challenging visitors to question their world view. They also have the potential to foster a sense of community. 

It is this latter point that drew me to the Fusilier Museum. I come from a military family, my father having been in the Royal Army Medical Corps and my mother growing up on army bases because of my Grandfather’s career in the Royal Artillery. Their military careers were over by the time I was born but the army and army culture has always lingered in the wings and I wanted to learn more about this community. When looking to gain experience in museums, volunteering at the Fusilier Museum seemed like a good way to gain a greater understanding of the army life my family have led, as well as a development opportunity. 

In addition to the collections move project here at the Fusilier Museum, I am working part time as a Museum Assistant at the Museum of the Order of St John in Clerkenwell and volunteering at the private Museum of Philatelic History and the National Army Museum where I am helping at community engagement events. I have not been put off working in the museum sector yet! I am hoping that I’ll ultimately be able to have a heritage job that involves interpretation and allows me to keep asking questions. 

Isobel2 Isobel3

Left - up the Arch de Triumph in Paris                                                      Right - at the Tennis Court in Versailles (my favourite historical site)