Volunteering with the National Capital Authority: interview with Anne Bryant

This post is part of our short series of interviews with people who volunteer in the GLAMR industry (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums, Records). The series began with our participation in #blogjune, but there are too many amazing volunteers, places and stories to restrict them to just one month!

These stories will highlight the abundance of volunteering opportunities across Canberra, and showcase our local volunteer heroes. You can also find out how to volunteer!

Our ninth interviewee is Anne Bryant who volunteers with the National Capital Authority (NCA).

Anne, NCA volunteer
Anne, NCA volunteer

The National Capital Authority (NCA) is established under the Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Act 1988.

The NCA performs a special role as the trustee of the National Capital and in this capacity serves the interests of the Australian Government, the nation and its people. The NCA manages a range of programs to inform and educate all Australians of the unique characteristics and importance of Canberra as their National Capital. The NCA manages national attractions, including the National Capital Exhibition, Blundells Cottage, the National Carillon and ANZAC Parade as well as manage the Estate. The contribution of the NCA’s volunteers as part of the volunteer programs is invaluable to the organisation.

Tell us about you and your National Capital Authority volunteer role…

Before I joined the National Capital Authority (NCA) as a guide in 2008 I had been looking for something different and more regular in a volunteering role.

A friend mentioned an advert she had seen for NCA volunteers so we went along to an information session. Needless to say I went on with it but time commitments prevented her going any further.

Over the past 50 years in Canberra I have done a wide variety of volunteering work and always enjoyed it but the NCA program presented something of a different challenge.

I have a regular commitment of a weekly 4 hour session at the National Capital Exhibition (NCE), mainly taking 1 hour education programs with interstate school groups to teach them about the special importance of Canberra. I have always enjoyed early Australian history and I find the history of Canberra is particularly interesting. These programs are a lot more ‘hands on’ than when I started with the introduction of Brick by Brick, a lego based learning activity and the content has altered to reflect changing exhibits. The NCE provides training and I do a lot of background reading as well.

What are the benefits of volunteering with the National Capital Authority? 

Among the benefits of NCA volunteering is the chance to meet such a wide cross section of people. I like to feel I am helping to educate children and adults about the value of our capital city. It is very rewarding to show off its interesting and diverse attractions.  So many tourists comment on how little they knew about Canberra and how impressed they are after having been here.

What is the most enjoyable aspect of your volunteer role?

I enjoy the challenge of taking on new projects and on an irregular basis I also take tours at Blundells Cottage and assist with their education program.

When the Carillon is open to the public I take tours there. This year I am also taking 2 hour Magna Carta walking tours.  Most tours only attract small groups which makes for a relaxed and informal time with a chance to talk to others. All these tours involve training and background reading.

National Capital Authority Volunteer Guides can specialise in education programs and public tours at the National Capital Exhibition and Blundells Cottage, conduct walking tours of national areas and assist with special events. How did you choose your specialisation?

We have great flexibility in choosing which areas we would like to cover.  I chose ones that were very different from each other for the variety. When I started, guides were mainly needed for the exhibition tours and anything else was extra but that is not always the case.  Other walking tours are available, such as ANZAC Parade, Lakeside, and Reconciliation Place.

Do you have a favourite insight into Canberra or local secret that you could share?

I have lived here for 52 years and it has been a great experience to watch this city develop. Things such as the filling of Lake Burley Griffin, installation of the first traffic lights on Barry Drive and Northbourne Ave and collecting mushrooms in the empty paddocks of Belconnen, make me realize just how far this city has come in such a short time. Volunteering with the NCA allows me to be able to tell others about this privileged experience.

How do people express interest to volunteer with the NCA?

If you’re interesting in being part of any of the NCA’s two Volunteering Programs: Volunteer Guide and Horticulture Volunteer, please contact Amanda Hynson, Volunteer Officer by phoning 02 6272 2962 or via email.


Cafe Catch Up Compendium

Today we hosted a Café Catch Up for GLAMR-minded folks at Two Before Ten (Aranda shops). The café owners were kind enough to let us hog the library/games space that we visited previously.

Sign for library at Two Before Ten cafe
Follow me

To find the library, you can enter via the glass doors (you can see hessian curtains from outside), or go through the main part of the café (through the black double doors). Walk towards the hallway towards the very back of the room, you’ll see the library sign directing you to the left. Take another left into the actual library, and you’ll be in heaven!

Armchairs and books at Two Before Ten
Chairs, books, games…

It is such a cosy and relaxed space, the fire was roaring and we got lost in some amazing stuffed armchairs.

Red cardigan at Canberra Library Tribe event
Fifty percent of the cardigan participation

The cardigan index was fairly low (only 2!) but our GLAMR index was pretty good. We had librarians and library technicians from science, defence, art, university and national libraries, and a school archivist. This fulfils the G (gallery), L (library – very well), A (archivist), no M but R (records management, as this is also the archivisit’s role). All in all, a good GLAR get-together (but we would love to see people from all parts of the acronym at our events!).

Cash from The Mining game board game

We enjoyed the unusual range of retro games including Boggle, Master mind, and The Mining Game. One of our attendees felt compelled to tidy some of the books! A good side job, perhaps.

Thank you very much to Two Before Ten for letting us host our Café Catch Up in their fabulous library space! It was a great chance to hear what’s happening in everyone’s galleries, libraries and archives.

Our next events are still being planned, but please contact us if you have event ideas or if you’d like to help. You can send us a message via our facebook page, DM or @ us on twitter, or via email at canberra library tribe [no spaces] [at] gmail [dot] com . Or to keep track of upcoming events, stay tuned to our profile on eventbrite.

Volunteering with ALIA University and Research Libraries Group ACT: interview with Rebecca Kemble

This post is part of our short series of interviews with people who volunteer in the GLAMR industry (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums, Records). The series began with our participation in #blogjune, but there are too many wonderful volunteers, places and stories to restrict them to just one month! These stories will highlight the plentiful volunteering opportunities across Canberra, and showcase our local volunteer heroes. You can also find out how to volunteer!

Our eighth interviewee is Rebecca Kemble, who volunteers as the convenor for ALIA (Australian Library and Information Association) Universities and Research Libraries Group (URLs) ACT.

Rebecca, ALIA URLs ACT volunteer
Rebecca, ALIA URLs ACT volunteer

Tell us about you and your ALIA URLs ACT role…

I became involved with the URLs Group back in 2011. An email went out in my workplace, asking for another University of Canberra representative to be on the committee. I thought it would be a great professional development opportunity, so I volunteered. It has certainly proven to be such, and it has been a great way to network and meet local colleagues. I became the Convenor in 2014, which was a bit more challenging for me, but has also been a very valuable learning experience.

What are the benefits of volunteering with ALIA URLs ACT? 

Getting to know your colleagues! There are many great librarians in and around Canberra, doing interesting things, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a lot of them. It’s also satisfying work, creating professional development opportunities and organising talks and the sharing of information. Volunteering also provides excellent learning opportunities.

What is the most enjoyable aspect of your volunteer role?

Working with the URLs Committee. They are a great group of dedicated, experienced and professional people, and I’ve learned a lot from them in the past 5 years. They’re also kind, funny and generous with their time.

ALIA URLs ACT has run many networking and information-sharing events for library workers over the years. What has been your favourite URLs event or forum?

Probably the ebooks seminar we ran back in 2012. It was the second seminar I was involved in the planning of, and it taught me a lot about putting together an event. It was also one of our biggest events (since I’ve been on the committee), with sold out attendance, great speakers and vendor representation.

How does the URLs Group work with ALIA?

The URLs Group is fairly independent in a lot of ways – we set our own committee and choose our own officers (convenor, secretary, treasurer). We also decide on our events and talk topics, and organise the smaller events largely by ourselves. We do however get a lot of support from ALIA – the ACT/NSW State Manager Diana Richards comes to all our meetings and is a huge help to us, and the Groups manager helps us organise our bigger events, especially the registration and financial aspects. ALIA also promote all our events through their various networks and online, and they maintain our webpage. Having the support of the organisation behind us makes a very big difference to what kind of events we can stage.

How do people find out about ALIA URLs ACT events or express interest in volunteering with the group?

You can visit the ALIA events calendar, subscribe to the ALIA URLs ACT mailing list, check our group webpage or contact me via email  [Editor’s note, September 2015: Rebecca Kemble is now known as Rebecca Barber, and is working at ANU Library. We have updated her contact details listed above].

Our next lunchtime talk is a presentation by Paul Stewart on the National Library’s Leadership Project (his ALIA National Conference paper). It will be held in the Ferguson Room at the National Library on Monday 27th July, 12:30pm. More information and RSVP details are included in the event listing.

Our full-day event is a seminar, Change, challenges and opportunities: recasting your library skills. It will be held at the National Library on Wednesday 9th September, 8:45am-5:00pm. Further details will be provided on our webpage closer to the date.

You can find out more about Canberra-based events run by our local ALIA groups (including URLs ACT, but also ACTive ALIA, ALIA APSIG and ALIA OPALS ACT) on the ALIA in the ACT webpage.

Volunteering with ACT Heritage Library: interview with Jan

This post is part of our short series of interviews with people who volunteer in the GLAMR industry (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums, Records). The series began with our participation in #blogjune, but there are too many to restrict them to just one month! These stories will highlight the copious volunteering opportunities across Canberra, and showcase our local volunteer heroes. You can also find out how to volunteer!

Our seventh interviewee is Jan, who volunteers for the ACT Heritage Library.

Jan, working with collection  material from ACT Heritage Library
Jan, working with collection material from ACT Heritage Library

Tell us about you and your ACT Heritage Library volunteer role…

My first library volunteer job was at school in the late 1950s. I later qualified as a librarian and worked in a variety of libraries in Canberra and Bangkok before becoming a volunteer tour guide in Canberra in 2001. We had lived in Canberra since the mid 1960s, and I had family who had been here since 1927. Add an inveterate curiosity, particularly about wherever I happen to live, and a degree of boredom following our return to Australia, and it is no surprise that I approached the ACT Heritage Library for a volunteer job.

Luckily (for there was almost an over-supply of volunteers at that time) there was a need for someone with local knowledge and a good eye for photographic detail, to index the library’s growing collection of images. There were historical photographs, obviously, but later the library received fine collections of images of flora and fauna of the ACT region which, supported by some previous studies in zoology and horticulture, I found fascinating.

While I still deal with images, my main work now is with archives and manuscripts. They may be as small as a single photograph or document, or as large as the entire history and administration of an organisation dating back to the beginnings of the national capital. Many are predictable collections of minutes, correspondence and the like, but others are happy surprises.  Under the instruction of the Librarian I execute appraisal decisions on the collection and determine its arrangement, rehouse some material to preserve it, then list it. In most cases I also research and write a brief administrative or biographical history and introduction. Statistics of various kinds are recorded and the document is then published on the Heritage Library’s website as a finding aid.

I also set up and maintain a Visual Arts Ephemera file – exhibition brochures and invitations to art galleries in the ACT and region, and a brief history of each gallery or venue – and a commercial postcards collection.

What are the benefits of volunteering with ACT Heritage Library? 

Continuing personal development would have to be a major benefit. Library technology has changed enormously since I graduated, and even though I work mainly with very traditional materials, some of the new skills can also come in handy when helping grandchildren with school projects.

Intellectual stimulation is also important. Incoming materials often need a context, requiring quite detailed research skills across a variety of areas, from military and political history through architecture, art and music to family history and beyond.

Not least are the friendships, both professional and personal.

What is the most enjoyable aspect of your volunteer role?

Without doubt, being able to indulge my interests without most of the administrative responsibilities of a paid job. This is, of course, made possible by the understanding of the Librarian, who delights in finding unusual and interesting jobs to leaven the standard mix.

The ACT Heritage Library has, within its obvious geographical limits of collecting interest, an extraordinarily wide scope. I often feel rather like a child being let loose in a toy shop.

How did you choose the subject matter or which archives to work on? Do you need to be a specialist in that area?

Beyond my initial decision that the ACT Heritage Library probably suited my range of interests and abilities, I don’t choose what I do. I have always been more of a generalist than a specialist, and consequently have a broad range of knowledge and skills that can be turned to most purposes.

I think that the most useful additional skills for the kind of work I do are an aptitude for organisation, a good visual memory, and being able to see connections.

Do you have a favourite insight from the archives or collections that you work with in your volunteer role?

I’m not sure I’d call it a favourite, but the most useful insight I’ve gained is into what is valuable and what is not, and why. This helps in managing not only library collections but personal and family archives as well.

How do people express interest to volunteer with ACT Heritage Library?

Formally, by applying to the Librarian in writing, including a resume and reasons for wanting to work in the Heritage Library. This allows the Librarian to match individual skills to the current set of tasks available.

Volunteering with ACT Historic Places: interview with Fred Roberts

This post is part of our short series of interviews with people who volunteer in the GLAMR industry (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums, Records). The series began with our participation in #blogjune, but there are too many to restrict them to just one month! These stories will highlight the copious volunteering opportunities across Canberra, and showcase our local volunteer heroes. You can also find out how to volunteer!

Our sixth interviewee is Fred Roberts, who volunteers as a Tour Guide with ACT Historic Places (we previously interviewed another Tour Guide, too).

Lanyon Homestead
Lanyon Homestead

Tell us about you and your role with ACT Historic Places…

My wife and I first visited Lanyon over 30 years ago, when it was used as a venue for displaying a suite of paintings donated to the Commonwealth by Sidney Nolan. Although the old house and the modern, brightly-coloured paintings screamed at each other, we loved the place and after 1980 when it opened as a house museum we often visited it again. At that time, membership of the National Trust was a prerequisite to becoming a volunteer guide (known as a ‘guardian’ then).

We joined the National Trust (ACT) in the mid-1980s specifically to take on a role in presenting this treasure to visitors. My wife died recently, but I am continuing as a Lanyon Volunteer.

In the early days, a visit to Lanyon entailed a trip to the country. To get there from Hughes, where we lived, involved travelling along the Monaro Highway towards Cooma, turning off onto a country road which led through what is now the suburb of Calwell, then along another rural road towards Tharwa. It was really ‘out in the bush’ then.

Creeping suburbia now has Lanyon almost in its grasp. However, thanks to the intervention of the then Minister for the Capital Territory, Mr Tom Uren, it will remain as it is: an outpost of the mid-19th century, undisturbed by the hustle and bustle of the suburbs around it. Or so one hopes.

Convict barn
Convict barn

What are the benefits of volunteering with ACT Historic Places?

Volunteering has many benefits. Important among them is the opportunity it offers to meet a wide range of people, from Canberra and, more often, from interstate or overseas, who visit the property. It is a real pleasure to escort people who show a genuine interest in the history of Lanyon and, through it, of Canberra and district. Often, older visitors will happily recognise some of the displays as familiar from the times they spent in their youth holidaying at the homes of their parents or grandparents, sometimes in other parts of Australia but frequently in other parts of the world, especially the UK and Ireland.

Introducing children to the wonders of ‘the olden days’ is a particular delight.

The staff and volunteers at Lanyon are a community. It is a pleasure to join friends when the roster calls, and especially when a social occasion brings us all together.

Volunteering brings with it a sense of satisfaction difficult to achieve in any other way.

Vegetable garden
Vegetable garden

What is the most enjoyable aspect of your volunteer role?

It would be an exaggeration to call Lanyon a ‘second home’, but it is true that I feel completely at home there, in familiar surroundings, among friends, and enjoying a few hours of joy and relaxation in that environment.

Rear of homestead
Rear of homestead

How did you choose which site to work at? We know that volunteers can select from Lanyon Homestead, Calthorpes’ House or Mugga-Mugga Cottage – does your specialisation arise from a special connection with the place?

I didn’t choose. There was no choice! When my wife and I joined the National Trust, hoping to guide at Lanyon after training, there was nowhere else except Blundell’s Cottage, which was administered by the Canberra and District Historical Society.

Calthorpes’ House and Mugga Mugga were introduced into the Historic Places program many years later.

Do you have a favourite secret about Canberra’s historic house museums?

No. Lanyon has many fascinating stories, which it is a pleasure to share.

Brick path from 1860s
Brick path from 1860s

How do people express interest to volunteer with ACT Historic Places?

Interested in becoming a Tour guide with ACT Historic Places? Full training is provided and you can select which site you wish to work at (Lanyon Homestead, Calthorpes’ House and Mugga-Mugga Cottage). Please contact the Front of House Coordinator for further information or registration, details on the website or email: Lanyon.Homestead@act.gov.au