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Staff journey; from volunteering to a career at the Trust

Katie Morrison is an Archaeology (BA) and Museum Studies (MA) graduate who started volunteering with Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in January 2017. Since then she has moved onto becoming a member of staff, but still volunteers as she finds the time so valuable. You can read about her experience below.

Bethany Hughes
Conservation Team at the Birthplace
Katie with the Conservation Team at the Birthplace

Can you tell me a bit about your job?

At the moment I work at Shakespeare’s Birthplace as a Period Interpreter, at Shakespeare’s New Place as a Conservation Assistant and I still do one day a week in the Birthplace as a Conservation Volunteer. The Conservation Assistant role at New Place deals a lot with the outside sculptures that we have on display there; making sure they remain clean and keeping an eye on any rusting issues. The exhibition centre at New Place is also inside a historic house; ‘Nash’s House’. I assist with taking care of the actual building, making sure there are no pests and checking the light levels.

What has been a personal highlight so far?
Last summer we had a project at New Place to polish and put a protective layer over the white bronze sonnet darts, which line the site and mark each of the 154 sonnets of Shakespeare.

The highlight of the project was people from different sites and different places within the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust coming along and polishing alongside the Conservation Team. People from Hall’s Croft, the New Place Guides, all the way up to the Leadership Team got involved and a bonus was that it didn’t rain! (Though my undergraduate was in Archeology so I’m used to being outside in all weather, it doesn’t put me off.)

When did you start volunteering?

I started volunteering in February 2017, then I had my interview for guiding in early April and in May I had another interview for a permanent guiding job. In June I interviewed for the conservation role at New Place so although I’m split across the two sites, I’m now full time permanent across the two roles.

I started volunteering following my Masters in Museum Studies which had a focus on conservation and engagement. When I saw there was a Conservation Volunteer role at the Birthplace, I went for it. I’m not from Warwickshire originally, I’m from South London and when I moved this was one of the first places I came to see. I gained a lot of experience from my MA but I wanted to bolster that with the practical experience of being directly in an historic house.

Conservation at New Place
Conservation at New Place

In what ways did your volunteer role prepare you for your job role?

It introduced me to the ethos of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, what they stand for and what they want to achieve and seeing the different houses in action. Being a conservation volunteer at Birthplace you don’t have to work around visitors but you get to see the levels of people traffic and what jobs can be done in the time you have. Then when it came to applying for the New Place role I could use all the practical knowledge I’d gained.

What do you think you got out of volunteering besides career skills?

You get to have a lot of fun!  Although there are tough days, as there are with anything, the team I work with volunteering at the Birthplace are great and now I have volunteers working with me at New Place now. There’s a sense of camaraderie with the team you volunteer with. Volunteering is great and I still do it alongside my work because I enjoy it so much.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?

Do it! I volunteered when I was finishing my undergraduate degree in Cardiff at a small museum. Even if you don’t feel like you’re making huge career strides, every day is more experience and even if you can only give a few hours every other week it’s a positive move.

Every day is more experience and even if you can only give a few hours every other week it’s a positive move

— Katie talks of her volunteering experiences

Finally, do you have a favourite Trust property?

I couldn’t possibly pick a favourite! Of the two sites I work at, I enjoy them because of how different they are. New Place has a very modern exhibition centre plus the garden with the sculptures and nice sweeping lawn is beautiful especially on a sunny day. The thing I love about the Birthplace are all the secrets lurking within, for example, above the cellar there are apparently witch marks, put there to protect the beer from evil spirits!

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