Summer Volunteering at the Abbe Museum

By Rebecca Kirkwood
Rebecca Kirkwood (left) with sister
Briana Kirkwood (2011 & 2012 Field School Participant)
at the Abbe Museum's 2012 Annual Meeting.
Rebecca is currently a third year International Relations and Art History student at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.  Although she has lived  in various places, including Bermuda, Canada, and the Isle of Man, Rebecca and her family have returned to Maine every summer and she considers Mount Desert Island a second home.

To anyone who’s debating whether or not to volunteer for the Abbe Museum, I have but two little words of advice: do it! Although my summer experience at the Abbe was my first encounter with the museum world, I feel confident that a person my age working at another, perhaps larger organization would never have been able to learn so much, or be so involved in the preparation and execution of exciting events like the Gathering Gala, or develop such close friendships with other staff members.

During the past few months, I mainly volunteered in Guest Services. When I was first told I would be helping out with Admissions, quite honestly, I was a little terrified. I hadn’t had much experience on the other end of a credit card machine and I certainly hadn’t worked with cash registers before. Needless to say, the first day was a steep learning curve – I managed to overcharge an entire family (who were eventually refunded, happily) and kept informing people of the ticket price in pounds, rather than dollars. Looking back, I’ve learned a great deal from working in Guest Services, from general crisis management to performing mental math before lunchtime!

My experience, however, was hardly limited to greeting guests and ticket transactions. Throughout July and August there were an impressive number of events, workshops, and demonstrations. My favorites, without a doubt, were a 21st birthday spent at the Native American Festival and Basketmakers Market, a smorgasbord of local contemporary art and culture, the Gathering Gala, in particular the thrilling live auction of Butch Phillips’ Model Canoe, and George Neptune’s fun and thought-provoking basket-making demonstration. From these events, I’ve not only honed my appreciation for fine basketry but also for the art of time management.

The best thing about volunteering at the Abbe, however, weren’t the life skills I learned or the amazing events, but the added value – the countless and indescribable little things that made my experience at the Abbe what it was: the experience of a life time. To all the talented, hardworking, and knowledgeable staff and volunteers: thank you for sharing your wisdom and brightening each day. I’m so grateful for this experience and I shall miss you all!

The Abbe Museum would like to thank Rebecca for all her hard work this summer.  Over the weeks, Rebecca volunteered approximately 120 hours of her time for the benefit of the Abbe.  As a volunteer, Rebecca helped us during a very busy time of year, and her flexibility and eagerness to help with anything and everything was greatly appreciated.  Rebecca spent time volunteering in Guest Services, helped us organize and produce the Gathering Gala, spent her 21st Birthday volunteering at the Native American Festival and Basketmakers Market, assisted visitors in the Abbe Shop, worked at special events, including the Gala, Art Preview Party, Annual Meeting, and more.  Rebecca was always willing to be flexible, and quickly adapted to whatever the Abbe needed done.  Rebecca always brightened the room, and made every guest feel welcome.  Rebecca is currently enrolled in the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, for an MA(Hons) in Art History and International Relations and will commence her third year in the program this fall.  Rebecca hopes to pursue a career in the museum sector, and we wish her all the best in the future... and hope that she will return to visit us again!