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A nuclear physicist by training, Dr. Emerick helped design the new Planetarium, and he continues to give volunteer support regularly


Volunteering at Carnegie Museums  

At Carnegie Museum of Art, Sandy Loughren leads a tour on Ancient Civilization, while in the museum’s administrative offices, Amy Shannon helps the communications staff navigate a complex computer program.

In Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Discovery Room, Sheila Solow shows a Dinosaur Fun Box containing a T. rex-like footprint and dinosaur casts to a pair of pre-school brothers. Meanwhile, miles away at St. Therese of Avila School, Ted Soens shows second-graders fossilized ferns and tells them how they are formed.

At Carnegie Science Center, Dr. Werner Emmerich gives a presentation in German at Buhl Planetarium for high students studying the language, while, in the mailroom, Carole and Joe Schantz bundle thousands of brochures for distribution to local tourist centers.

At The Andy Warhol Museum, Mariluz Hoyos catalogs the contents of one of Andy Warhol’s “time capsules” in the Archives, while Eve Schafer mixes paints for The Weekend Factory.

This sampling of activities performed by volunteers reveals how they permeate every aspect of Carnegie Museums—including CARNEGIE magazine, which is proofread by volunteer Monique Van Damme.

In 2001, the United Nation’s International Year of the Volunteer, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh salutes its more than 800 currently active volunteers. Last year, volunteers contributed approximately 104,500 hours to the museums. According to Independent Sector, a national coalition of nonprofits, foundations, and corporations, the average value of a volunteer’s time is $14.83 an hour. Based on this estimate, Carnegie Museums’ volunteers contributed $1.5 million to the museums last year!

“Volunteers are ‘human capital,’” says Denise Turso, an education coordinator at Carnegie Science Center.

Why do people volunteer at the museums? Some, to use the skills they have and others, to learn new skills. Ted Soens, a retired teacher, says, “I missed interacting in a classroom. Now, I’m teaching again.” Amy Shannon, a graduate student, says, “The best thing about volunteering for me has been the opportunity to learn Front Page, a computer program used to design web sites.”

Some volunteer to explore career opportunities or get school credit. Carnegie Science Center’s internship program has grown from four students in 1998 to 55 students in 2000. “We have many more internship applications than available spaces,” says Marilyn Anderson, who coordinates the Science Center’s volunteer programs. The internship programs at the other three museums also are thriving. Says Amy Shannon, “You can gain so much general knowledge at Carnegie Museums. My internships helped me find a path for my career.”

Volunteers can meet and socialize with others who share their interests. Jan Rodgers, chairperson of Carnegie Museum of Art’s Docent Program, says, “What I love about volunteering is the continuing contact with people who love the arts. I never would have met these people otherwise.” Sheila Solow, who has volunteered for Carnegie Museum of Natural History for nine years, has made friends with several of her fellow volunteers. “We meet for lunch and go to other museums together.”

More often than not, people volunteer at Carnegie Museums just to be in the museums they know and love. Says volunteer coordinator Elaine London, “We hear over and over that Carnegie Museums played an integral part in someone’s life as he grew up, and now he wants to be part of it.”

The average age of our volunteers is 30-something; they range in age from 14 to 85. Carnegie Museums’ corps of volunteers includes people with doctoral, medical, and law degrees; corporate backgrounds; and highly specialized knowledge and skills. Says volunteer coordinator Sheila Savits, “Some people who come to us are on sabbatical from their professional positions and want to assist with a particular project or exercise a specific interest.” Volunteers pin insect wings and number bird bones in the Natural History Museum, and occasionally even accompany paleontologists on digs. Volunteers conduct art and architectural history research at the Museum of Art and The Warhol, and sometimes accompany curators to other museums where exhibitions are being loaned.

A few programs are almost entirely volunteer-driven, such as the Museum of Art’s Docent Program and the Pittsburgh Regional SciTech Festival. The Docent Program trains volunteers to conduct tours and public talks. Patty Jaconetta, one of two professional supervisors of the Docent Program, says, “The docents are our link to visitors.” (Docents at Carnegie Museum of Natural History are paid staff members.)

The SciTech Festival is hosted by the Science Center. About 50 volunteers work up to six months in advance to plan it, and more than 1,000 volunteers assist at the actual event. Eight volunteers work year-round on long-range planning, including office manager Karen Mruk.

Many of Carnegie Museums’ volunteers fit the more traditional profile of a volunteer who is willing to go into the trenches on behalf of a beloved organization. Manning information desks, answering telephones, assembling mailings, filing, and making sandwiches may not be the most glamorous tasks imaginable, but they are essential to the smooth operation of the museums.

Whether jetting around the world or toiling away in a dim basement, volunteers are much appreciated by the staff of Carnegie Museums. Says Tey Stiteler, communications manager at the Museum of Art. “Without the assistance of volunteers, projects that take a day or so would take weeks.”

Says Maritza Mosquera, assistant curator of education at The Warhol and coordinator of its Weekend Factory, “Volunteers have made it possible to keep a large vision for programs such as this one. I couldn’t do it without them.”

“The museums would collapse without volunteers,” says John Radzilowicz, director of the Buhl Planetarium at the Science Center. “They help us on so many different levels, in so many ways.”

Volunteers are always needed at Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. To volunteer or for more information, please call one of the numbers given below:

q       Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, The Andy Warhol Museum – 622-3359

q       Carnegie Science Center – 237-3321

q       Carnegie Museum of Art Docent Program – 622-3218

q       SciTech Festival (Carnegie Science Center) – 237-1821.

Dr. Werner Emerick, advisor for Planetarium at CSC

After retiring from Westinghouse in 1987, Dr Emerick was looking for interesting work and the Buhl Planetarium needs some technical assistance.  Plans were being made to expand the facility into a new building. 

A nuclear physicist by training, Dr. Emerick helped design the new Planetarium, and he continues to give volunteer support regularly.  He does the technical things that the CSC can't do easily, especially in the areas of upgrading and maintenance. "I enjoy working there---the staff is very appreciative of the help I can give them."  Sometimes all he does is a mundane thing like change a lightbulb.

One of the ambitions for the new Henry Buhl, Jr. Planetarium was to actually produce programs.  He was very instrumental in planning and implementing that.  Today CSC shows are in demand all over the world, and our planetarium has a world-wide reputation.  Only a handful of American planetaria, like the Hayden in New York City or the Adler in Chicago,  actually create and distribute original programs.  He usually volunteers once a week.

Ted Soens,  In-school program

Teacher, visits schools regularly, K through 8th grade.

Trained as a US History teacher, and worked for 30 years in Pittsburgh Public Schools, mostly in 11-12th grade. Last years as administrator.  Retired in 1989, and met a friend while visiting the art museum.  The friend said that if he really wanted to get involved he should look into the CMNH education program, and he did.

"You are somebody, in a way, after 30 years of being in the public schools.  You miss that when you retire.  You miss being able to give things back to people--which you are trained to do as a teacher.  Now, since 1989, I have enjoyed teaching again."

"My compatriots are not all school teachers, one is a Girl Scout leader--an excellent person.  The people a I work with are all excellent.  I think the program is a quality experience because of the supervisors.  My own teachers in this program were excellent, enthusiastic, hands-on people. If you came to visit me in a 2wnd or 3rd grade classroom where I was presenting Dinosaurs, I would make you part of the group. We make everyon in the group amateur paleontologists for the hour we are there.  I always get the adults to join in too, asking them along with the students if they can identify a certain dinosaur bone, for example.  We teach about the Seneca Indians in 8th grade.  I do programs on Egypt, too, in grades 6-7-9.

 "I learned about showing dinosaurs, about the Seneca Indians, all the subjects that I go out and share with the kids.

"The kids love it. Their eyes light up.  We travel to different schools around the city and the suburbs.  I pick my materials up at the loading dock at the museum and take them home to use in the presentations.  September is usually slow, as the schools are just getting started.  But things pick up in October. The teachers who show us what to do are

Sheila Solow, Discovery Room

Eight years in the Discivery room. Have moved around a bit, helping with  travleing exhibits,manning the booth. Greeting people, collecting admissions.  Never did give the tours.

"Mostly I love the children I meet in the DR.  They are so smart and nice to talk to.  One little boy wanted to know if we had a boy turtle or a girl turtle.  He read the book in the room and decided the girl turtle had orange eyes, the boy turtle had brown eyes.

"I never taught.  I was in my 40s when I went to college--Studio Arts and Art History.  I started volunteering because I knew a woman who was doing art work for the DR.  She took ill, and I painted the South American Rainforest, and also the Spices of the rainforest.  I drew the pictures of how they grow in the forest.  Is it the smell that they smell vanilla, cinnamon, pepper--it is a puzzle for them.

Not only the visitors I meet--it's also the other women I work.  We have become fast friends.  We meet for lunch, go to the Warhol and other museums together.  The first time I went to CSC with a friend I did not get home until 5:30--my husband worried about my being away so long. But I was having such a good time, I told him he wouldn't believe where I was--at the Science Center. 

Sometimes I just don't want to leave.  One time my supervisor Rhonda McJunkin sent me upstairs, where I had to meet various people.  I told her I think I found my calling: helping people find their way around the museum   I work once a week on Friday mornings.  I wish I could give them more time.  I still paint--it's a way for me to escape.







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