Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh





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The Value of Volunteering

By Kimberly M. Riel

More than 1000 volunteers donated their time and talent to Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh last year, helping the museums in countless ways. Yet, it's  the volunteers who say they benefited the most.


“Volunteering at Carnegie Science Center is the most fun I’ve ever had while working,” says education and summer camp volunteer Julia Brooks, age 16. “We have so much fun teaching the kids that no one – not even me – realizes we’re actually learning something.” Julia began volunteering back in summer 2000 to earn community service hours for school. She surpassed the hours she needed long ago, yet she continues to volunteer.


“I keep going back because I have an interest in math and science, and I love showing younger children that these subjects can be fun,” she says. “It’s also helped me tremendously with my own schoolwork and career planning. I’ve been able to apply a lot of the things I’ve learned to my own classes, and I’m now considering a major in physics or engineering when I get to college.”

To Give Is To Receive

Every day, volunteers make a difference at Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, whether they interact directly with the public by providing tours, teaching classes, and giving directions, or work behind the scenes assisting with a research project, preparing promotional mailings, and helping create exhibit materials. In many ways and in many different departments, volunteers are always hard at work helping the museums maintain and enhance their exhibitions, services, and programming. And while each volunteer has a personal reason for becoming involved, most agree on one thing: They remain committed to the museums because they believe they receive more than they give.


When Diane McDowell was laid off from her job as a hospital research assistant in 1998 she realized, “Life is too short to spend it working day in and day out for someone else. I wanted to make time for me and to explore some of my other interests.”


Diane began volunteering for Meals on Wheels and realized she enjoyed giving something back to the elderly neighbors in her community. With a growing interest in volunteerism and a long-time love of Carnegie Museums, she completed an application in the Oakland Volunteer Office. While collecting tickets for the Natural History Museum’s traveling exhibit Ancestors on Earth, Diane noticed the work being done in the museum's PaleoLab and decided to combine her research background with her interest in the Earth and its development.


“I always wondered, ‘how did everything get here?’ and all of a sudden, I had the opportunity to learn firsthand,” she says. “I’ve been working in the lab ever since, and I love it. Not only have I learned a lot about the Earth and how everything came to be where it is today, but I’ve also met a lot of wonderful people. In exchange for just a few hours of my time each week, I’ve received both an education and a whole new group of friends.”

A Tremendous Asset


Like Diane, many people volunteer at Carnegie Museums to meet new people with whom they share a common interest or to give something back to the museums they’ve known and loved for years. Some, like Julia, volunteer for the opportunity to share their enthusiasm for a particular topic with others or to explore career opportunities. Others volunteer simply to remain active and involved in their community. Whatever their reason for volunteering, they all are dedicated to doing a good job.


“Our volunteers at are an extremely devoted group of people,” says Marilyn Anderson, manager of Volunteer Services at Carnegie Science Center. “The most amazing thing to me is that our volunteers could be anywhere but they choose to spend their time here. Their enthusiasm for the jobs they do comes through, enhances our visitors’ experiences, and makes the museums much better places than they would be without them.”


At Carnegie Museum of Art, in addition to the Women's Commitee that plans and conducts fund-raising and outreach activities such as the Holiday Tree display and the Antiques Show, there are the 90 volunteers who make up the Docent Program.  Rsvch volunteer is uniquely trained to help visitors enjoy the museum. “Our volunteers take their jobs as seriously, work as hard, and are as conscientious as people who are paid,” says Marilyn Russell, curator of Education. “Without them, we would have to run a very different program because we simply don’t have the staff or the resources to provide as many tours as our docents currently do. They are a tremendous asset, and it’s remarkable that we have such a large, talented group of people who are so committed to the museum’s mission and the public it serves.”


“Being a docent and representing the Museum of Art to visitors is an awesome responsibility that we all take very seriously,” says Dr. Eugene Ginchereau, an internist and Art Museum docent. “I’ve never been part of a more dedicated, enthusiastic, hard-working group.”


Dr. Ginchereau began his docent training in 2000, and has been actively leading tours for two years. “While training to be a physician, I never had time to explore my interest in the arts, so when I saw an ad in the paper for art docents I decided that was my opportunity, and I’m very glad I made the commitment,” says Dr. Ginchereau. “The things I’ve learned through our training and the experiences I’ve had leading tours have enriched my life in many ways, including making me a better doctor. Learning why artists created the works they did, and how to engage visitors in a meaningful discussion about what they think of a particular work of art,  has made me much more aware of the whole human condition.”


Volunteers of all ages and backgrounds also turn up at The Andy Warhol Museum where they help with research, education, and administrative tasks. Student and actress Marya Kiselova, age 17, has been helping visitors create their own art at The Warhol’s Weekend Factory since summer 2002.


“Andy Warhol is my favorite artist, and when I learned that I could combine my love of Warhol’s work with my desire to give something back to the people of Pittsburgh, I was thrilled,” says Marya. “I enjoy sharing my love of Warhol with others and helping people create their own works of art, but I often think I get much more out of the experience than the visitors do. I’ve learned so much about Warhol’s methods and techniques, and why he did things the way he did. But most of all, I’ve learned about people—how to engage and communicate with them—and that’s made me a better person and a better actress.”


Crucial Contributions


People from all walks of life and all corners of the world volunteer at Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. Maria Calais Pedro recently arrived in Pittsburgh from Portugal. She and her husband came so he could study at Carnegie Mellon University. While he attends classes, Maria volunteers in the Corporate Communications office of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, where she’s building the first digital photo archive to be shared by all four museums.


“I love art, and I’ve always wanted to work in a museum,” says Maria. “By volunteering at Carnegie Museums, I get to surround myself with beautiful works of art and know that I’m doing something valuable with my time.”


"Valuable" is how Volunteer Managers Sheila Savits and Elaine London describe all of the time donated by volunteers who contribute to Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh’s success. “The broad range of skills and talents offered by our volunteers is remarkable," says Sheila. "Without their help, projects that take a day or two would take weeks or maybe never get done.”  


“Without volunteers, the museums wouldn’t be able to maintain programs like the Natural History Museum’s Discovery Room and the Museum on the Move program, or the Science Center’s Annual SciTech Festival,” explains Elaine. “Volunteers help us in so many different ways, it’s impossible to imagine functioning without them. But what’s truly amazing is that so many of our volunteers feel the same way about the museums. It’s a wonderful win-win for us all.”


Volunteer Facts and Stats

The numbers listed below are from fiscal 2002 and are for all four museums combined unless otherwise noted.


Year program began:  1974

Total active volunteers: 1,085

Total hours donated:   115,851

Museum with the most hours donated:           

Carnegie Science Center with 59,643

Average value of a volunteer’s time:   $16.05/hour*

Value of total hours donated:              $1,859,408.55

Age of youngest active volunteer:       14

Age of oldest active volunteer:            87

Average age of active volunteers:       30-something

Volunteer benefits:      Free admission to all four museums, discounts for parking, classes, food services, travel films, and gifts shop merchandise

Regularly-scheduled enrichment programs

Invitations to select previews, receptions, and special events

An annual volunteer recognition reception

Valuable work experience

Special training

Letters of recommendation


*According to Independent Sector, a national coalition of nonprofits, foundations, and corporations.


For information about volunteering at Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Natural History or The Andy Warhol Museum, call 412.622.3358. For information about volunteering at Carnegie Science Center, call 412.237.3321.    




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