So long, and thanks for all the cake
25th January 2018
It is with a heavy heart that I write my final blog for Elizabeth Gaskell’s House (or Lizzie G’s as I referred to it throughout my time volunteering here – I like to think that she had a secret rapper identity, writing by day and composing her rhymes by night, William being her groupie of course!) I felt that as an active blogger for the House’s website it was only right to conclude my time here with one last post.
I have always been fascinated by old buildings, even as a little girl the idea of discovering the stories hidden behind the walls of magnificent manor houses and towering, imposing castles fascinated me. It was during my year abroad as part of my languages degree, when visiting Heidelberg castle for the third time, that I knew I wanted to find a way of working behind the scenes in a great historical location.
These locations, like Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, are right on our doorstep, ready for us to discover – and it’s not all musty old rooms and stories of stuffy Victorian scone parties! I think the re-telling of history, whether it’s in the form of a Horrible Histories cartoon, a BBC documentary, or a tour around Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, is so exciting because the people and events that came before us are what have shaped the society we live in today, and new discoveries are being made every year. It’s a surreal and thrilling experience walking down the corridors, admiring the beautiful books in the study, and sitting at the same desks where the Gaskells themselves lived and went about their business.
However, it’s when I began volunteering at the House that I realised that it’s not just the history that makes the House, but the people who are in it now that make it the incredible place that it is. The dedicated group of volunteers that are the face of Elizabeth Gaskell’s House are not only informative, but truly passionate about what they do and being a part of the volunteering family for the past 6 months has been a fantastic experience. You can find out more about volunteering at the House here: https://elizabethgaskellhouse.co.uk/get-involved/volunteer/
I have learned so much in such a short space of time, I joked when I joined the team that I wanted to be ‘trained in everything’ but that’s exactly what I’ve been able to do here. From working in the tea room and tour guiding to event set up and even administrative training (it’s not all glitz and bonnet glamour!). I got the chance to attend some exciting events, sample all the delicious Tea Room cakes and had some fun dressing up too.
Volunteers are also given the opportunity to take part in some interesting courses. I was able to complete Visit England’s Exceeding Visitor Expectations course, gained First Aid training and participated in Conservation Cleaning training which you can read about here: https://elizabethgaskellhouse.co.uk/conservation-cleaning/
I know that the broad range of valuable experience that I gained here is going be incredibly useful to me in my new position. I am moving on to complete a Heritage Leadership Traineeship in London, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, where I’ll be completing a Level 3 qualification in Cultural Heritage. It’s an exciting time moving on to my new job, but my celebrations have been bitter-sweet. I will certainly miss working with the other volunteers at the House and Lizzie G’s will always have a special place my heart.
Megan Christo, Ex-volunteer at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House (click here to find out more about volunteering at the House)