Friday, July 19, 2024

Volunteers at Colonial Williamsburg Help the Foundation’s Mission — Both in the Public and Behind the Scenes

Volunteers contribute their time to Colonial Williamsburg both in public and behind the scenes. (Courtesy of Wayne Reynolds, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)

WILLIAMSBURG — In 2021 alone, nearly 400 volunteers contributed over 30,000 hours at Colonial Williamsburg (CW).

From out in the public greeting visitors, to working behind the scenes, volunteers at CW help support the Foundation’s mission “that the future may learn from the past” every day.

“We have many donors who donate financially, but a lot of folks want to give something else, something different or more,” Jan Clapp Bomar, volunteer program manager at CW, said.

There are currently 850 volunteers participating in a number of areas throughout the Foundation, including in Archaeology, Coach and Livestock, the Art Museums of CW, Collections and the Historic Area.

“There are lots of different opportunities,” Clapp Bomar said. “Whether you want to work with visitors, or you’re not as outgoing and you want to work behind the scenes, we try to find a position for everyone.” 

While CW’s volunteers include college students, the majority are retirees, like husband and wife volunteers Roger and Ann Hall.

Ann works as a greeter, or Ambassador, for the Art Museums, while Roger volunteers in Conservation.

Among the hundreds of volunteers in CW are Wayne Reynolds and Jerry McCoy, Media Collections volunteers who together have created over 12,000 digitally born images documenting CW since 2017. (Courtesy of Jerry McCoy, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)

Ann, who gives museum tours, enjoys interacting with the guests, as well as learning something new herself.

“I enjoy learning about the objects myself first,” she said. “You need to know something interesting about the object that will interest the guest, such as the story behind the object, what family owned it. Children ask wonderful questions and are interested, and that’s a pleasure to see.”

Roger, who volunteers in furniture conservation, said that volunteers are exposed to interesting people and objects.

“We get so much out of it and we learn so much,” he said. “We do get enjoyment out of bringing people along and having them be as excited about the furniture or architecture as we are.”

While Ann and Roger volunteer one to two days a week, they also have the ability to attend trainings and programming in CW. Volunteers are typically asked to contribute at least one four-hour shift per week, and around 120 hours per year, though volunteer positions have differing hour requirements based on department needs.

“Since Williamsburg is a retirement community, it gives those of us who are retired a wonderful opportunity to continue learning and having something important to do every day,” Ann said. “It’s a good community to draw volunteers from.”

Clapp Bomar said that most of the volunteer positions are not in costume, but there are many that are out in the public.

CW’s volunteer program also includes college students and interns. The Foundation is also looking to relaunch its junior interpreter program this summer after it has been on hiatus for the past two years.

“We are trying to incorporate kids to get them interested at that high school level and then perhaps they would be interested in a career at CW as well,” Clapp Bomar said.

She also added that the Foundation plans to expand opportunities in the fall. Prior to COVID-19, volunteers typically accumulated 50,000 hours per year.

Currently, the Foundation is in need of volunteers in the Costume Design Center for costume repair and maintenance, and the Paint Shop for painting historic area fences.

CW is also recruiting a new class of Ambassadors for the Art Museums of CW in May to begin training in June.

Those interested in volunteering for CW can visit here, and click “Foundation Jobs.”

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