A Look Back in Time: Museum Volunteers, Then and Now

Here, at The Corning Museum of Glass, volunteers are hugely important. They help us open our doors (figuratively, and sometimes literally) every day so that we can provide a world-class experience for all of our guests. Not only can you find volunteers giving tours and providing vital information about our collections, but quite often they’re also working behind the scenes, providing services to our staff that keep the whole operation running.

Museum volunteers celebrate during a volunteer appreciation event, with Jessica Trump, volunteer and internship program supervisor, and Myrna Hawbaker, volunteer program coordinator.

To celebrate National Volunteer Appreciation Week (April 19-25, 2020), we asked our volunteers about their best memory at The Corning Museum of Glass. Overwhelmingly, what we discovered is that many of our volunteers had some connection to the Museum a long time before they started volunteering.

Gail browsing the card catalog in 1977.

Take Gail Bardhan, for example.

Gail recalled, “I started working for the Museum library on January 2, 1977, when it was housed in a former Acme grocery store where the Guthrie Centerway building now stands. The director was Tom Buechner; he oversaw the staff of 22 people. I was impressed by how friendly and knowledgeable everyone was. The person whose desk was next to mine was Louise Bush, who was the bibliographer for the Journal of Glass Studies checklist. The 1972 flood continued to impact everyone’s work and concerns.” Both Gail and Louise Bush became volunteers after retirement, with Gail continuing as a Rakow Research Library volunteer and Louise serving in several different roles, including docent.”

On the other hand, some of our volunteers had first visited the Museum with family and found it left a lasting impression. Volunteer Ambassador Scott Freeman tells us his story. “All of my extended family is from the Corning, Elmira, and Bradford County, PA, area. While I grew up near Erie, PA, myself, I spent all my holidays and summers here. It’s wonderful to live here now in Corning, my pseudo hometown. We always vacationed on Keuka Lake and would tour Watkins Glen and The Corning Museum of Glass. I’m so excited to be able to be a volunteer at the Museum now. Here is a picture of me at the Museum in 1989 (I was 19!) with my College (Penn State) sweetheart and my Grandma Freeman.”

Scott with friends and family visiting the Museum in 1989.

Our diverse volunteer stories began to paint a picture of how the Museum has inspired people to see glass in a new light and how that has brought so many of our dedicated volunteers to us. Now, you may be wondering what it is like to become a volunteer here at The Corning Museum of Glass. A couple of our volunteers touched on those stories as well.

 
Volunteer ambassador Lousia.

New volunteer Luisa Lu reflected, “My first time volunteering at the Museum was at 2300 Degrees. I used to be a visitor to 2300°. I enjoyed my time at this event with my family members and friends. I like the live music and the hot glass show – it’s a good place to have fun with people. When I was a volunteer at 2300°, my view was changed. I felt like I was the hostess. I welcomed guests, I introduced them and helped them. I wanted them to feel like they were coming to a big family gathering with food, music, and live glass shows. I was so excited that all my guests found their fun hours with our family. I was so happy to be with them. I am looking forward to my next time volunteering at the Museum.”

 
Rose and her husband Clay, also a Museum volunteer

Rose Senkiw, who joined our volunteer corps at the time we were opening the new Contemporary Art + Design Galleries in 2015, also reflected on her volunteer experience. “My first memory was during orientation as a new volunteer. As we were being guided through the new Contemporary Art + Design Galleries, I was in awe! I thought how very lucky we were to be part of this great place. I still am in awe, and love being a part of it.”

We feel the same way about you, Rose!

 

Our volunteers bring joy to our visitors from around the world and they also bring daily smiles, joy, and laughter to our staff across the Museum. So, in honor of National Volunteer Appreciation Week, we salute you! We value each of your stories and we are glad that your life’s journey led you to us!

Next time you see a volunteer at The Corning Museum of Glass, remember to say hello, maybe they’ll tell you their story.

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