The following article recently appeared in the Lighthouse Now Progress Bulletin. Thanks to Paula Levy for a great article on our Friends!
Museum friends enrich programming. Essential volunteers act as ambassadors.
Whenever there's a public event at the DesBrisay Museum, you don't have to look far to find society members scurrying around and pitching in where possible. (Chris Bedford and Greg Ritcey, long time members of the Friends, look dashing at last year's Garden Party).
Known as the Friends of the DesBrisay Museum Society, the volunteer group not only fundraises for the museum, but also offers manpower to run museum events.
"Our mandate is to offer support to the museum," said society chairman Chris Bedford. "We're fundraising. But we also do a lot of physical, hands-on. We volunteer in a lot of different ways."
The society was incorporated in 1988 as a way to help the museum and today the 92-member group continues to fulfill its mandate. Overseen by a nine-person board of directors, a group of32 volunteers provided 1,447 volunteer hours last year and an additional $4,000in funding to help pay for a summer student and copyright licencing fees. The society also supports one free admission day each year.
"That means that families can come to the museum who would not normally be able to," said DesBrisay Museum director Barb Thompson.
In the past, the society has also held larger fundraising campaigns to purchase tables and chairs as well as the museum's audio-visual equipment. One of its largest fundraising activities was the multi-purposer oom and kitchen in 1996-97. The friends raised $100,000 for the project. To raise the money, the society hosts a variety of activities. Last year it hosted its first golf tournament. Mr. Bedford said the society is hoping the tournament will turn into a major fundraiser.
An essential role of the society is to provide volunteers at public events. According to its last annual meeting, the society provided support for the annual Ada's Dessert Party, the Christmas open house and the Victorian Garden Party. They also manned the Canada Day booth, participated in the Christmas on the LaHave Parade and offered cemetery tours.
Society members can be seen working hospitality at events, telephoning volunteers, providing relief reception on Sundays, fulfilling gift shop duties, helping with museum collection cataloging, photographing artifacts, sewing, selling memberships and raffle tickets, baking for bake sales, providing cookies for the open house and making desserts for the dessert party. They also help with production of materials for new exhibits and do other odd jobs such as weeding and watering the garden.
Ms Thompson said the volunteer group is essential to the museum because it provides many of the things that government and museum-generated funding can't pay for. She said at any given time the museum has a list of wants to enhance its programming.
"We have a long, long list and the society is wonderful because they make that possible for us," said Ms Thompson. "We wouldn't be able to do it otherwise."
Another source of funding is the annual membership fee to be a friend. For the nominal fee, friends get first-hand notice of events and activities at the museum, free admission and a discount on gift shop purchases. But most society members belong to the group because they believe that the area's history should be preserved in a public museum.
"One of the main reasons people join the society is they want to see a museum in the community and they want to support it," said Ms Thompson. Mr. Bedford said society membership doesn't mean a huge time commitment and volunteering at every museum event. He said its volunteers give as little or as much time as possible.
"For a membership of [the society], there is no commitment. It's just showing support for the museum," said Mr. Bedford. "You give what time you can give freely and what you're comfortable with. The other thing is to have fun." Mr. Bedford added that one of the most important roles of the society is to be ambassadors for the museum so it continues to receive the community's support and continues to enrich the community by providing experiences that build understanding, knowledge and pride in the community's past and present way of life.