April 29, 2011

Volunteer Spotlight

With Volunteer Appreciation Month coming to a close, we'd like to spotlight one of our long time volunteers, Doug, who has spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours helping out in the Burke's ethnology and education departments.

Jessica, volunteer coordinator: Hi Doug! Tell me a little bit about the volunteer work you do at the Burke.

Doug:  I have been volunteering as an education docent for the past 14 years, as well as in the Ethnology Division photographing objects for the past 10 years.

Jessica:  How did you end up volunteering at the Burke Museum? 

Doug: My father is from Canada and the family spent a lot of vacation time in Vancouver, B.C. with relatives. Through that Vancouver connection, I became fascinated by Northwest Coast formline art. Through some friends, I started collecting Northwest Coast baskets. In the Seattle area, all the good baskets are at the Burke, so in 1990 I became a member of the Burke Museum. In their newsletter I saw a notice that they were looking for new Docents. That was almost 15 years ago.

Jessica: What do you like most about volunteering at the Burke?

Doug: There are a lot of bright and intelligent people working here, and there is always something interesting going on somewhere in the building. I have become a “Museum Geek” and I love it.

Jessica: What is the funniest thing that has happened while volunteering? 

Doug: It is probably not the funniest, but the most humorously frustrating is that when you start a tour – any kind of tour – if you ask the kids what they want to see, it’s always the dinosaurs!  I started out not knowing a thing about dinosaurs. I have learned a few things, but the nine-year-olds always know more than I do!

Jessica: What would surprise people about what you do?
Doug: In spite of all my rambling-on about Northwest Coast art, I personally cannot even draw a straight line. I am artistically challenged when it comes to actually making or drawing something.

Jessica: Briefly describe your most memorable project. 

Doug: I was working in ethnology at the right time when the Steinman Collection of Contemporary Northwest Coast art objects were donated!  I got to be ‘up-close-and-personal’ with each object as part of my photography duties. It was an amazing opportunity to compare a lot of great Northwest Coast artwork.

In Education, the most rewarding times are when you are explaining something to a ten-year-old kid, and suddenly you see ‘the light go on’. The opportunity does not happen every day or every tour, but when it does, you can see the comprehension in the kid’s face.

Doug leads a discussion on the glass sculpture Killer Whale created by Preston Singletary in 2008. Doug and his wife Thelma donated Killer Whale to the Burke's permanent collection. 
The Burke has so many wonderful volunteers that we'll continue sharing their stories.  Check back in May for another interview.

Posted by: Jessica Newkirk, Volunteer Coordinator