It takes a village to run a museum. Just ask the folks who operate the venerable Crocker Art Museum, where more than 400 volunteers, docents and board members donate a collective 26,000 hours to the institution annually. Working closely with staff, they do everything from clerical tasks to leading tours and more.
In fact, when it comes to volunteering at the Crocker, no job is too odd. Last winter, a small group of quilters led by volunteer Leslie Starr came to the rescue when the timeworn, 50-foot-long velour coverings on the stairway rails in the historic section of the museum needed replacing. Facilities manager Jim Gray, unable to find an upholsterer to do the very specialized job, put a call out to volunteers.
“Working with our facilities department, the volunteers choreographed and moved the ropes to a very large indoor workstation where they laid them out on tables and performed the work,” explains Crocker spokesperson Karen Christian. “Many of our volunteers are artists themselves or have a creative turn of mind, so we love to make the most of their skills when appropriate needs arise.”
Another volunteer, Lydia Hastings, was the brains behind the museum’s Kids & Company Gallery Adventures program, which introduces young children to the permanent collection through interactive activities. “Lydia worked with our staff educators, discussing early childhood development concepts with them to create a program that has become a community favorite and a staple here at the Crocker,” says Christian.
Volunteers are even entrusted with handling art for certain fundraising events—a surprisingly involved endeavor, since moving fine art isn’t quite like helping a neighbor move a sofa. “It’s a very important task that requires special skills and training,” according to Christian.
Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine how the museum would operate without its cadre of volunteers. As Christian puts it, “They are, in many ways, the heartbeat of the Crocker community.”