Is history your passion? Do you love digging into the facts and stories of your community’s, state’s or county’s past?
Maybe there’s a particular facet of history that has captured your fascination – art, architecture, transportation or home life, for example.
Or, could you take your passion deeper – dig into the hands-on work of preserving the past and helping others appreciate history?
In the Portland area, there are more than 30 museums and historical sites – ranging from major, world-class art and science attractions, to the under-the-radar specialty museums displaying interesting and unusual private collections. Museum exhibits include art, architecture, photography, film, rail transportation, maritime, science and industry, nature, forests, and habitat, cultural museums and far more. Several history museums throughout Portland specialize in exhibits containing artifacts and stories of the state, city, and communities.
Volunteers are the heart of most museums, large or small. Museums and historical sites offer a diverse assortment of roles to fit a volunteer’s interests, time, skills and experience. Whether you want to work with the public or in a behind-the-scenes role, there is something for you.
A great way to share your passion for history is by being a docent or speaker. As a docent – defined as anyone associated with volunteer educational services to a museum – you connect visitors to what they see, conducting tours or talking with groups.
If you are handy with and enjoy working with tools or machinery, museums can use your skills to build and take down exhibits, set up or drive machinery and equipment, or maintain interactive displays. Modelers help build miniature versions of displays. Museums often need assistant archivists who work museum collections to categorize, clean, and store artifacts. Volunteers also may help research or transcribe oral histories.
Volunteers are always needed to greet the public, work in museum stores, help with special events and tours, and perform administrative and fundraising tasks. Writers and editors, graphic artists, designers, and website designers support museum outreach, fundraising and marketing activities. They also serve on advisory and planning committees.
Museum and historical site volunteers receive tremendous personal satisfaction through discovering, preserving, and sharing history. Many museums offer volunteer benefits such as memberships, discounts in museum stores, admission to special events, and recognition through group and individual events.
To get a feel for the volunteer activities with a specific museum, start with the museum’s website. Those with volunteer programs will have a page detailing how to apply. That may require filling out a form and mailing or emailing it to the museum’s volunteer coordinator. In some cases, you will contact the coordinator by phone.
Background checks may be required.
Click here for links to and descriptive list of history places to visit and volunteer.