Helping with History

Area museums and research centers are feeling the crunch of tight economic times, too. Volunteers are needed to share our area's history with visitors so that the past may be remembered by new generations.

Would you like to volunteer at an historic property or research facility? Read on for descriptions of places that need you to help them bring the past alive. The APVA Properties

The Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA) owns several historic properties in town that are open to the public. Membership is open to everyone, and the properties often need volunteers to help in their houses.

The Mary Washington House

Our first president's mother spent her last years in a small cottage near her daughter's home of Kenmore. This site is a favorite with visitors and from its bed-sitting room to its lovely garden, the house conveys the strong, feminine spirit of Mary Ball Washington.

Myra Wiggins, manager of the Mary Washington House, says: "Our gift shop is run exclusively by volunteers and there is always a great need for help there. The profit from sales in our shop help with maintenance for our properties (Rising Sun Tavern, Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop and Mary Washington House). Ann Harry is our Gift Shop Manager. She can be reached at 504-373-4484.

"We also have a Master Gardener group that oversees the upkeep of the gardens."

Other local APVA properties that may need volunteers are The Rising Sun Tavern and the Hugh Mercer Apothecary.

Central Rappahannock Regional Library's Virginiana Room

Contact: Michele Brown, Head of Reference, Headquarters Branch

"Our Virginiana Room has a wealth of local historical information, both in print and on microfilm. Some visitors arrange special trips from out of state to use it, and it's very important that someone knowledgeable is there to assist them. Questions also come to us by phone, mail, and email-sometimes from other countries. One day you may be helping someone find information for a book. Another day, you may be finding architectural and ornamental details for an artist or a student.

"Everyone's family history is fascinating but most researchers will need a guiding hand, particularly when they are starting out and volunteers can supply that helping hand. Volunteers may also be asked to assist with special projects, such as updating files and organizing our map collection."

The Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center

Recently rennovated and expanded, the FAMCC is taking the lead in providing inroads for volunteering with its own programs and April Job Fair:
"The Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center along with the Rappahannock United Way are pleased to present the first Annual Volunteer Job Fair on April 6, 2009 between 5:30 and 8 PM. Throughout the evening, potential volunteers will have the opportunity to connect with volunteer positions in exciting organizations in the region.

The Museum, located in downtown Fredericksburg, will offer free admission during this Open-House event. The 2009 Volunteer Job Fair’s theme is “gaining experience in a competitive job market.” Non-profit agencies representing the health and human services, education, environment, history, and arts community will be on hand to discuss resume-boosting volunteer positions."

Other organizations that may need your help include:

Belmont: Gari Melchers Home and Studio
Nationally-known artist Gari Melchers (1860-1932) lived at lovely Belmont estate, on a bluff above the Rappahannock River in southern Stafford County. Their volunteers come from the ranks of two groups: the Virginia Master Naturalists and Virginia Master Gardeners, both of which are part of the Virginia Cooperative Extension Agency.

Central Rappahannock Heritage Center
"The Central Rappahannock Heritage Center, Inc. is a non-governmental regional archives dedicated to preserving for research and posterity materials documenting the lives and work of the people." They welcome volunteers who wish to assist with their archives.

Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, Inc.
HFFI needs volunteers for: General office / administrative support (Filing, data entry, answering phones, mailings, etc.) Historical and/or contemporary research (Property research, local preservation issues-related research, etc.) Archives / research library collection management (organizing, cataloging, preserving, developing, digitizing, etc.) New publication development & support (content research, administrative support, scanning, etc.)

Those who wish to join HFFI can also help them with their educational and preservation missions by serving on committees.

Kenmore and George Washington's Ferry Farm
Volunteers may work as archaeology lab assistants, office assistants, help with special events, give information to visitors, work with their Garden Guild to maintain the gardens and provide floral arrangements, or work as research and restoration assistants.

NPS volunteer demonstrating a drop spindleThe National Park Service's Volunteers in the Parks Program
The Park Service has historic properties in our area that encompass Virginia's colonial and Civil War history: George Washington's Birthplace National Monument and Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania Battlefields. Volunteers may be asked to conduct tours or participate in living history demonstrations.

SPFI: Spotsylvania Preservation Foundation
"We are concerned with the preservation of natural habitats, archaeological sites, historical landscapes and structures of historical and architectural significance."
An all-volunteer organization.

Stratford Hall: Home of the Lees of Virginia
Stratford Hall in Westmoreland Countyis starting a new volunteer program for those interested in working on special events, school programs, administrative duties, museum research, maintaining hiking trails, or working in the library.

Cover of Careers for History BuffsFor Further Reading:

Interested in a career with historical studies? These books provide ideas on how to make a living doing what you love.

Careers in Historic Preservation: Saving Districts, Buildings, and Structures Significant in American History [eBook]

Great Jobs for History Majors by Stephen Lambert and Julie DeGalan

McGraw-Hill's Careers for History Buffs & Others Who Learn from the Past by Blythe Camenson