Kate Mairs, Ulster Museum

Some of our volunteers have told us about their experiences with National Museums NI. Find out what they've learnt and what they enjoy most about volunteering with us.

Kate-Mairs-UM-Volunteer-175x250Tell us about yourself in no more than 50 words

I’m a linguistic researcher with Queen’s University, Belfast and Newcastle University. I like to ask lots of questions and enjoy digging about to find the answers. Every time I visit Ulster Museum I revisit Sir John Lavery’s painting “Daylight Raid from My Studio Window” – I can’t explain why, but I love it.

What volunteering are you involved in with National Museums NI?

At the minute I’m transcribing letters that were sent to Bredin Delap from family and friends during WW1. Mostly it’s a straightforward transcription of the letters, but sometimes I do a little bit of research to confirm locations or people mentioned. I love that I’m part of something that brings history to life.

How did you hear about the role and why did you apply?

I have been visiting the Ulster Museum since I was a child (initially because my grandfather worked there) and it’s always been a magical place for me. When I saw the social media post advertising volunteer opportunities I couldn’t help myself! I wanted to do something useful with some spare time and this felt like a good fit.

Have you learnt anything new about National Museums NI that you didn’t know before?

Having chatted with NMNI staff I’ve come to realise that there’s a huge amount of thought and effort which goes into curating an exhibition – from making sure that cabinets are temperature controlled to the descriptions which explain the importance of each item, all to create a story.

Have you learnt anything new about yourself through volunteering with us?

Up until now I wouldn’t have said that I was massively interested in history, but handling and transcribing letters written by real-life people has made me more curious about how people’s lives and thoughts were shaped by the time in which they lived. You could say that I’ve discovered that I’m intrigued by the stories behind the artefacts that we see on display.

Tell us the best 3 things about volunteering with National Museums NI?

Firstly, I feel like I’m a small part of something important. Secondly, I’m part of a team and I love it – this is a big thing for me, because I tend to work on my own. Thirdly, everyone I’ve met has been massively welcoming and friendly – there’s always a bit of chat and craic.