The Natural History Museum of Utah is a first-class museum. The facility has striking architecture and the setting in Salt Lake City's foothills is beautiful, with dramatic views of the Wasatch Mountains and west into the Basin and Range. The exhibits reflect up-to-date science and cultural information, and special exhibits provide frequent new perspectives for visitors to explore. NHMU has excellent collections facilities and also has scientists on staff doing active research as well as curation.
My wife and I have been volunteers in the paleontology preparation lab for over 14 years. We worked in the old Museum facility for several years, and helped with the epic works to move collections from there to the new Museum building before it opened in 2011. We value our weekly hours in the paleontology lab, and the Museum has been a wonderful place to meet interesting people. Our work has helped scientists and we've also enjoyed helping to communicate science to museum guests and the community.
NHMU has a excellent volunteer coordination staff, and the volunteer program offers a wide spectrum of opportunities. Volunteers are highly valued at NHMU, and I have been happy to serve the last couple of years on the NHMU Volunteer Board. In that role I've come to appreciate the myriad roles that volunteers play, from statewide community outreach to gallery interpretation to creature care and so much more.
When I moved to Utah it was important to me to be involved in a community organization. I happened to see the notice of the Natural History Museum of Utah about to open and looking for volunteers. I called and signed up for an interview. That was the best thing I could have done.
Because NHMU is associated with the University of Utah our training in the several areas of focus was provided by experts in their fields. For a retired person it was a perfect opportunity to become acquainted with others of like interests in my new community.
That was just the beginning. Throughout the six years of association I’ve benefited by continuing education opportunities as well as opportunities to visit other venues with volunteers and broaden my horizons; even mushrooming in local mountains.
That is just the background.
Every Monday morning I dress in my museum volunteer shirt and spend three hours in the Native Voices gallery interacting with museum guests as they wish to participate playing Native American games. Some times the groups are school children, other times they are families on vacation or homeschoolers. Some times they are retired adults and some times International visitors; games do not require English be spoken. You just do them and people catch on with the invitation, “Do you like to play games?”
One of my favorite experiences was a family of about three children, grade school to preteen. We started playing a game and having fun and the fourth sauntered up obviously skeptical, but became intrigued and joined in when invited. The mother hung back after and shared the fact that this teenage son did not want to be in the museum until the moment when he engaged in playing the game. That made my day. One more person sold on museums. We don’t sell the games in the gift shop. People are encouraged to go home and use what they have available and play the games.
Always I have felt valued at NHMU. Our volunteer supervisor continually demonstrates in word and actions to us that we are valued. The museum strives to look after our best interests as we serve. There are great perks. Not only education opportunities and camaraderie but admission tickets we can offer to others, museum store and cafe discounts as well as the opportunity to give back to a great community.
The NHMU is a world class museum in a beautiful setting of foothills of the Wasatch Mountains. I love the paleontology department--Utah is really one of the dinosaur centers of the world. I've volunteered for 7 years in paleontology, and more recently in archeology and as a highlights tour guide. Everything I've done in the museum has been a learning/growing experience for me, made more delightful by the wonderful volunteers and staff! Don't miss it!