Whether in the Library or the Lab, Museum Volunteers Are a Vital Ingredient

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More than 1,000 volunteers keep the Museum—and its mission—moving forward, day in and day out.

 

Library Eleanor Schwartz sits at her desk.

Eleanor Schwartz, a 30-year-volunteer, has unearthed historic correspondence in the Museum’s Research Library.

© AMNH/R. Mickens


Over 30 years as a volunteer, Eleanor Schwartz has done many projects for the Museum’s Research Library. She has indexed boxes of field notes from past expeditions and reviewed historic letters, uncovering some gems along the way. (A letter from paleontologist Roy Chapman Andrews to Gold Medal about how its flour was used to make celebratory pancakes in the field resulted in a generous complimentary supply!) 

Over the past year alone, Museum volunteers contributed more than 100,000 hours in a variety of roles, both visitor-facing and behind the scenes.

“The Museum’s volunteers are among the most dedicated and committed anywhere,” said President Ellen V. Futter. “Through their passion, knowledge, time, and generosity, these important members of the Museum community assist our scientists, educators, and staff in their work, and help our millions of visitors to be better informed and inspired by the Museum.”

 

Museum volunteer Anthony Komotar speaks to a group of visitors about the surrounding Museum exhibits.

Anthony Komotar leads a tour in Spanish in the Museum’s Hall of Biodiversity.

© AMNH/D. Finnin


There are teaching volunteers who work with visiting New York City school students, and others who staff information desks, serve as volunteer educators in various halls, or lead tours in different languages. Every Friday afternoon, Anthony Komotar, leads a tour of the Museum for Spanish-speakers. “What I enjoy most,” says Komotar, “is continuing to learn, and sharing that knowledge with others.” 

 

Museum volunteer Vickie Costa stands in the front of the Apatosaurus mount.

Museum tour guide Vickie Costa has been a volunteer since 1999.

© AMNH/R. Mickens


Tours for children on the autistic spectrum, for visitors who are blind or partially sighted, and for the deaf and hard of hearing are also staffed largely by specially trained volunteers. Still others work directly with Museum scientists, helping to carry out cutting-edge research in labs or to care for world-class collections. 

Arnold Fleisher, a retired doctor of veterinary medicine and volunteer for nearly 20 years, spends his days peering at protists through a microscope in the lab of Eunsoo Kim, associate curator in the Division of Invertebrate Zoology, and had previously worked on the early development of fruit flies with Curator Rob DeSalle.

“I promised myself if I ever got the opportunity—I don’t say retirement, I say I’m onto my next career—I knew I had to do something to give back,” he says.

 

A version of this story appears in the fall issue of Rotunda, the Member magazine.

 

 

 

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