BA History of Art with Museum Studies
Placement: Room Steward
Organisation: Harewood House
Ideal career: Archaeology of Buildings
Shannon Cross is a mature student who is currently in her 2nd year studying History of Art with Museum Studies. Shannon has always loved to volunteer and did so at Harewood House prior to starting University. It was this experience that inspired Shannon’s degree choice here at Leeds. Shannon has now gained employment with the team as a Visitor’s Assistant and continues her passion for volunteering on the days she isn’t working.
Bringing history to life for the whole community.
I've always volunteered as I love to learn and meet new people. Prior to volunteering with Harewood House I volunteered at Oakwell Hall and even at a dog kennels! When volunteering at Oakwell Hall I had the opportunity to get involved in a range of Museum activities; from 16th century craft sessions with children and families, to helping organise ghost walks, tea stalls and even dressing up as a live actor!
I decided to apply to be a volunteer Room Steward at Harewood as I wanted to expand my knowledge of country houses and Harewood has such a great reputation. My duties on a shift can be very varied; from stewarding modern contemporary exhibitions, to explaining the history of a Turner painting and describing secret doors and hiding places to young children. As a younger Room Steward I find that I can engage more with the younger audience and find ways to tailor historic information to suit their needs. Helping children to find hidden symbols, telling them about royal visits and princesses ifun and really rewarding when you see a child get excited about the house in that way.
All of these experiences, plus my previous volunteering, made me think about teaching as a future career; however my time at Harewood made me realise that History was my calling. My volunteering has inspired me to apply for a MA next year in Archaeology of Buildings as I would like to pursue a career in this field. Being able to network with staff and volunteers has led to me to so many different places and I now am a member of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings as well. I spend a lot of free time visiting old buildings throughout Yorkshire and it's a great way to increase my knowledge of the sector, network with others and it's great fun too.
Last summer I was also made a Visitor Services Assistant at Harewood, a paid role that I absolutely love. I can say with confidence that I wouldn't have got the job if I hadn't volunteered and gained all the necessary skills and experience. I love spending time at Harewood so much that I regularly come in on my days off! I know it will be worth it in the end as this is the field which I want to pursue my career in and I hope employers will see the motivation I have had to go out there and gain as much experience as possible.
I've also had the opportunity to get involved with lots of different projects such as TV filmings, assisting VIPs as well as curator and artists' launches. I've also had the chance to go to the Great Yorkshire Show and represent the house at Welcome to Yorkshire events too. The brilliant thing about volunteering at Harewood is that they don't limit you to your role. I've had the chance to learn about every department from house management to the education team. It's so much fun and I would say to anyone interested if you're going to do it, now is the time.