A BIG thanks to all our Volunteers

Friday, June 26, 2015
Restoration is just one of the ways our volunteers help

This week (June 21 to 27) represents National Volunteer Week (NVW) in New Zealand. It is a fantastic chance to celebrate the invaluable knowledge, skill and time contributions given by Aotearoa’s past and present volunteers.


The Maritime Museum is no exception, with around 150 active volunteers assisting in a wide variety of day-to-day activities, from hosting guests from all over the world through to crewing and maintaining our heritage vessels. We often receive positive comments and feedback from our guests both when they visit, and online about how the volunteers made their trip so memorable.

We recognise how important it is to celebrate volunteerism and the place it has in keeping our communities strong and healthy. We’d like to thank all our volunteers for their collective hard work. We absolutely couldn’t do it without them.

To mark National Volunteer Week, Barry Parsons, one of our longest serving volunteers who has been helping the Museum for over 25 years, tells us about his experiences at the Museum:


Barry leading a tour of the exhibitions, including the Bounty Anchor.

“My involvement with the Maritime Museum dates back to my time as the first ‘tea-boy’ in the late 1980s.  The first Director of the projected museum was Gordon Stevenson who, with the help of university students, was working in a room in the Fergusson Container Terminal, just across from my office.  I was more familiar with the tea-making facilities as well as being inquisitive.  My first official connection was in 1994 when the curator sought my help in identifying an item from the NZ Shipping Company's Rangitiki (I was then, and remain, a committee member of the NZSCo. Association).   A few years later I was assisting the registrar in discussions about acquiring for the museum a model of the Columbus New Zealand, the first container ship to work in New Zealand ports.  Unfortunately the museum was unable to accept such a large object at that time (or since).

The idea of volunteering at the Maritime Museum grew from conversations with a friend and one of the original guides, Bob Tillett.  I applied very soon after I retired in mid-2002 and that September, my first involvement as a volunteer was with the removal of  items from off-site storage in  Riverhead to the Navy Base at Ngataringa Bay.  During my first few weeks I accompanied different guides around the galleries to “learn the ropes” and conducted my first tours in November 2002.

The following year I became involved with the pre-booked tours for guests off cruise ships.  I was asked by volunteer Mike Montague to organise the guides for these tours on a temporary basis while he was unwell.  Unfortunately Mike's health failed further and I continued with this commitment.  As the popularity of these cruise ship tours has increased, it is now a shared responsibility.

I have developed an interest in European, and more particularly Polynesian, migration and navigation during my years as a guide but my lifelong interest remains the merchant ships of the Twentieth Century as represented by the exhibits in the “Oceans Apart” gallery.

As a guide I aim to arouse the interest of the visitors in what lies behind the basic ideas of which they are already aware.  Most of our visitors are aware the Maori came from somewhere in the islands.  Most know the British were the early colonial power following on from Captain Cook's exploration.  Most also are aware of New Zealand's produce on the world's markets and have some knowledge of this country's involvement in the America's Cup and yachting in general.   I find the majority show interest when I try to sketch in the basic facts behind these generalisations.   Brief anecdotes, especially with a personal connection, increase the level of interest whereas statistics and too many dates have the opposite effect.

As the guides are the representatives of the museum, it is vital that they should make every effort to engage the visitors' interest and achieve a positive reaction wherever possible.  I firmly believe that a tour should not only educate but, perhaps even more importantly, should entertain the visitor in such a way as to leave a lasting memory of an enjoyable experience.  Hopefully they will have enriched their own knowledge and willingly share their impressions with others and thereby generate more visitors to the museum.”

To learn more about becoming a Maritime Museum volunteer, click here .

For more information about National Volunteer Week, visit www.volunteeringnz.org.nz/national-volunteer-week