Meet our volunteers… Olivia and Kristiāna

It’s Volunteers’ Week in the UK this week and we wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate our fantastic Digitisation Volunteers. Every day this week we will be sharing their stories and thoughts in our Meet our volunteers series – we hope you enjoy meeting them!

Olivia and Kristiāna

Why I volunteer…

Olivia: I am looking to gain the experience this project has to offer, and I am extremely passionate about digitising and making this collection available for the general public.

Kristiāna: To do something special with my time and to spend it while volunteering for the Courtauld, or more specifically for the Conway Library. I find it quite special to be part of this project.

It’s a pure enjoyment to contribute my time. Learning more about the methods within archives has inspired me to look into an MA. I hope to work full time in archives one day – it would be quite special for me.

What I enjoy most about volunteering…

Olivia: The setting and the pictures – but I really enjoy the process as well. Also, the flexibility is amazing! Most volunteering projects require a set day of the week and a minimum of hours, while this one is super relaxed and convenient.

Kristiāna: I would say that I enjoy everything about volunteering, from the variety of tasks we can choose from to the conversations with other volunteers. But I particularly enjoy the atmosphere and the close observation of the photographs. I find it intriguing and mysterious at the same time and seeing that other people are interested in the processes and the stories of the photographs within the archives makes the whole shared experience quite special.

One of Kristiāna’s favourite images in Capture One.

A favourite photo or moment?

Olivia: I don’t have one yet! But being Italian, I had a lovely time seeing so many images from Italy, a few boxes have been almost emotional to look at, and I really hope I’ll encounter one with pictures from Florence when the Courtauld opens again – I’ve lived there for some years and miss it greatly.

Kristiāna: I don’t have a particular favourite photograph but I enjoy seeing different travel photographs especially after my own travels to Italy. It was very interesting to see photographs of the places that I visited that were taken years back, and to notice the differences in the atmosphere and people within them.

What do you do when not volunteering?

Olivia: I’m working as a visitor assistant at the British Museum and as a tour guide over the tourist seasons, but I’m also volunteering at the Royal Society of Sculptors. During this pandemic, I started working on a PhD proposal. I want to progress in experience and keep working in museums and galleries, so volunteering at the Courtauld is very related to what I do and it’s giving me an amazing experience!

Kristiāna: Unfortunately I lost my job due to the coronavirus in April, I used to work as a Creative Team Assistant for an Icelandic artist. But since then I have been helping my partner with setting up his business. I am quite crazy when it comes to details and organisation, therefore I have found the tasks at the Conway Library very related to my personality. Volunteering here really trains your attention to detail and organisation skills.

What would you say to someone who wasn’t sure whether volunteering is for them?

Olivia: Just try once – the place and the people you meet are lovely, and it’s so convenient and easy to fit around any schedule, that you’ll keep coming for sure.

Kristiāna: I would say that they should try before deciding it isn’t for them. There are a variety of tasks that we can choose from, but you can develop your favourite and if you don’t like others you can stick to that one. I didn’t have any particular expectations when I started but I knew it would be incredibly interesting and that I should take everything as it comes.

 This experience has been an eye-opener for me as I have decided that I want to do a postgraduate in archives and records management (hopefully in the near future) and to develop this as my profession. Being a part of the project has not only helped me to realise my future career goals but it has also been feeding my curiosity. 

Volunteering during lockdown

Olivia: I’ll admit I had a lot of ideas and wanted to get much more involved in so many things, including volunteering, when the pandemic started, and then I slowly started to feel the pressure of the situation and ended up doing way less than what I originally planned (as a lot of people, I guess). However, the team came up with lots of little projects, challenges and fun ideas for volunteering from home, which was lovely! I tried the “pass the pencil” challenge which was a really fun and easy way to break the pandemic routine, and I look forward to trying out the other tasks.

Kristiāna: I haven’t been volunteering at home that much due to personal and family reasons, but I am willing to find more time to focus on the tasks as I really enjoy being part of the project that is particularly photography related. I appreciate the opportunity to do the volunteering at home, it can shift your mind from this rather weird time in our lives now.