Curious About Volunteering?

Hula Hoop!
Juliana Vandegrift

Ever been curious about volunteering for a heritage project? We interviewed Josie Close to find out about her role as a volunteer for ‘Resorting to the Coast’…

Q. Why did you become a volunteer?

I am already the curator of the Walton Maritime Museum that is operated and managed by members of the Frinton and Walton Heritage Trust and we are all volunteers! So I am already attuned to volunteering. I find it immensely rewarding personally and, as I am a relative newcomer to Walton, enriching my own local knowledge. Particularly, I am keen to make more widely known Walton’s long and fascinating heritage going back to its geological history – 23 million years ago – but also its 19th century expansion as a consciously planned ‘resort’ by entrepreneurs of that era.  Being part of Resorting to the Coast aka Tendring Coastal Heritage (TCH) makes it easier to link to others keen to highlight our heritage. Together we can work on that common interest and generate new events and possibly jobs too.

Q. What do you find the most rewarding about volunteering?

I have met very modest but often very interesting local residents who have valued, maintained and promoted the local heritage in diverse ways.

Q. What does your role entail?

In my role for the TCH I have been interviewing residents to record their memories – often childhood memories.  These are some of the most vivid records because the experiences were fresh. Those oral records will be held by the Essex Record Office and held long-term as a record of our history. When I have completed my ‘stories’ I aim to use the information, plus researched images, to compile an article that can be uploaded to the TCH website for the general public’s access. if volunteers from all the five participating towns contribute then we will have a more comprehensive social history of the resorts.

Q. What’s your favourite part of volunteering?

I enjoy the process of linking to other volunteers but also in talking to people not yet involved. Enthusiasm can be infectious and people respond very positively to interest in their community. It is surprising how frequently people feel unable to impact on the current changes to their locality, yet care very deeply that the history and heritage is protected and conserved. Maintaining a balance between the past and the future is critical if our historic resorts are not to be swamped but their assets identified and highlighted for ongoing appreciation – and thus conservation. Raising awareness also encourages pride in the heritage and that makes our communities more resilient.

Q. What useful skills have you developed since volunteering?

Well, modern recorders are much more sophisticated than my previous experience and I am pleased to have learned relevant techniques. I hope that I have also developed better interviewing skills with appropriate questions that prompt my subjects to expand on their reminiscences. I have also received guidance on website uploading. Training on both oral interview techniques and the website uploads have been made available through Essex County Council’s support for the project.

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