Volunteer View: Florence’s Birthday

Hi everyone, it’s Ross Horsley, the museum’s Volunteering and Access Officer, here. Last month, I brought you a Volunteer View with a focus on all things ocular, entitled Something in Your Eye. When I heard what one of our volunteers had been up to recently, I was very tempted to call this piece ‘Something in Your Teeth’! I’ll explain why below. But first, did you mark International Nurses Day? Two of our volunteers certainly did… On 12th May, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth, Jane and Ann headed over to the Gledhow Wing of St James’s Hospital, where NHS staff were offering their nurses free pampering sessions and refreshments as part of the celebrations. Our volunteers entertained them with a selection of handling objects relating to nursing history – from a midwife’s cap and cuffs to a sputum mug that somehow managed to steal the show!

Here’s Rachel from our Learning team, dressed as Florence herself for the event, alongside Amelia from our Curatorial team, and Jane and Ann:

Thanks to both of our lovely volunteers for helping make the day feel so special. While they were out and about, two other volunteers have been behind the scenes of the museum, carrying out an audit of objects not currently on display. Sue and Roisin joined Natascha, our Collections Access Assistant, to itemise a roomful of carefully boxed apothecary items, ranging from pharmacy show bottles to delftware drug jars. Due to their ongoing organization work, each and every container will soon be fully labelled, with new updates and descriptions appearing on the online database every week.

Here’s volunteer Sue (left) in the apothecary store, working with Natascha to ensure each object has its own identification number.

It’s important we keep objects like these clean and tidy, but volunteer Sam was doing quite the opposite with some of our other items recently… which relates to the teeth I was telling you about earlier!

‘Say Ahhh’ is one of our regular workshops aimed at school children, and teaches the importance of oral hygiene. As part of the session, participants get two minutes to clean an oversized set of dentures, an activity that demonstrates just how much care and consideration a daily brush requires. But how do our giant gnashes get dirty in the first place?

Well, at the risk of revealing one of the Learning team’s trade secrets, it was up to Sam and session leader Rachel to cram every cranny with ‘crumbs’ and ‘plaque’ (okay, it’s actually plasticine) before the children arrived. And, because the session often runs three times back-to-back, someone had to keep mucking up the teeth again after every clean. So, thanks to our volunteer for taking on the role of reverse Tooth Fairy and giving our little dentists something to work on.

Above is a picture of Sam (right) getting stuck in, while Rachel looks on from the left. I hope she didn’t bite off more than she could chew!

Thanks to all of our brilliant volunteers for the wide range of things they help us with at the museum, and I’ll see you next time.