From volunteering to a career

 9 November 2011

Rosanna Daubney, assistant project conservator at the Museum of Childhood, Sudbury Hall, explains how volunteering for the National Trust helped her get her dream job.

The National Trust run the Museum of Childhood, Sudbury Hall.
The National Trust run the Museum of Childhood, Sudbury Hall.

"I’ve always loved history. I used to live on a farm, and my Dad collected antiques. I grew up surrounded by the past.

"I knew by the time I left school that conservation was the area in which I wanted to work. I wanted to learn more about how to preserve the past; how to save our heritage for future generations.

Getting experience for conservation

"I required a degree which would provide a good grounding in the practicalities as well as the academic side of the subject, so I decided to study conservation and restoration at Lincoln University.

"I get to go behind the closed doors. I’m preserving such wonderful collections for the future."

"My course taught me key practical conservation and restoration skills, however whilst I was at university, I decided I wanted more hands-on experience to back up my studies.

"I used to enjoy visiting Belton House as a child (many happy memories of playing in their adventure playground!), so I applied to work there as a volunteer.

"In my interview, I told them what course I was doing, and explained the areas in which I wanted to develop my expertise, so they could tailor my placement towards conservation cleaning and collection management."

Starting as a heritage volunteer

"On my first day at Belton House, I wondered where all the staff where – there didn’t seem to be anybody around!

"That’s when I realised how vital volunteers are to organisations like the National Trust. At Belton House, for example, there is a house and collections manager and three housekeepers. The rest of the people working there – over 100 plus: the room stewards, the people working in the coffee shop, people running education projects – are all volunteers.

"I loved working at Belton House, and ended up basing my dissertation on the work I did there. I sorted out the textile store in the attic, cataloguing and repacking the collection from bell-pulls to cushion covers. The work I did was part of a wider project; the whole collection at Belton House will eventually go on-line.

From volunteering to a job in conservation

"I’d been working at Belton House for two years before the job of assistant project conservator at Sudbury Hall Museum of Childhood came up. Although I found out about the job from the staff at Belton, I had been keeping a close eye on the National Trust jobs bulletin just in case!

"I’ve always loved history. My Dad collected antiques, I grew up surrounded by the past."

"I like the fact that I get to go behind the closed doors and feel like I’m enhancing the history of the properties by preserving such wonderful collections for the future.

"Many of the antique objects I work with on a daily basis are very delicate and irreplaceable – it’s essential I know how to handle them.

"At my interview, they laid a table out with antique toys. I had to choose two and explain what I’d do to get them ready for displaying. I had to demonstrate that I knew how to treat and condition report the toys, and that I knew how to ensure they wouldn’t degrade further upon being exposed to light, humidity and temperature fluctuations.

"Once my project at the museum finishes, I will continue to work at Sudbury Hall as a House Steward. I will be responsible for the care of the house and its collections, and be working more closely with volunteers.

"I really enjoy working for The National Trust, and feel very privileged to work in such beautiful surroundings everyday. I like the fact that I get to go behind the closed doors and feel like I’m enhancing the history of the properties by preserving such wonderful collections for the future."


Stay updated

Sign up for our weekly careers newsletter

View our privacy policy.

Related jobs & apprenticeships

Related events & opportunities