A rose by any other name would still be one of the Smithsonian’s most valued volunteers

Michael Rubin introduces us to Rose Dunn, who brings her experience as an educator to her long career as a Smithsonian volunteer.

Dunn at the information desk at the Hirshhorn

Rose Dunn has been a Smithsonian volunteer since 1983. (Photo by Michael Rubin)

For long-time Smithsonian volunteer Rose Dunn, it was an ad in the Washington Post in 1983 that launched her Smithsonian volunteer career.

At first, she volunteered once a week at the Castle in the Public Inquiry Mail program (PIM). Program participants receive and respond to inquiries that the public sends the Smithsonian on subjects ranging from visit planning to just about anything under the sun (the program continues to this day, although now we see mostly email and only occasional postal mail inquiries). For Rose, this was so satisfying that she also trained to work at the information desk, greeting visitors in person at the Castle. In the late 1980’s Rose took on the added challenge of becoming a floater volunteers for the Visitor Information and Resource Center (now the Office of Visitor Services.)  These very dedicated individuals train at multiple information desks around the Smithsonian and work wherever they are most needed.

After retiring as a teacher for the Montgomery County Public Schools in 2001, Rose added the Accessibility Office (now Smithsonian Access) to her growing list of volunteer commitments. In the early years she assisted with recording Smithsonian publications, and duplicating and mailing recordings to Smithsonian enthusiasts who are either blind or have low vision. Rose now assists in other visitor access endeavors such as the Morning at the Museum Program, which gives young children who are not neurotypical a chance to visit Smithsonian museums with their families before they open to the public in the morning.

Rose also serves as a Spotlight Docent at the American History Museum and has recently completed training in the See Me Program, which caters to visitors with dementia.

All that training pays off! One of Rose’s most memorable experiences was successfully calming down a visitor at the American History museum information desk who was very distraught over the closing of the once very popular M*A*S*H exhibition. She simply fell back on her Special Education and customer service training and quickly turned a challenging situation into a success story but helping the visitor discover all of the wondrous things that are the Smithsonian. Thanks Rose!

Michael Rubin is the training coordinator for the Office of Visitor Services. 

Posted: 11 July 2019
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