Enrichment Replay: Wrapping up 2019

Smithsonian volunteers may not be paid, but there are other compensations, such as the opportunity to go on special tours, get insider insights on exhibitions and—cookies!

Alexis Miller shares the highlights of this 2019’s volunteer enrichment activities, including—did we mention?—lots of cookies.

I began working with the Office of Visitor Services at the end of the summer organizing outings, meetings, and lectures for volunteers at the Smithsonian. My first season coordinating these enrichment opportunities did not disappoint! With events designed to appeal to a wide array of interests, we’ve stayed busy while closing out 2019.

October featured three trips to see Woven Exteriors at the George Washington University Textile Museum, as well as our Annual Castle Volunteer Meeting. Our trips to the Textile Museum were well-received by the attendees and included some fun hands-on time in their learning center, where we got to practice weaving. The Annual Meeting for OVS volunteers boasted a restaurant-style team trivia game complete with Smithsonian-themed questions. Our OVS staff worked together to create the game’s questions, but as hard as we tried, even our most obscure trivia facts failed to stump our incredibly knowledgeable volunteers. Fueled by tea sandwiches and teamwork, the trivia team named Macie’s won first place with an impressive 37 out of 40 answers correct!

Volunteers at tables looking toward unseen speaker

Volunteers are intent on playing the OVS trivia game at the Annual Castle Volunteer Meeting. (Photo by Jeremy Norwood, Norwood Photography)

November highlights included four visits to the recently re-opened Anacostia Community Museum, where we learned about neighborhood history and activism in Washington, D.C. from the exhibition A Right to the City. We were also fortunate enough see ACM’s newly renovated spaces and to discuss the museum’s changes with each of our tour guides.

The year’s event calendar concluded in December with five tours of Deep Time at the National Museum of Natural History, along with our Cookie Exchange at the Castle. The NMNH tours, led by members of the exhibitions teams, exposed the behind-the-scenes work that created the spectacular new fossil hall.

Cookies and candy on long table

Volunteers and staff enjoy sweets at our Cookie Exchange at the Castle. (Photo by Alexis Miller)

Our Cookie Exchange proved to be a sweet way to end the year! With more that 30 types of cookies on offer, we ate ourselves silly, voted on our favorite treats, and presented our Cookie-of-the-Year awards to the top three bakers. The afternoon also included an informative talk about the history of holiday celebrations in the 18th and 19th centuries, delivered by guest speaker Evan Phifer, History and Education Associate at the Society of the Cincinnati. Do you know what’s in Martha Washington’s Great Cake recipe? We do!

Volunteers listen to presentation

Guest Speaker Evan Phifer discussed holiday celebrations and traditions of the past at our Cookie Exchange at the Castle. (Photo by Alexis Miller)

The new year will bring more exciting chances to experience the Smithsonian and the city along with fellow volunteers. This winter, we’ll head to a variety of places, including  the National Museum of African Art and Ford’s Theatre. Calendars and information about registration will be emailed to volunteers. Keep an eye on your inbox for more information.

This winter will also bring OVS’ first virtual enrichment opportunity. Offered exclusively online, virtual opportunities will allow you to join us for the tour wherever you are! For our inaugural event, we’ll virtually explore the pathology lab at the National Zoological Park. Details about how to access this event will be coming soon, so stay tuned!

Alexis Miller began working as the Volunteer Recruitment and Retention Assistant with the Office of Visitor Services in summer 2019. Prior to her time with the Smithsonian, she managed educational programming at Tudor Place Historic House and Garden and worked as part of the administration team at the White House Historical Association. Alexis is also an avid volunteer herself, spending her weekends caring for animals at two local non-profits.


Posted: 6 January 2020
About the Author:

The Torch relies on contributions from the entire Smithsonian community.