Imperial College student Kate Smith talks about being a volunteer at the Science Museum, and explores some of the other volunteering opportunities you can find around South Kensington.
As a student at Imperial College, I'm very lucky to be surrounded by some of London's most famous scientific and cultural attractions. Within only a few minutes, I can get from my lectures to the Science Museum, the V&A, and the Natural History Museum, not to mention the beautiful Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park.
When I first started studying in the area, I spent so much of my spare time visiting the museums and taking walks through the parks. Having these incredible venues right at my fingertips was a great opportunity to expand my mind, and soak up the cultural atmosphere.
But after a while, being a visitor wasn't enough; I felt the need to get more involved in the museums I was visiting. And so, I looked into volunteering at the Science Museum – where I now take part in the volunteers program with the Robots exhibition.
Every day, volunteers at the Robots exhibition engage with visitors through object handling activities. We have a range of different objects related to robots and their history, from flying shuttles (the invention that led to the development of the automatic loom), to 3D-printed prosthetic hands. Each object has its own story to tell and volunteers spend time learning about the objects, so they can then share their knowledge with visitors. My favourite 'object' is a robot cat, which meows, purrs and moves in response to your own actions. It certainly draws a lot of attention!
Volunteering is a hugely rewarding experience. Not only do you get a behind-the-scenes view of life in the museum, you join a great team of like-minded people who have a passion for the same areas as you. The Robots volunteer team are a really friendly group of people who all have an interest in robots or robotics and we learn a lot from each other.
On top of that, you get the opportunity to engage with the wider community, sharing your knowledge, and at the same time, learning from their own experiences and understanding of science. I've learned as much from talking with visitors as I have from any book, research paper or documentary - perhaps even more!
The Science Museum is looking to recruit more volunteers to their Robots team. If you're interesting in becoming part of the volunteer cohort, you can apply for the volunteer program on their website.
There are many different opportunities to volunteer in South Kensington, and there's something for every interest. Volunteers contribute in many different ways at museums and institutions throughout South Kensington:
Volunteers help with the day-to-day visitor experience, and there are sometimes short-term roles available helping the different museum teams with their work. Find out more about volunteering at the Design Museum here.
Historic Royal Palaces look for volunteers to help with a range of activities at the palaces, including Kensington Palace. Check for vacancies here.
If you love the outdoors, you might be interested in volunteering in one of the Royal Parks. Volunteers help with guided tours, educational activities, accessibility for visitors and many other roles. Find out more about volunteering in the parks on the Royal Parks website.
The NHM volunteer program is extensive and includes a range of short to long-term roles. Volunteers work in visitor experience and educational roles throughout the museum. Check out the latest vacancies at the NHM here.
The V&A offers volunteer opportunities on information desks, tour guides and disability support roles. Some of these roles are for students, so be sure to check carefully if the role is right for you. Check for current V&A vacancies here.
Volunteers at the Science Museum help with general visitor interactions, object handling activities and educational roles. Roles may also come up for specific temporary exhibitions which can be really unique! Find out more about volunteering at the museum here.
For more information about what's happening in South Kensington, visit our Discover More section.