Volunteers are an integral part of National Museums Liverpool, and without them, important work would not be able to take place. To celebrate Volunteers Week we are meeting more volunteers as part of a bumper Volunteer Spotlight series so we can really celebrate the different contributions that our amazing volunteers make.
This month, I met with Mike who volunteers with the Archives Centre at the North Street Warehouse. Mike has a fascinating back story and holds so much knowledge; I can see why he is a vital part of the department!
Mike’s journey with National Museums Liverpool started in the 1980s as a Friend of the Merseyside Maritime Museum and following his retirement, he began volunteering with us in 2012 as a Tour Guide on the Edmund Gardner and has gone on to volunteer with the Education team and now the Archives team. Mike has been more than prepared for his volunteer roles: he has specialist knowledge acquired from his career in ship building and engineering design.
When he started as a Tour Guide on the Edmund Gardiner, Mike explained that he was terrified of public speaking and he was even more terrified after he had undergone his training! However, following the applause that he received after his first tour, he was hooked!
Mike’s current work involves cataloguing plans and drawings from the Vulcan Foundry Archive, the famous locomotive builders from Newton Le Willows; to help with the cataloguing, Mike has created his own template to identify key features. A previous project involved trying to identify photographs of ships from a series of postcards. Some of the images have the names of the ships visible, so it was down to Mike to recognise the era of the ship. To do this he uses the Lloyds Register which holds information on every ship ever built; so far out of a collection of 500 photographs, there have only been around eight that he has not been able to recognise.
Mike’s favourite part of his archival work has been cataloguing drawings from the Samuel Bond Boatyard in Rock Ferry. He was familiar with the boat yard being from the Wirral and having sailed in their boats. Mike’s work led him to discover a local designer who was responsible for a number of yachts, inspiring him to complete his own research outside of volunteering and publish a supplement for the Archives Department. For the last five years he has been working on research about the Costa Concordia cruise ship and its wrecking off the coast of Italy in 2012 and subsequent salvage. His 227 page book includes hundreds of photographs documenting the fatal voyage, salvage and deconstruction. It’s no wonder that the Edmund Gardiner volunteers call him Mick-i-pedia!
In addition to volunteering, Mike runs the North West Branch of the Amateur Yacht Research Society, which was founded in 1955 and has the aim of improving yacht performance and making the pastime safer, as well as encouraging more young people to take part. I asked Mike why he would invite others to volunteer for National Museums Liverpool and his response was extremely profound. He explained that after you retire it provides you with three things:
Charlotte from the Maritime Archives & Library, who nominated Mike added:
"The specialist knowledge that Mike and our other volunteers bring is invaluable when it comes to cataloguing specialist or technical archives, such as locomotive plans. Mike’s work has made the Vulcan Foundry plans much more easily accessible for research. We’d like to thank Mike for all the time he has dedicated to this project and to National Museums Liverpool as a whole."