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Volunteers Week spotlight – Corrina from Ethnology

6 June 2019 by Rachel O'Malley

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.

Alex (L) and Corrina (R)

Life has a habit of going full circle and that is certainly the case with Corrina: a volunteer with the Ethnology team. When she returned to the UK having taught English in Japan for fourteen years, Corrina revisited what she had originally had an interest in before her move, and looked towards the Walker Art Gallery, which she studied as part of her dissertation. This prompted her to make enquires into volunteering for National Museums Liverpool.

Initially Corrina had been interested in archive work  and she also wanted her volunteer role to link back to Japan: assisting the Ethnology department research and record the Japan collection in the museum collections store seemed perfect. The role has seen Corrina archiving ukiyo-e, Japanese woodblock prints on MIMSY which includes photographing the prints, researching their background and using her knowledge of Japanese language to decipher titles, signatures, and inscriptions. Her latest project has been working with preparatory sketches and documenting them for the upcoming exhibition drawing on Nature: Taki Katei’s Japan at the World Museum. For Corrina, exploring the collections is one of the most interesting parts about working at the collections store.

In addition to her role at the collections store, Corrina has supported the Education team at World Museum, assisting with craft workshops and visual performances that ran alongside the China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors exhibition last year. She has also been regularly involved in workshops on world cultures for visiting school groups.

As with a lot of the volunteers who I speak to, choosing a favourite memory from volunteering is hard to narrow down, but Corrina’s first ever volunteer role for National Museums Liverpool still stands out in her mind: she assisted with the installation of ukiyo-e for the Edo Pop exhibition at the Lady Lever Art Gallery in 2017, which she described as “just like walking back into Edo-period Japan”. Her happiest memories, however, have been seeing her documented ukiyo-e up on the World Museum website as part of the online Japan collection, a project completed always being very satisfying. Likewise, being shown the advertising pamphlet for the Taki Katei exhibition was equally pleasing, knowing she had been part of enabling the public to see what is in the museum store is very rewarding. Her supervisor Alex says she has been an integral part of this process.

In addition to volunteering with National Museums Liverpool, Corrina is studying for an MA in History of Art and Archaeology of East Asia at SOAS, University of London. On top of this, she is also the Chair for the North West branch of JETAA – Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme Alumni Association. In this role Corrina helps to organise events for people once they have returned from Japan so they can remain connected to Japanese culture. Her latest event was a Japanese Afternoon Tea, with full kimono dress and the most beautiful cakes! And if her time wasn’t taken up with enough, she is also a gymnastics coach and can still do a backflip!

When asked why she enjoys volunteering for National Museums Liverpool, Corrina explained that it is mutually beneficial for both the museum and the volunteer, providing the opportunity for all to expand their knowledge. The environment at the museum is both inspiring and full of smiles and a pleasure to be a part of.

Corrina is supervised by Emma and Alex, Curators of Ethnology; Alex is keen to involve volunteers in her team as National Museums Liverpool have huge collections as it helps to make them more accessible. One thing that is clear is that volunteering is mutually beneficial for everyone involved, Corrina cites her experience volunteering as a reason for gaining a place on her MA course and Alex has said that Corrina’s knowledge of Japan has taught the team a thing or two; all whilst having a good time.

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