MV Blog


Vale Bill Woodward

by Charlotte Smith
Publish date
23 January 2015
Comments (5)

Dr Charlotte Smith is MV's Senior Curator, Politics and Society.

This week, Museum Victoria volunteer Bill Woodward lost his fight with cancer. Bill was the quintessential quiet achiever; for almost 24 years he spent every Wednesday morning researching, cataloguing and filing documents relating to the history of the Royal Exhibition Building (REB).

Bill Woodward Bill Woodward next to Ivy Raadik. The photo was taken under the dome of the REB in 1996, at an REB Museum Volunteers dinner.
Source: Museum Victoria

It was around 1991 that Bill first began working on the ‘REB Museum’ project. At this time, the REB was managed by a government-appointed body of Trustees. While responsible for ensuring the financial viability of the REB’s event and conference business, the Trustees also recognised the need to document the building’s past. In 1988 the Trustees appointed museum professional Nina Stanton to develop a collection and archive. Nina’s call for volunteers in September 1990 attracted over 65 applicants. Not all made it through the intensive interview process!

Bill joined the team about a year later. Each team member had a role: some spent their days researching at the Public Record Office or State Library, another spent her time developing a chronological list of events, while others traced the history of pictures exhibited at Melbourne’s two International Exhibitions. Bill’s role at this time was to key all the information gathered by fellow volunteers into the computer. Other members of the team then filed the documents and images into filing cabinets.

In 1996, custodianship of the REB was transferred to Museum Victoria. As part of the transfer, the museum acquired a significant collection of objects, a growing archive, and a team of amazing volunteers.

Bill Woodward and woman Bill chatting with a fellow volunteer at a casual gathering in the REB, early 1990s.
Source: Museum Victoria

I joined the museum as Senior Curator responsible for the REB collections in 2007. At this time, the REB volunteer team had shrunk to two regulars: Deidre Barnett and Bill Woodward. Deidre retired at the end of 2008, so it was just Bill and I who used to get-together early on Wednesday mornings for a chat.

My first indication that Bill was not completely well was about four years ago, but in typical Bill style he refused to give in to his illness. Every Wednesday morning he would be at his desk, typing away with research he had done at the State Library. There were weeks when he’d go off for treatment, but he’d always return with enthusiasm and a wide smile.

Bill died surrounded by his family. His wife tells us he had a smile on his face; a wonderful and evocative image for those of us who knew Bill well. Many of us in the Humanities Department will miss Bill immensely; I will definitely miss my Wednesday morning chats, but find solace in the knowledge that Bill’s legacy will live on in the amazing archive he spent a quarter of a century developing.

National Volunteer Week celebration.

by Kate C
Publish date
12 May 2011
Comments (1)

National Volunteer Week (9-15 May 2011) is a celebration of the priceless contribution of the thousands of volunteers to charities, organisations, communities and institutions across Australia.

There are 529 active volunteers at Museum Victoria and their ages range from 17 to 91 years. They help manage the 16 million items in our collections, they run activities for visitors, they lead tours at each of our venues, they restore steam engines, and much more. To thank these generous people, MV throws a celebration in National Volunteer Week each year. Yesterday afternoon, volunteers gathered at the Melbourne Planetarium at Scienceworks to mingle, share food and drink, and enjoy a Planetarium show.

Volunteers at 2011 National Volunteer Week event MV Volunteers assembled at this year's thank you event in National Volunteer Week.
Image: Heath Warwick
Source: Museum Victoria

Barbara Horn, Director of Museum Operations, read out some statistics about our volunteers. In 2009-2010, volunteers donated an incredible 52,639 hours of their own time to Museum Victoria. At Melbourne Museum, they helped visitors construct 6,792 cardboard models of the Titanic and 11,650 Earth Capsules in Dynamic Earth, plus 1,200 Mobile Skeletons as part of Humanoid Discovery at Scienceworks.

Two remarkable volunteers – Vic Wilks and Tom Brereton – have each reached the milestone of more than 10,000 voluntary hours. Both started at Scienceworks in 1992 shortly after the building opened. Tom, who regularly announces the steam engine parade at Machines in Action Days, joked that they’d known each other “for a year or two.”

Volunteers Vic and Tom Scienceworks volunteers Tom Brereton (left) and Vic Wilks (right) have racked up over ten thousands hours each.
Image: Heath Warwick
Source: Museum Victoria

Vic explained what has inspired him to volunteer for nearly two decades. “In retirement, you need something to stimulate your brain. It’s also the social side of it, meeting all the other volunteers and staff and also contribute something back... hopefully it provides some benefit to the community and the museum in the process.” As a local Williamstown resident, he sees Scienceworks as an important community hub. “It was one of the first things we got in the western suburbs that provided something to the people. Most other museums and art galleries are in the city or the east side.”

A big thank you to all Museum Victoria volunteers - we simply couldn’t manage without them.


Volunteering at MV

About this blog

Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.