People Make the Place: Valuing Our Volunteers
Winterthur is a special place for many people. Some seek refuge in the quiet of the garden. Some revel in the study of our expansive collection. Some celebrate the beauty of the natural landscape. Some enjoy special events. Some visit to connect with friends or family.
Whatever your reason for coming to Winterthur, volunteers have applied their talent and energy to make your experience here memorable. Teen interns recently interviewed a few of these behind-the-scenes individuals to learn more about the important roles they play throughout the estate. The resulting portraits highlight the fervent dedication of each person. They are what truly make Winterthur special.
Laurel Riegel has been volunteering as a house guide at Winterthur since the mid-1990s. Laurel undertook two weeks of intensive training with a study group to become a house guide. Now, she volunteers about four days per month. Her love of American decorative arts inspired her to volunteer at the museum, and she has developed a particular fondness for two things she now discusses on tours: the Blackwell Parlor, and a portrait of the Reverend Freeman by the artist Gilbert Stuart.
Laurel has also been a benefactor to several temporary exhibitions, including Costumes of Downton Abbey and Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light.
Margaret Holley moved to Delaware five years ago, and has since been involved with Winterthur in many ways. In the fall of 2012 she started helping with the Delaware Antiques Show, then settled down at the Visitor Center, where she sells tickets and memberships every Thursday. She also guides in the galleries once or twice a month.
Margaret says the most challenging part of leading gallery walks is trying to fit all of the information about the exhibition into a 30 minute talk. Her favorite parts of volunteering are the people with whom she interacts and the beautiful objects she gets to learn about. In the current exhibition, Made in the Americas, she especially loves a collage made from the feathers of 22 different kinds of birds.
Mona Bayard has been volunteering in the departments of registration and art conservation for almost five years. She spent four of those years creating records for all of the objects that Henry Francis du Pont purchased in the 1920s. Most of Mona’s time is spent in registration, where her daily routine includes entering objects into Winterthur’s object database. Among the many interesting objects she has encountered, her favorite is a glass, whale-oil-fueled lamp that is decorated with flowers, and in folklore, is filled with salt to ward against witches.
While Mona enjoys working with objects, it is not her favorite aspect of volunteering at Winterthur. The wonderful people here are why she keeps coming back.
Sharon Diaello and her husband have been members at Winterthur for years. The positive experiences she had accumulated during her many visits influenced her decision to devote even more of her time to the museum by becoming a volunteer. She currently assists in the membership department, where she fields questions from members.
When asked what her favorite thing about Winterthur is, Sharon responded, “Winterthur is a phenomenon.” Though she struggles to single out one aspect as her favorite, she is quite impressed with Winterthur’s successful efforts to get children excited about history. She and her grandchildren have attended Terrific Tuesdays each of the last three summers and look forward to them every week.
When Kathy Fleming started guiding in the house, she was no stranger to Winterthur. Thanks to her mother Jane Lyons, who was also a house guide, Kathy grew up attending the Yuletide tour each year. After living elsewhere for several years, Kathy returned to Wilmington in 2011, just as Winterthur was recruiting new guides. She took this as a sign to follow in her mother’s footsteps.
Kathy spent a month pouring over the study materials each new guide is given and used the skills she gained while teaching high school, such as note-taking and staying organized, to learn all of the required information. She has a great time taking visitors through the house and teaching them, just as she used to teach her students. She especially enjoys leading the tours Then and Now and Antiques and Architecture. While her love of the museum and teaching inspire her to learn more about the collection, Kathy’s favorite part of being a house guide is the feeling that her mother is with her during each tour.
Pauline Myers is a master gardener from Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania. She came to Winterthur as a volunteer in 2008, having decided to treat herself to working in a larger space than her small garden at home. Naturalistic gardens resonate with her and Pauline describes Winterthur’s garden as “completely magical” and “your own Disney,” because it offers something for everyone.
Pauline helps with Winterthur’s bloom report, walking the garden each week and recording what is in bloom—tasks Mr. du Pont himself once enjoyed. Pauline describes the process as a treasure hunt and says her favorite flower is whatever is in bloom. She loves every aspect of the garden, especially the way the whole world seems to disappear once you enter.
Atlanta Brown has been a volunteer greeter at Winterthur for 11 years. Originally from South Carolina, she has made tremendous contributions to her adopted state, helping to establish a library at Gander Hill prison, and founding the Delaware Coalition for Literacy. In addition to these achievements, she has also served on the National Library Committee.
Atlanta is very fond of the museum and thoroughly enjoys the time she spends at Winterthur, which she describes as an “expression of life.” She appreciates the many ways Winterthur builds bridges between people and enriches their lives by providing them access to information about the past and the chance to teach others. “Education isn’t a one way street,” Atlanta says. “When you share your knowledge with other people, people will share theirs with you.”
The word “amateur” comes from the Latin root amare, meaning “to love.” Simply speaking, Dr. Walter Hipple loves what he does. For the last 13 years, he has helped create the weekly bloom report, which in April can take as long as six or seven hours to complete.
Walter’s love of learning about plants stems from his previous career as a professor, which took him to 18 colleges in 4 continents. However, as a professor he taught English, rather than botany, and he chose to volunteer in the garden to diversify his knowledge.
Walter considers the Glade Garden his favorite part of Winterthur and he encourages visitors to explore the garden on foot because there is so much to see.
Fiona has spent most of her life involved with Winterthur. It all began at age 8 with Kids Grow, a program that taught her the basics of horticulture. As a fourth grader, she participated in the mother-daughter book club, whose leader became an influential mentor. The Teen Volunteer Program was the next step in Fiona’s journey, and she loved learning more about the museum and about teaching others. In fact, she loved both so much that she became one of Winterthur’s first Teen Interpreters, and she spent the winter of 2012 interpreting an 1850s marketplace as part of the annual Yuletide tour. Since then, Fiona has added other rooms to her repertoire, including her favorite, Empire Parlor.
Fiona credits Winterthur with helping her develop confidence and public speaking skills. This fall she will attend Smith College, where she plans to study neuroscience.
Joe Stefanowicz has loved history since he was a little kid. As an adult, he taught high school history for 33 years. When he retired, his interest in American history inspired him to pursue volunteer work at Winterthur. For the last 10 years, Joe has greeted visitors and answered their questions, including “which way to the bathroom,” which he answers with a gesture. Among his most memorable interactions was a brief conversation with Delaware basketball star Elena Delle Donne. Joe also enjoys volunteering during Historic Autos and Point to Point each May.
When not making visitors feel welcome, Joe can be found with his wife in the Quarry Garden, which they find a quiet, inspiring setting.
Claire Kegerise started volunteering in Academic Programs in 2005, where she provided essential support to Brock Jobe, who was working on a book about furniture made in southeastern Massachusetts. She regularly filed, copied, printed, and archived documents for Brock, which resulted in her spending a lot of time in the library, and at her desk creating spreadsheets.
Although Claire is only in the office one day a week, she has developed close bonds with her coworkers—especially over chocolate. Aside from volunteering at Winterthur, she enjoys learning tai chi, going to junk shops, and reading mysteries.
Margaret Biddle is no stranger to the du Pont family. Margaret grew up at Eleutherean Mills, where her father worked for the Crowninshields. Louise du Pont Crowninshield was the sister of H.F. du Pont. One of Margaret’s fondest memories is of having her wedding reception in the E.I. du Pont House.
For 45 years, Margaret worked at DuPont as a customer service representative, while her husband worked at Hagley. After she retired, Margaret became a special events volunteer at Winterthur. She enjoys working behind the scenes to make events like Point to Point and Truck and Tractor Day come to life for the public
Each summer, a small group of teens from throughout the region comes together to enliven Winterthur. Mentored by interns from the University of Delaware, they learn about the history of the museum, the importance of art conservation, and best practices in education and customer service. They apply their knowledge during Terrific Tuesdays, a family program that draws connections to the museum collection though hands on activities, and during visits to the Salvation Army, where they built rewarding relationships with its forty summer campers.
We are grateful for these talented and enthusiastic young people who bring their creativity and curiosity to Winterthur. They are indispensable!
It is difficult to imagine Winterthur without volunteers. Volunteers work side by side with paid staff to further Winterthur’s values and to accomplish institutional goals in virtually all departments and at all levels. The volunteers highlighted in this exhibition are a superb, but highly representative, sampling of those hundreds of volunteers who welcome visitors to Winterthur, help maintain the Garden, assist Registration staff with their records, put the magic in special events, guide tours in the House and Galleries, and support administrative staff in many areas including Academic Programs and Membership.
If you are interested in finding out more about how volunteers contribute to Winterthur please explore the volunteer page on the Winterthur website and contact the Volunteer Manager, Tricia Davies at firstname.lastname@example.org
Special thanks to the following individuals for their help with this exhibition:
2016 Teen Volunteers:
Frannie Everhart, Isabella Davulcu, Jillian Curran, Julia Scheu, Margaret Tran, Phoebe Henderson
University of Delaware Service Learning Scholars:
Lizzy Van Winkle, Greta Sweeney, Christina Conlin
Laszlo Bodo, Nat Caccamo, Raun Townsley, and Susan Newton