At the National Wool Museum we have a committed group of volunteers that have, in many cases, given decades of their time to the Museum and its visitors. When COVID closed the Museum the volunteers were no longer able to continue this important work, which was a loss for both us and them. As volunteer manager, I was mindful of the importance of staying connected with our volunteers. We wanted to support them through isolation and provide them with opportunities to continue to support the Museum.
Initially one way of doing this was through a series of Collection Stories that were shared on social media and eventually became a feature on our website. These brought together collection items with oral histories from the volunteers: an opportunity to continue to share their immense knowledge of the Museum, the wool industry and Geelong.
As the periods of isolation continued I looked for a way for the volunteers to connect and contribute to the Museum that was related to both our history and our shared experience of the pandemic. This project become The Isolation Quilt. In honour of the Museum’s collection of Wagga quilts, volunteers were invited to stitch a square to contribute to a shared quilt – making do with whatever they had at home.
After many months the pieces came together were joined into a quilt by Judith Oke. When the Museum opened it was featured in our new exhibition Waggas: the art and craft of making do. The unveiling event for the volunteers when we were all able to be together again at the Museum was a memorable day. The quilt is now part of the Museum collection – an enduring contribution of the volunteers and a preserved piece of social history that captures part of the lived experience of the pandemic.