RBSA Life: Volunteer Archive Assistant

It’s the perfect role for those interested in art and archives to gain new skills and insights into how a gallery is run…

Being a volunteer archive assistant at the RBSA Gallery is a great experience!

The Gallery has a friendly working atmosphere and artists are happy to discuss their work and what they will be exhibiting.

Daily life

The day-to-day tasks of an archive assistant at the RBSA include filing catalogues into the archive and responding to enquiries from the public.

Each enquiry provides something new to research using the artist’s files and archive material. Therefore I constantly learn things about artists and works that I may not have otherwise found out.

Quality training

I also enjoy being able to help people get the answers to their questions. The RBSA gives training in how to use the museum software MODES. This is an online database of the works at the Gallery and I have often used it to find works quickly.

Becoming confident using this software has been useful to me as many museums and galleries use MODES, yet few people know how to use it.

Writing role

Writing for the RBSA Gallery website is an interesting part of the role of an archive assistant. I have enjoyed writing a number of articles for the RBSA’s blog where I have picked artists and their works from the archive.

Exhibitions input

I was involved in preparations for Baker to Bartlett: The Changing Face of RBSA Printmaking.

For this exhibition I carried out vital research on some of the works and artists who would be on display, and wrote the labels and catalogue entries for them.

Learning opportunities

It was interesting to learn more about prints I had not seen before, such as William Frederick Colley’s Gazelle. I found this lithograph striking and unusual as an image of an animal in the Art Deco style.


William Frederick Colley, Gazelle, undated, lithograph, Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, © The Artist’s Estate

Find out more

Want to know more about the work of the RBSA? See the Collection films at the RBSA website.

By Chloe Aspden, Volunteer Archive Assistant

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