Celebrating our nations' volunteers this week - we should draw attention to the Australian Museum's first official volunteer - 20 year-old Hereward Leighton Kesteven.
Mr Kesteven (the Trust Minutes for April 1901 reveal) was rather begrudgingly permitted to assist the conchologist as a volunteer for three months ‘on the distinct understanding that he shall have no claim to remuneration from the Trustees and he will be subject to the By Laws and Regulations of the Museum.’
But far from asking for payment – our first volunteer obviously contributed gold. Two years later Mr Hedley, the conchologist, could hardly praise his unpaid worker highly enough. Skilled in collecting, preparing, exhibiting, writing and illustrating – and intimately acquainted with Australian marine Mollusca - he was also ‘clean and neat’ – had learnt to use the typewriter – and even ‘had a good general knowledge of the of the internal structure of a gastropod’. The list of his attributes seemed endless.
Needless to say the Museum eventually realized what a prize they had - and in 1903 employed him as a technical assistant. Kesteven went on to an illustrious career as a medical scientist and with his appetite for natural history undiminished also became Honorary Zoologist at the Museum in 1926.
Hereward Kesteven started a trend – and today from front-of-house to behind-the scenes – the Museum relies on a band of 250 invaluable and highly appreciated volunteer workers.