This summer, as we continue to navigate what we hope is the final stage of this pandemic and we get vaccinated to protect ourselves, our families, and our community, the DIA has been gradually lifting COVID-19 restrictions. We have been doing it with the safety of our staff and visitors as a top priority. As part of this process, we have been able to bring some of our volunteers back into the building, so they can contribute to the work the DIA already does so wonderfully welcoming our visitors and keeping them informed.
During my weekly museum walk-through last week, I stopped in some of the galleries where our volunteers were posted to thank them for their service and to hear their comments and reactions now that they were back at the DIA. It was good to chat with them and learn that they were “thrilled to be back.” As I noticed the smiling faces during our conversation, one shared how happy she was to welcome some visitors from Austin (Texas) that day. The DIA is a great place to meet out-of-towners, and our volunteers thoroughly enjoy that.
I later stopped at the Farnsworth information desk where Linda Wells, who has been a DIA volunteer for over 30 years, was stationed. She told me that when visitors ask her what to visit, she recommends the Dutch or the Padma and Raj Vattikuti and Family galleries, home of our Indian and Southeast Asian collection. She mentioned that those galleries are the furthest away from her post, and therefore while our visitors are on their way to see her suggested galleries, they will see many other wonderful things in the museum. Besides, she continued to say, our Dutch and Indian art collections are filled with truly beautiful objects. Furthermore, Linda also recommends our visitors to stop and look closely at the art, with the prospect that they will spend many hours enjoying the galleries and will be compelled to come back to the DIA.
I am impressed with the strategies that our volunteers employ to engage our visitors. They do their work thoroughly and with purpose. In fact, of our 600 volunteers, 400 of them have already taken the special training that we provided for their return to the museum after we had to close in March 2020. Phil Rivera, Director of Volunteer Services, and his team Tony Drake, Crysta Zgorski, and Deb Griffin, led this special training for our volunteers, which covered COVID-19 protocols, Service as Art, Art of Diversity and Inclusion, and emergency/evacuation training. We have one of the best prepared volunteer teams in the country and it shows.
Since July 14, the day the volunteers returned to the DIA after the pandemic outbreak, there is something special around the museum. It is hard to describe it with words and it feels very good. A sentence that comes to mind is a famous one by the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who said: “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Now that volunteers and staff are working together with our visitors, the DIA has all its components at the service of the greater good of our community. The power of being all together once again is greater than the sum of each one of us.