Museum Volunteers of the Philippines
Margaretha Gloor, MVP Founder
How did it all begin? Very informally, with one woman, Margaretha Gloor, who just decided to follow her sense of curiosity about the Philippines and its people. She described MVP’s beginning in an article she wrote in 1988. Here is Margaretha’s story:
As a newcomer to any country the first thing one wants to know is its people – who they are, where they come from and so forth, and especially in the case of the Filipinos whose races are so varied that one can see a multitude of blood-lines crisscrossing the archipelago and always ending up in a new puzzle.
In 1979 our friends in Hong Kong, with whom we spent some years in Iran, planned to come to the Philippines and see the country, especially the Tabon Caves in Palawan. Since it was the National Museum that did the excavations, I knew that I would get the best and most accurate information from them. It was not easy to find the museum since it was cooped up in a tiny place on Pedro Gil St. I also hoped to find out from them whether anyone could come in as a volunteer in their archaeology/ethnology division. Dr. Jesus Peralta of the National Museum mentioned that a group of ladies had previously done voluntary work but the group “collapsed.” Well, that was not very encouraging so I put off the idea of a group for a while.
First we made the trip to the Tabon Caves. We were invited to stay at the National Museum station and had the best time exploring and meeting the people there. Upon returning I got back to Dr. Peralta about the volunteer work. He was very supportive. I started off accessioning bone after bone, then shard after shard. Later I moved to the Ethnology Division under Timmy Barbosa. The storage room was chock-a-block full of very interesting and unusual baskets and wooden artifacts.
Little by little I got volunteers. The first was Ann Arlidge. Later more and more joined and before we knew it we had quite a good group going (and we had so much fun) – describing, measuring, and drawing the ethnic artifacts, later also working in the conservation laboratory and other divisions such as conchology and botany. The most important duty was coordination with the National Museum, getting them to tell us what was needed, since they did not quite believe that we really meant to help. Bibbi Lee photographed the existing exhibits and the resulting slides, with narration done by Nancy Perez, were used by various schools.
Meanwhile I met Diane Umemoto who had just come from Bangkok where she was a member of a very organized museum group. I was very eager to learn from her since I had never done this before. Diane told us about her experience with study groups, which we thought was a great idea, so we started planning our own.
The membership grew! We lined up guest speakers and tours, and whatever we needed to do, got done. We always felt miracles were happening! It was hard work – calling people and convincing museums that we meant to help. Diane managed to get Fr. Casal of Ayala Museum to speak to us. Eventually we had volunteers working at Ayala Museum and Casa Manila. We also went to the University of Sto. Tomas Museum, where we established contact with Fr. Moreno, a great source of information and inspiration.
Other early members were Anne Southard, Bonnie Hooker, Nancy Freeman, Julie Fenimore, Esbeth Gmuender, Diane Torres, Barbara Pritchett, Carol Stratton, Mary Ng, Mary Stephens, Barbara Davies, and Carolyn Noering. Each and every member left an impact and helped to make the group stronger and stronger, yet it remained informal.
The first four years were hard but one day both Diane Umemoto and myself had that “gut feeling” that Yes, the group was going to stay. We did it. We felt wonderful because we knew that the roots were strong enough to hold up the ever-growing membership’s needs and demands. While voluntary work at the different museums has continued to be somewhat difficult at times for various reasons, the Study Groups really have been the backbone of the group, as well as the tours, visits to galleries and artists’ homes.
What binds us together is the common interest in learning from the country we live in, sharing our thoughts and simply making friends with people who enjoy the same things. I know that my stay would not have been as fulfilling had it not been for the museum group and we know that everyone who leaves, leaves with happy memories, and very often they plan to do just the same in another country.