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Heritage Open Day: David’s Story

We are delighted to report that Heritage Open Day was a great success and we were thrilled to welcome many people to the Library who are not normally able to visit. Who better to tell you about the day than our newest volunteer David Thomas, who not only gave up his Saturday to come and help, but has kindly written a most engaging description of how he spent his day:

I began volunteering at Chetham’s only three weeks ago but last weekend was fortunate to be able to help out at their Heritage Open Day. This is a national scheme in which houses, museums and other architectural treasures are open to the public for free and at times when they are usually closed. Chetham’s is normally open Monday to Friday 9am-4.30pm and no longer closes at lunchtimes in an effort to allow visitors greater convenience, however from what I have seen it seems that on a good day the library gets only around fifty visitors. On Saturday we counted around 400! The goal of attracting more visitors had certainly been achieved.

My first role of the day was being part of the front-of-house team with Sue and Patti, welcoming visitors and directing them in to see the Library. There was a fairly steady stream of people and many looked round the Library, cloisters and other rooms for an hour or more. On their way out, I ushered them to the right exit and encouraged them to participate in our survey. I heard several visitors comment that they had walked past the Library before but never come in because it was closed, and were pleased to be able to visit at last. It was great to see local people visiting for the first time now that they had the chance.


After lunch I went into the Library to try and answer people’s questions and ended up finding a lot of things out myself. A real highlight was that this was also the first time I had properly looked at the current exhibition, curated by Kathy, which features Manchester School of Art students’ interpretations and creative responses to studying Chetham’s archive material on Belle Vue Gardens. This was of particular interest as I am working on one of the Belle Vue newspaper cuttings books in my weekly volunteer role. The exhibition was bright and informative and made even better by the fact that you could view the students’ scrapbooks in the Reading Room and so see their ideas from start to finish.


Most of the afternoon was spent in the Reading Room where people were continually impressed by the original wall carving, furniture and chained library (not to mention Marx’s desk). I was glad that Patti and Jane were on hand to answer people’s questions properly while I tried to read up a bit by taking a quick look at the books that are for sale. One thing I found out was that the magnificent grandfather clock in the Reading Room was donated by an old pupil named Nicholas Clegg in 1695.


At the end of the day all that was left to do was to count the number of surveys, which came to ninety in total, have a well-earned cup of tea, and finish off the cake! 

If you would like to follow in David’s footsteps and volunteer with us, please get in touch! You can email us at admin@chethams.org.uk or phone the Library on 0161 834 7961