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By Will Stanley on

Volunteering for the Cosmonauts exhibition

We asked six of our enthusiastic Cosmonauts exhibition volunteers to share their experiences so far.

We asked six of our enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteers for the Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age exhibition to share their experiences so far. To join them, apply here before 30 November 2015.

“Every time I walk in the Cosmonauts exhibition I feel the same excitement as the RD-108 engine greets me to the tune of Sputnik’s radio signal. People of all kinds come to Cosmonauts, almost reflecting the variety of the items on display. Some had Yuri Gagarin’s posters in their bedrooms in the 60s, some are children in astronaut costumes. Some are retired aeronautics engineers, some are art students. Some admire the bravery of the first cosmonauts, some indulge in the secrets of the LK3 Lunar Lander.

Yet, as we stroll along the gallery listening to Russian ballads, they all have a story to tell or a question to ask. As volunteers, it is a pleasure sharing our experiences with the visitors- we learn so much from them, as they do from us! ”

– Alev

The RD-108 rocket engine at the entrance to the Cosmonauts exhibition. Credit: Science Museum
The RD-108 rocket engine at the entrance to the Cosmonauts exhibition. Credit: Science Museum

‘For me there is paradox at the heart of this exhibition. You look at the hardware and you can’t help wondering at how primitive it all looks, as if it was simply bashed together in a workshop. However, you look closer and you begin to see just how awesome and sophisticated it really is. I am captivated by the personalities and the stories, and when you match the stories with the hardware, you begin to understand what true pioneers these people were.

Each time I volunteer, I am awestruck just to be in the presence of all this hardware that paved the way for travel in space. These objects have been the subject of such monumental events that have taken place in my lifetime and here they are!”

– Paul

‘After my first shift as a Volunteer in the Cosmonauts Exhibition I wondered whether the experience might become tedious over six months. After my second shift I knew it wouldn’t! It seems that each visitor to the exhibition has a special personal reason for being there.

I’ve met a woman who has been planning for years to make a film encapsulating the story; someone else guided me to a talk by astronaut Chris Hadfield; Russians of a certain age have a tear in their eye as they contemplate their past. Add these personal stories to an amazing collection of artefacts and I know that this is an experience I shall never forget.’

– Stephen

The Soyuz TM-14 descent module and the Outposts in Space section of the Cosmonauts exhibition. Credit: Science Museum
The Soyuz TM-14 descent module and the Outposts in Space section of the Cosmonauts exhibition. Credit: Science Museum

‘After 15 years of teaching I decided that I wanted to try my hand at helping people to learn and make new discoveries outside of the classroom. So it was with great enthusiasm and excitement that I responded to an advert to be part of the Cosmonaut team. I could combine my educational skills with my love of history and science – what could be better?

Being a Cosmonaut Engagement Volunteer is so much better – because it’s the exact opposite of what I thought it would be! I’m no longer the teacher but the learner. A day in the exhibition is wasted if I haven’t discovered something new from a visitor or fellow volunteer. It’s not unusual to realise that you’ve spent 15 minutes enthralled by a visitor’s vivid and detailed story about one of the objects on display, heard half a dozen exclamations of ‘had you noticed…’ from fellow volunteers or come home with at least three new websites or books to investigate!’

– Joanne

Visitors with the LK-3 lunar lander in the Cosmonauts exhibition. Credit: Science Museum
Visitors with the LK-3 lunar lander in the Cosmonauts exhibition. Credit: Science Museum

‘Coming in to volunteer for the Cosmonauts Exhibitiion, I was excited to get a glimpse of the never-before-seen objects that marked the birth of the space age.

What I didn’t expect was collecting an arsenal of stories that are going to stay with me for years to come: seeing Buzz Aldrin on my first day in; meeting a Phd student who was using data from one of the Lunokhod rovers to make a 3D map of the moon’s craters; getting into deep discussion with visitors in the blue room about the future of space programmes; talking with a man who stood with a receiver in 1957, trying to listen to radio communications from Sputnik 1; discovering the stories of the dreamers and the pioneers that paved the way for humanity to leave earth and explore our universe.’

– Valia

Visitors with Vostok 6 at the Cosmonauts exhibition. Credit: Science Museum
Visitors with Vostok 6 at the Cosmonauts exhibition. Credit: Science Museum

‘I recently moved down to London from Edinburgh to start a new job and, not knowing anyone further south than North Yorkshire, I decided to be proactive and joined the Science Museum volunteer mailing list.

So why the Science Museum?  Well I’m a scientist in my day job so the Museum was an obvious choice, but since the age of ten I’ve been building and flying radio controlled aircraft and so the Cosmonauts exhibition sounded perfect; after all spaceflight is aviation-plus-one! The innovation demonstrated by the Russian space program is truly fascinating, but most amazing of all is how much I have learnt from talking to visitors; many, particularly those who grew up behind the ‘iron curtain’, have personal stories that add a unique depth to the history. In turn I pass this onto the next visitor and the cycle repeats.

The other volunteers, particularly the weekend ‘crew’ that I work alongside, are very friendly and equally enthusiastic, and a big shout out must go to the volunteer coordinators; Caroline and Nicola, who have made the whole experience so easy and welcoming!’

– James

You’ve also been sharing tweets and messages of thanks for our volunteers:

https://twitter.com/Ingenious76/status/657858222192271360

If you are keen to be a Cosmonauts volunteer, helping engage visitors with 150 incredible objects and answering their questions, you can apply here until 30 November 2015. To discover more about volunteering at the Museum, sign up here for the volunteer email newsletter.

Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age is open until 13 March 2016. The exhibition is supported by BP and has additional support from ART RUSSE (Major Funder) and the Blavatnik Family Foundation.