In a ceremony held at the Dover Downs Hotel on Oct. 6, 2015, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell recognized 22 individuals and groups as recipients of the 2015 Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Awards. One group of recipients, the volunteer staff of the Johnson Victrola Museum, was honored in the program’s Arts and Culture category. Three of the museum volunteers—Howard Fulcher, Arnold Leftwich and Jim Schilling—were present at the ceremony. Laura Herbin and David Perlmutter were unable to attend.
Operated by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the Johnson Victrola Museum utilizes authentic phonograph machines, recordings, trademarks, objects and paintings to tell the story of Delaware’s native son, Eldridge Reeves Johnson, founder of the Victor Talking Machine Company and a pioneer in the development of the sound-recording industry.
In August 2009, the museum began operating on a reduced schedule due to reductions in the state budget resulting from the nation-wide economic recession that began in late 2008. In order to extend operating hours, the division initiated a recruitment campaign in March 2011 to attract and train volunteers who would assist existing interpretive staff in operating the museum. A group of almost 20 volunteers, comprised of both retirees and working professionals with an interest in music and the sound-recording industry, was recruited and trained to serve as museum docents. While many of those original volunteers have since left, two members—Fulcher and Leftwich—helped the museum expand to a four-day-per-week operating schedule in May 2011.
Since then the core group of volunteers (Herbin, Perlmutter and Schilling joined in 2012) has contributed more than 3,000 hours of volunteer service, not only assisting the museum staff in greeting visitors and leading guided tours, but also in taking on special projects that go above and beyond the call of duty.
According to their award nomination, submitted by Rachel Wootten, coordinator of the division’s Volunteer Program:
Highlights of their service include Arnold developing and creating a customized guest registry for the museum. He also created a DVD of the 2nd floor of the museum for visitors who are unable to climb the stairs. This DVD includes his original photographs accompanied by music. … Johnson Victrola Museum interpreters frequently use [the DVD] to share the 2nd floor experience with visitors who would be unable to experience it first-hand. Laura has committed to working eight-hour shifts—when a normal scheduled volunteer shift is four hours. James consistently keeps the grounds of Museum Square clean, something he takes pride in, and has also attended volunteer fairs on behalf of the division’s Volunteer Program.
David’s long-term commitment, along with the others, is refreshing in the volunteer world. David has also attended volunteer fairs on behalf of the division. Howard consistently uses his photography skills for division special events and is also active in programming. Most recently, he put on a program … about the jazz great Fats Waller … and also serves on the division’s Community Engagement Committee.
In a statement about all of the winners of the 2015 Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Awards, Gov. Markell noted, “These volunteers recognize that it’s not about them. It’s about the people they serve. … They not only illustrate the growing ethic of volunteerism in our state, but they contribute to a stronger and healthier Delaware.”
The Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Awards are sponsored by the Office of the Governor, Delaware Health and Social Services, the Division of State Service Centers, the State Office of Volunteerism, as well as the Governor’s Commission on Community and Volunteer Service.