Volunteer Spotlight

Meet some of the volunteers that help make our work possible.

Fiona Ferguson

Fiona Ferguson

Fiona may be a new volunteer, but her relationship with Olana has been nearly lifelong. She first visited when she was six or seven years old, and her parents like to point out that she showed little interest in the spectacular art surrounding her at the time. Fortunately, her appreciation of Olana has grown through the years and she began volunteering at Olana this past summer. She has been an immense help to Olana staff and visitors at several of our educational programs including the Live in the Landscape evenings and the Plein Air celebration.

As an Art History major at Simon’s Rock College, Fiona has gained a new understanding of Olana and its significance. “I started volunteering at Olana to gain a better understanding of what working in a museum setting would be like. Volunteering for Olana has been a great experience that has deepened my appreciation for art and sharing art with others. On my first day, I had just finished a seven hour shift at a different job. Instead of feeling tired and sluggish while volunteering, I was so excited to be at a beautiful place, while learning and sharing it with everyone working at Olana and park visitors. I didn’t feel tired at all- I felt inspired. The scenery alone could sweep someone away, but also being greeted by so many smiling faces of happy patrons and staff was just truly lovely. Sharing my time with the Olana community has been quite informative, and I would love to continue to work at museums where I can simultaneously learn and enjoy the spaces around me, while also sharing this beauty with others.”

We’re delighted that Fiona decided to become a volunteer at Olana and hope her experiences here lead to a fulfilling museum career.

Olana-Laurie-Schmolz

Laurie (Conine) Schmolz

You would never know it by her youthful appearance, but Laurie has been an important part of Olana since 1975!

Working at Olana was Laurie’s first summer job while attending college. She was an enthusiastic employee during the 1970’s and worked primarily as a guide. Much has changed from those days 39 years ago when Laurie was beginning her role as a guide in the House. She recalls that there were five guides in total, they were required to wear long skirts with tops that had high collars and long sleeves, keeping in the theme of the Victorian era. Tour tickets (a roll of red raffle tickets) were sold at the front door by the guides for $2 and tours were of the first floor only.

One of Laurie’s fondest memories is the “Victorian Picnics” that were held on the east lawn at Olana. Guests were encouraged to bring picnic baskets and participate in Victorian games such as wooden hoops and croquet, as you can see-she even saved a photo of such an event from 1979!

Since those early days at Olana Laurie has taken some time off to get married (husband James Schmolz) and raise two beautiful daughters, she is currently employed at the Hawthorne Valley School. Laurie continues to display her devotion to Olana by volunteering almost every Sunday.

Laurie was asked if she could provide what she felt has changed at Olana since she first began working here.

She states, “It feels more vibrant and alive because of all the knowledge that we (the guides) are now provided to share with the guests. Also, there are many more people just visiting the grounds than in the past.

“To me there is no place like Olana, there is always a special feeling, a family sense is still present – a real home.”

The Olana Partnership would like to thank all of our Volunteers for their time and commitment, we could not do it without you!

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