Museum of York County Volunteer Training

This course is intended to walk volunteers through expectations and standards for their time spent working with the Museum of York County.

Volunteer Expectations

Mission Statements


The Culture & Heritage Museums is a family of museums in York County, SC, which includes Historic Brattonsville, the Museum of York County,  the Main Street Children's Museum, and the History Center and Lowery Family Theater at the McCelvey Center. 

Museum of York County


The mission of the Museum of York County is to enhance understanding of our world by collecting and preserving the art and natural history of the Carolina Piedmont, communicating regional themes and their broader global connections.

 Below are some of the other CHM sites in York County where other volunteer opportunities are available. 

Main Street Children's Museum

Historic Brattonsville

Historic Brattonsville

McCelvey Center


Which of the following is NOT in the mission of the Museum of York County:

  • Collect and Preserve Art and Natural History of the Carolina Piedmont
  • Communicate Regional Themes and their broader global connections
  • Educate every visitor about their misconceptions about their Piedmont natural history.
Click on the box beside the statement that is NOT in the Museum of York County Mission Statement.

Organizational Values

The Culture & Heritage Museums of York County, SC support the following Statement of Organizational Values:

Authenticity and Professionalism

1. Authenticity: We ensure that the knowledge that we share is accurate and supported through credible documentation or eyewitness accounts.  

As a volunteer, this means that you are considered an extension of the museum. Don't be afraid to contribute your valuable knowledge to visitors' experiences. If someone asks you a question and you know the answer, share your knowledge. It's ok to say, "I don't know."

2. Professionalism: We adhere to best practices of the museum field in the care of resources under our stewardship. 

You should hold yourself to high professional standards in guest interactions, personal behavior, and work habits. As a museum volunteer, you are a reflection of the organization. 

Meaningful Vistor Experiences and Respect for Those We Represent

3. Meaningful Museum Experiences: We strive to create memorable experiences enabling those we serve to walk away from our museum not only with new information but with inspiration that they will carry with them throughout their lives .

As a volunteer, you play a vital role in the visitor experience. You should always be thinking of how your interactions with the visitor could make their experience more meaningful. 

4. Respect for Those We Represent: As a cultural museum, we tell the story of people from various backgrounds and life experiences both past and present. We have an obligation to tell their stories in a fair and balanced manner that fosters greater understanding of their unique perspectives.

When interacting with visitors, you should strive to tell the most accurate tale of the collections represented in the museum as possible. Stick to facts and make sure to leave your opinion out. Presenting their stories is our charge, and we should do it honestly and accurately. 

Respect for Our Natural World and Transparency

5. Respect for Our Natural World: As a natural history museum, we have a responsibility to show respect for the natural world and lead by example.

As a volunteer, people look to you for your example. Make sure you are exemplifying respect for all we strive to represent. 

6. Transparency: We ensure our organizational meetings, documents, and records beyond those that pertain to our legal requirements or breach the trust of our donors are available to the public. 

As a volunteer this means that you should be above reproach in all dealings with museum matters. Act as if someone were always watching. 


Stewardship and Donor Rights

7. Stewardship: We recognize that all of our assets are held on behalf of the public good and that it is our responsibility to ensure that they are used wisely. We are committed to maximizing these assets, including public and private funding, in a manner that effectively supports our mission. 

Volunteers should always be conscious of how materials and assets are being used, and we should never take for granted our charge to safeguard them for the general public. 

8. Donor Rights: We believe all donors should be valued and informed. Promises should be delivered and expectations of confidentiality should be met to the fullest of the law. To end this we have adopted the "Donor Bill of Rights" as set forth by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. 

Volunteers should take very seriously the role of the donor in what we do. Without them we would not be able to provide the experiences for our visitors. 


Congratulations on completing Module 1 of The Museum of York County Volunteer Training!

You have earned the Expectations Badge! Please visit this link to set up your account and claim your badge!


Volunteer Standards and Professional Practices

Volunteer Professional Practices

Volunteers contribute a vital effort to the Museum of York County and allow us to provide services to our visitors that would otherwise be difficult or impossible. Volunteers are our partners in achieving the Museum's mission. While working with the museum, volunteers have access to the Museum's collections, programs, and other sensitive areas. This access to inner activities is an honor, and the lack of material compensation for services provided does not free volunteers for adherence to standards that apply to paid staff. 

Volunteers are our greatest resource!

Volunteer Standards

These standards are set forth for the protection of the Volunteer and the Musuem.

1. All public contacts should be handled in a friendly and courteous manner on basis of merit, fairness, and impartiality. Show respect for personal feelings and endeavor to answer all expressed needs to the patron's satisfaction. It is OK to not know the answer to a visitor's question. Just write down the question, ask the visitor if it is OK to share their email address with a staff person who can email them an answer, and then direct your question to a staff member. 

Volunteer Standards continued...

2. Every volunteer is a public relations officer for the Museum. In all your contacts with the public, YOU are the Museum of York County. You can make a greater impact in developing and maintaining good public relations for the Museum than can a professional marketing firm. Volunteers should conduct themselves in such a manner as to maintain the public esteem and good will for the Museum.

3. Volunteers have access to Museum collections, research, staff activity, and/or priviledged information and they must respect the confidentiality of their positions as well as the significance and integrity of the collections. 

Volunteer Standards continued...

4. Volunteers should assume responsibility for preservation of Museum property. Volunteers should report any incident which puts our property in danger to a staff member who will deal with the situation. 

5. Volunteers will use Museum property, materials or supplies only for museum business.

6. Volunteers must respect museum rules regarding food, drink, smoking, pets, appropriate language and dress.

Volunteer Standards continued...

7. Volunteers may not accept tips.

8. Constructive criticism of Museum policies and services is welcomed at all times, but should be offered only to the department head or to the Executive Director for the sole purpose of improvement of the Museum. 

9. Volunteers must identify themselves with a name tag when volunteering.

10. If you are unable to keep your scheduled volunteer day please call the MYCO front desk at 803-329-2121 and leave a message for the staff person you were going to be working with. 

What is the best public relations tool the Museum has?

  • Museum Marketing Team
  • Regional Fliers and Promotional Material
  • The Volunteer Word of Mouth


Congratulations on completing Module 2 of The Museum of York County Volunteer Training. Please click on this link to claim your badge!

Getting to Know the Museum

Permanent Exhibits

History of the Museum of York County

In 1947, the Junior Welfare League read an article by John Ripley Forbes, the Director of the William T. Hornaday Memorial Foundation about a new concept in museums, a museum just for children. A Museum where children could learn by doing, a place where children could be free to touch and explore, a place where children could be involved and safe from the growing problem of juvenile delinquency. The League saw the need for such a place in the growing community, and Jo Snypp was appointed Chairman of the committee  to start a children's museum. She is recognized as the driving force behind the project. 


The League pledged $2,500 to help the Museum get started and $1,000 for each of the next five years. By 1948, the Board had received $30,000 from the York County Delegation. A location of ten acres in Fewell Park was leased rent free from the City of Rock Hill. In 1950, The Children's Nature Museum of Rock Hill opened with Director. Settlemyre noticed an advertisement in a museum magazine which stated that a collection of mounted African animals was available to an established museum. He placed a call to Maurice Stans in Chicago, owner of the collection; thus began a beautiful friendship between the people of Rock Hill and Stans. Most of the Museum's renowned collection was a gift from Stans.

The Museum moved to its present location in 1965 and became The Museum of York County in 1976, the same year the Stans Elephant Hall was dedicated.

Settlemyre Plantation opened in 1977, the Vernon Grant Gallery in 1978, and the volunteer program was formed in 1980. 

The Museum is supported by both the county and through public donations. All collections and exhibits are either donated, on loan, or purchased for the Museum by groups or individuals. 

The Museum and collections continue to grow. An enthusiastic community and constituency complement the work of the professional staff and promise a dynamic future for the Museum. 

Name That Exhibit and Location!

  • This exhibit is interactive, inviting children and families to explore the wonders of nature. It features a nature-inspired mosaic created by the Western York county Art After School program, made completely of recyclable material.
    The Nature Nook Classroom and Mosaic
  • This exhibit features African animals in natural habitat settings and much of the collection featured there was donated by its namesake.
    Stans Elephant Hall
  • This exhibit features the connection between people and place by comparing and contrasting the contemporary Piedmont landscape with that of 600 years ago.
    Piedmont Galleries: Past and Present
  • This exhibit features work created by its namesake throughout an illustrious career creating children's books, commercial art, magazine covers, product packaging, and more.
    Vernon Grant Gallery
  • This exhibit is designed especially for creative play among young children and their families. Families are invited to dress up and explore the whimsical settings while engaging young minds and bodies!
    Tot Town
  • This exhibit is an experience where visitors are encouraged to touch, explore, and discover the diversity and wonder of our natural world. Visitors have the opportunity to get up close and with mounted specimens, rocks, skulls, and more.
    The Naturalist Center
  • This exhibit features state-of-the-art equipment designed to transport visitors to any point in space and time including beyond the planet Earth.
    Settlemyre Planetarium


Congratulations on completing the Getting to Know the Museum Module! Please click on the link to claim your badge.


What is Interpretation?

Interpretation is "a mission based communication process that forges emotional and intellectual connections between the interest of the audience and meanings inherent in the resource."- National Association for Interpretation.

Interpreters connect visitors to important natural, cultural, and historical resources at parks, nature centers, historical sites, aquariums, zoos, and anywhere that people come to learn about places.

Watch some interpreters share their thoughts on the importance of Interpretation.


Interpretation is the act of communicating with visitors about an object or resource in order to educate, engage or elicit a response. Sometimes the best interpretation simply involves telling a story that has relevance to the visitor and the object or resource being interpreted. 

Good interpretation connects the visitor to the object or resource and creates a memorable experience for them.

Interpretation Means..

Interpretation can mean lots of different things. Let's take a look at a few, inspired by Tilden's Principles.

It is enough to open minds; do not overload them. Put there just a spark. If there is some good inflammable stuff, it will catch fire. 

                                                                             - Anatole France


1. Relate- Compare, contrast, and make it personal.

Helping visitors feel connected to exhibits in the museum can totally change their perspective on their visit. People naturally desire to make connections to the world around them, and interpretation helps them to do that in a meaningful way. 


2. Reveal- Help the visitor discover something new.

Information alone is not interpretation.  However, all interpretation relays information. When the visiting discovers something they didn't know or makes a new connection to existing knowledge, that is interpretation. 


3. Provoke- Inspire profound thought or action.


We want visitors to be inspired to action because of the things they have learned. Interpretation stirs people to try new things, seek out new knowledge, or change their way of thinking.


4. Arts- Employ multiple learning styles.

Interpretation is an art form. It combines knowledge that is scientific, historical or architectural into a new art of its own.


5. Hollistic- Give the resource context (Big Picture). 

Interpretation should aim to present a whole story than a single piece. Put everything in context and showcase relationships. 


6. Appropriate- Consider the audience.

Interpretation addressed to children should not be a dilution of the presentation to adults, but should follow a fundamentally different approach. Interpretation should be individualized and leveled to best serve each visitor individually. 

Naturalist Center

The Naturalist Center is different from the rest of the Museum. The room is a research lab, a reference library and contains over 2,000 hands on specimens. Naturalist Center Staff and volunteers are available at all times to teach and assist visitors in the handling of these objects.

A good, short introduction is given to all visitors. To begin, welcome a visitor to the Naturalist Center and ask if they have used the room before. 

If the answer is 'yes', a reminder to touch the mounted animals and furs with the back of the hand (fingernail side), an invitation to explore the specimens inside the cabinets and to feel free to ask any questions is all that is needed. 

If it is the visitor's first visit, your introduction may go as follows:

"This is our research lab and reference library. There are lots of books in this room for all ages. Feel free to look through them. We also have many different specimens in this room. You may touch the mounted animals and furs here, we just ask that you please use the back of your hand and "pet" them from head to tail; otherwise the feathers and fur will fall out. The tops of the cabinets and the 2 skeletons are our very fragile items. We ask that you just look at those, but we have more items inside the cabinets. You are more than welcome to open those and look inside. You will find everything from skulls to rocks to insects. You may touch these items, we just ask that you please be careful as most everything is fragile and can be easily broken. If you have any questions feel free to ask."

This is short, but about all the visitor will have the patience to listen to. When or if they do explore the cabinets you may go over the proper handling of other types of items while you are assisting them in their exploration. 

  1. Only open one drawer at a time using the handles. Give an 'all clear' before slowly closing the drawer.
  2. Always pick up a specimen (such as the lion cub or fish) by the middle of its body, not by the head, tail, legs or fins. These could easily break if handled. Don't squeeze the specimen. There are no bones inside, and you could easily break through the skin.
  3. Glass jars must be held with two hands and never shaken or opened. Some jars contain an alcohol solution to preserve the animals inside.

Review of Interpretation

Below are scenarios that directly correspond to the six words we reviewed regarding Interpretation. Match each scenario to the word it describes.
  • Relate
    An interpreter discusses the ancient people who once inhabited the land where a visitor now lives.
  • Reveal
    An interpreter teaches a child about animal adaptations for their local species.
  • Provoke
    After speaking with an interpreter, a visitor is inspired to go home and do their own research about an exhibit topic.
  • Arts
    Interpreters work with students to create artistic renderings
  • Hollistic
    Interpreters connect exhibits to each other showing the big picture to visitors.
  • Appropriate
    An interpreter finds a way to meaningfully engage an adult with an exhibit in a totally different way that he or she would with a child visitor.

Additional Resources

Are you interested in further training in interpretation? Talk to a staff member about opportunities for National Association for Interpretation training. 

Want to find our more about Interpretation? Have questions regarding Best Practices and Standards? See these helpful resources from the NAI (National Association for Interpretation).

Standards and Practices for Interpretive Methods

Academic Curricula for Interpretation 

NAI Blog

NAI Sponsored Webinars and Trainings


Congratulations on completing Module 4 of the Museum of York County Volunteer Training. Please click on the link below to claim your badge.