A very significant and happy day for me occurred recently. At a special afternoon tea, I was honoured as the first and only ACMI volunteer (so far) to have contributed 2000 hours. Another long-time volunteer, Connie, was congratulated on her 1500 hours and two other volunteers were also thanked for their contributions.
I’ve been with ACMI for ten years now and love my work. When I retired from teaching, and deciding what to do with the rest of my life in order to keep active and intellectually involved, I decided that volunteering was exactly my sort of challenge.
So there we were, enjoying afternoon tea with the CEO, Tony Sweeney, who joined ACMI some two years after me, volunteer staff, volunteers, and the Communications team for whom I work. I was the only one in the room who had been there since the opening and there were many questions, and a lot of interest, in the early years of ACMI. People wanted to know about those first few months as we all tried to establish the new institution.
I was lucky enough to be there for the opening day, on the last Saturday in October 2002. No one then in Melbourne had heard of it, or been to the brand-new Federation Square, so it was a great challenge to develop an awareness of ACMI and what it could be.
Back then we weren’t even allowed to call it ACMI; the title had to be the full ‘Australian Centre for the Moving Image’, because ACMI sounded too like the familiar ACME. But the public very soon rejected that and eventually we all did too.
Our early visitors loved the Screen Gallery, and often shared their memories of its predecessor, Jolimont Yard – no one was sorry to see it go! The wonderful first exhibition, Deep Space: Sensation and Immersion showed us what the exciting new gallery would be capable of.
For the first four years I worked with visitor services, and often in school holiday programs. Then in 2006 I had my first knee surgery so it was suggested that I move to the administration offices to help with the Marketing and Communications department.
And there I am still, loving it. The job I do now is very different from the one I started with; we have grown together, and I hope I have created my special niche. Every so often, however, I am delighted to revert to my original duties and was honoured to be invited to conduct the first tours of the new Screen Worlds exhibition when it opened in 2009.
When you visit ACMI now, it is so very different from that opening season back in 2002. You would not recognise that first ACMI we knew, with a totally different ground floor arrangement. I feel so fortunate to have been there through all these changes, and to watch a great institution grow and develop.
So, that Wednesday afternoon was a very happy and unexpected occasion for me, and I was thrilled by the speeches and the presentation. Now I am very much looking forward to the 10th birthday weekend celebrations when we remember that opening day, and reflect on how far the organisation has come in those 10 years.
– Wendy McNabb, ACMI Volunteer