Meet Neville – Customer Service Assistant at Discovery Museum

Long-standing front of house staff member of Discovery Museum, Neville, shares what life is like inspiring the public with tales of local history, and his favourite object in the museum.

What I do

“I have been interested in history and how things work since childhood. I am a customer service assistant at the Discovery Museum, part of the front of house team.

We’re the first point of contact with our visitors face to face; it’s my job to meet and greet people, tell them what’s on offer at the museum, direct them to facilities like the café, shops, toilet and suggest donations. In general, just let people know what to expect from the museum and what exhibitions are on display, but that’s just the start!  I’m also one of Discovery Museum’s first aiders.

Neville at Madame Tussards at the Visit England Awards for excellence 2006 – Silver Winner

Why I like my job

“I really enjoy meeting new people and making them feel welcome; it is rewarding work, and no two days are ever the same. I’ve got 20 years of experience and knowledge now, and endeavour to make their visit as enjoyable as possible, so that they leave with not only a good impression of the museum, but of Newcastle and the people of the North East. At least that’s the hope! Good customer service skills are essential.

Neville taking a museum tour

“As Discovery Museum is part of the Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM) group I often share information about other TWAM venues in the area and offer ‘tourist information’. I’m often found conducting specialised guided tours for historical societies or community groups visiting the museum and I really enjoy sharing the heritage of our area.

My favourite object

“Many colleagues think that my favourite object is the Turbinia ship (Charles Parson’s speedy steam-turbined trailblazer) but it’s not.

Turbinia, Discovery Museum’s largest exhibit. The world’s first steam turbine driven vessel and for a time the fastest ship in the world.

“I think the most underrated item in the collection and one often overlooked is the Jury Rig Propeller made by the crew of the steam ship Kennet in 1899. If there is one item that shows what people can achieve when faced with a near catastrophe, this is it.

[TWCMS : 1995.341] Jury propeller from the steam ship Kennet, made from iron, wood and concrete, successfully fitted and used when she lost her propeller in mid-Atlantic in 1899.

Sketch of the Jury propeller

“The story goes that travelling between Italy and South America the Kennett lost its own propeller in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. After spending three weeks making a new propeller out of wood and metal from the ship, the crew spent a further week installing it. With the additional help of some hastily made sails they travelled a further 1,200 miles to reach safety at a very speedy 4 miles an hour!

“As well as the ship being made in the north east (Hartlepool) some of the crew also have a north east connection.

Crew of the Kennet with the propeller.  Members of Kennet crew hold propeller: L – R – Chief engineers 2nd & 3rd engineers, first mate second mate & Captain

“I find my job very rewarding. I have a passion for the venue and what its collections offer the visitor – I don’t think it’s something that you can fake!”

*At the time of writing, Discovery Museum is closed because of the global Covid-19 pandemic. Neville has been temporarily transferred to work as a Newcastle City Host on Northumberland Street, Newcastle. He continues to use his customer service skills helping people navigate the new distancing guidelines in the city as the lockdown eases.  Neville will return to his usual duties when the museum re-opens in September 2020.

As a charity, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums rely on donations to provide the amazing service that we do and our closure, whilst necessary, has significantly impacted our income. Please, if you are able, help us through this difficult period by donating by text today. Text TWAM 3 to give £3, TWAM 5 to give £5 or TWAM 10 to give £10 to 70085. Texts cost your donation plus one standard message rate. Thank you.

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