Spotlight on Donors
Reporting to the 'Stockholders'
Longtime SI Volunteer and SIL Donor Takes Work Seriously
If it’s a Wednesday afternoon and you’ve signed up for the Highlights Tour at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, you’re in for a treat because that’s the day Celia Barteau volunteers to lead the tours. Following a thirty year career with the U.S. Navy, Celia began volunteering at the museum over twenty years ago and is now a walking encyclopedia of entertaining and informative facts about the museum’s many exhibits and the people who put them together. Modest and dedicated, Celia sees the tours as a type of report to the 'stockholders.' "I want the public to know that we’re taking good care of these materials."
She grew up in the Chicago suburbs and became interested in museums after spending time in the city’s Field Museum and later at the Chicago Planetarium. However, she is quick to point out that the Smithsonian isn’t like museums that are mostly exhibit based.
"We’re not just another pretty face," she says. "Collections, primarily in the sciences, are the big deal here."
During her tours, Celia tries to share the story of James Smithson’s bequest with her visitors and says that Europeans, who must often pay entrance fees to visit museums there, are always surprised that everything within the Smithsonian is free.
Celia enjoys the gems and minerals section of the museum most of all, adding that the Hope Diamond is always a popular stop on the tour. She is looking forward to showing off the diamond next year when the museum celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the donation from Harry Winston.