By Kay McSpadden, RPWRHS Vice President and Volunteer Team Leader
Rob Case is a long-time volunteer that the Society would find it hard to do without; he wears many hats. His main task has been organizing and digitizing our extensive photo collection and training other volunteers to do the same. Hence, when someone contacts us in search of a photograph of, say, the intersection of Clark and Greenleaf in the 1920s, Rob is the one to respond. If we have the photo requested, Rob makes a copy for the inquirer who is charged a small fee.
Besides knowledge of the photo collection, Rob can answer almost every other question that comes up. He troubleshoots our technology infrastructure because he has been one of the principal installers. He knows what to do when the WiFi goes down, when a printer won’t print, when the phone won’t work. He also serves on the Membership Team. Whenever there’s an event, he and Sue Sosin, another long-time and indispensable volunteer, check people in, recruit new members and remind lapsed members to renew. Furthermore, he is always willing to “man” our booth or table at offsite events such as the West Ridge Community Market, St. Margaret Mary Alumni Night, or Rogers Park Night at Max and Benny’s. He also serves on the Volunteer Team, to which he brings advice based on his experience volunteering at other museums.
Here are a few questions we asked him about himself:
KM: You’re from London! How did you wind up in Rogers Park?
RC: I met an American woman in Wales, came to Chicago to visit her in 1980, and ended up marrying her and staying. I moved to Rogers Park because I got tired of my long commute from the west side, where we lived, to jobs in the northwest suburbs.
KM: How did you get started volunteering?
RC: I was interested in history. I was attending the University of Chicago and couldn’t fit history classes into my schedule. I started volunteering at the Chicago Historical Society thinking that would be a way to learn about Chicago history. The training there was wonderful: I always say I paid back my tuition by volunteering there.
KM: What was your first contact with the Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society?
RC: Soon after I moved to Rogers Park, I met Mary Jo Doyle. The Society had a table at a farmers market at Gayle School Park. I asked her a history question: I was living north of Howard St. at the time, and I wondered how and why that neighborhood was part of Chicago.
KM: It isn’t necessary to ask how you came to volunteer with us; the mention of Mary Jo Doyle’s name says it all. I’ve heard she could be very persuasive.
RC: Fifteen years ago, Mary Jo put me to work on digitizing the photo archives. I still haven’t finished! But now that I’m retired—since April, 2014—I finally have enough time to volunteer.
KM: Congratulations on your retirement; what was your job?
RC: I was a support specialist with the computer storage company EMC. I worked on “the Cloud.”
KM: What are the benefits of volunteering for you?
RC: The benefit of volunteering at any institution is the knowledge you gain from volunteering there and also from other volunteers.
KM: I’m sure you experience these benefits from your other volunteer “gig” at the Field Museum. What do you do there?
RC: I volunteer at the Field on Wednesdays, I stand in front of Sue and introduce her to all the school kids. I also do public tours of the Dinosaur Hall. I volunteer in all their special exhibits; next week I am training for “Mammoths and Mastodons” and next month for the permanent China Hall.