Meet the individuals who are finalists in the 2019 West Midlands Volunteer Awards…
Barry Bull, Chasewater Railway Museum
Barry’s knowledge of the museum’s collections, and his understanding of individual items, have enabled the full recording and documentation of the artefacts and archives, which are progressively being made available on display or electronically to a wider audience.
Bearing in mind that Barry does not own or drive a car and thus has to rely on the vagaries of public transport to and from his home in Birmingham, attendance at the museum (in all weathers) requires real commitment, a fact that does not go un-noticed within the museum team and the growing group of regular museum supporters. Barry has been ‘snowed-in’ and forced to stay the night more than once, mentioning work achieved rather than inconvenience suffered.
Even with significant commitments elsewhere, Barry continues to give over a thousand hours a year to the museum.
Barry reaches 50 years of service this year, the majority of this as Museum Curator, a role he has carried out with exceptional dedication.
Gayle Bevan, Aston Hall, Birmingham Museum Trust
Gayle started volunteering at Aston Hall over five years ago as a Heritage Interpreter.
Gayle has taken her volunteer role further as she has also developed a wonderful Heritage Herb Garden in the courtyard at Aston Hall, to tie in with a Pop Up Still Room that she delivers, and she has organised a Costume Room within the Hall itself too.
Her excellent tours of the building are always well received, and she enables them to welcome more visitors to this site and to share its history with the public. Gayle is very customer service focused and it was visitors’ comments that encouraged her to develop a Pop Up Still Room.
She feels like such a central part of the team and alongside supporting the delivery of tours she has developed her own projects to improve the visitor experience and has supported lots of new volunteers to settle into their roles at the sites too.
Gill Salisbury, Selly Manor Museum
Gill volunteers at Selly Manor every week and has become a vital member of the team and incredibly generous in sharing her time, skills and knowledge.
Gill is a talented seamstress and spent months making 40 costumes for their visiting school children who are transformed into mini-Tudors. These are now worn by 6000 school children each year and is a real highlight of their visit and it’s thanks to Gill!
During her time at the museum Gill has loved organizing and delivering their craft activities. Their regular sessions need lots of getting ready and Gill is always keen to lend a hand whether it’s making trousers for George Cadbury finger puppets or creating time traveller watch straps.
Gill loves helping the children and seeing the smiles on their faces when they take home something they have enjoyed making.
Gill is a fantastic example of someone who makes the difference and all the hard work and dedication worthwhile.
Jan Barnes, Shropshire Museums
Jan began volunteering almost 25 years ago, primarily working with and caring for the Costume Collection. During her time, she has been a key member of the costume team hoping to oversee two collection moves and a major cataloguing project.
However, her work is not restricted to backroom activities. Jan also helps to refresh the costume gallery at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery and always has great ideas for display themes. Jan works regularly as a Gallery Guide at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery helping to bring the collections to life for the visitor. There are many children who have had had their first experience of sewing alongside her!
“As Jan embarks on a new adventure and leaves us to relocate we would like to show our appreciation for her dedicated support over many years. Jan has provided the service with over 1,000 days of her time. I have learnt so much from her and regard her as equal to many professional costume curators I have met. There will be so many times over the coming weeks when I think “Jan would know…” [Nominator]
Jovan Jules, Pen Museum
In February 2019, just five minutes into his first day volunteering, Jovan was literally (without being forewarned) ‘thrown into the deep end’ by being placed on the front desk to welcome visitors. Since that day Jovan has unstintingly accepted and approached a wide and diverse range of volunteer activities with unremitting enthusiasm, commitment and dedication whether during the week, evenings or weekends.
Jovan’s unstinting dedication and commitment to the Pen Museum has resulted in the successful development of new activities that focus on improving the visitor’s experience.
The new activities developed have helped ensure customers enjoy their visit and receive a consistently high quality experience that clearly surpasses their pre-expectations as highlighted in TripAdvisor reviews.
Jovan is an exemplar volunteer who epitomises the value and critical importance of volunteers who by freely donating their time, passion and dedication ensure museums continue to provide public access and thereby provide a sustainable historical legacy for future generations.
Mike Hermolle, Lapworth Museum of Geology
Mike has been instrumental in helping the Lapworth to make considerable in-roads into addressing our documentation backlogs. Mike works principally on collections documentation, preventative conservation and general collections management. Mike’s work is always meticulous ensuring that the work he completes is of the highest quality.
Mike was also a huge asset when the Lapworth underwent its major redevelopment. Mike was (and still is) always the first to volunteer for tasks, including helping to decant, and then further relocate, the 300,000 objects within the Lapworth’s collection. Mike was also instrumental in the focus groups that helped to inform, shape and deliver, the successful Redevelopment Project.
Mike is a ‘perfect volunteer’ – committed, reliable, enthusiastic, thorough, and keen to learn, but equally -to share his considerable knowledge and skills.
One thing that helps to demonstrate Mike’s dedication to the Lapworth Museum of Geology comes from his granddaughter, who clearly recognises how Mike is dedicated to the Museum as she refers to the Lapworth as “grandad’s museum”.
Nigel Priddey, Royal Birmingham Society of Artists
Without Nigel’s help, the gallery would not be able to manage the Collection and Archive store to their current high standards.
Through the range of tasks involved in his role, Nigel also helps to assist with tackling barriers/difficulties by making films and ensuring we have a good digital record of works in the Collection, Nigel has helped them share more Collection and archive-related information with people who are less able to visit the gallery due to access barriers/difficulties (e.g. researchers from further afield who cannot afford to travel out to RBSA gallery, disabled audiences who might face more transport and parking difficulties, Deaf and Blind audiences who need films with subtitles and audio rather than just text on a webpage).
Nigel goes above and beyond on a regular basis. As well as his Archive Officer role, he helps with general stewarding and exhibition changeovers throughout the year.
Everyone has always found Nigel to be friendly, supportive, good-humoured and helpful. He has a wealth of experience, providing insightful comments and ideas in a way that is still very modest and open to feedback from others.
Pam McNamee, Redfern’s Cottage: Museum of Uttoxeter Life
Shortly afterward starting Pam was appointed as secretary to the Uttoxeter Heritage Trust in 2011 assisting the treasurer from 2013. During this period the trust was the recipient of a large Heritage Lottery Grant to fund the redevelopment and extension of the museum. Pam was appointed as project trustee responsible for overseeing the project in 2017 and given responsibility for the budgets and managing the HLF grant.
Pam has worked tirelessly to ensure the success of the project she has put in long hours managing the finances of the project to ensure its successful completion, in addition to this Pam is still heavily involved in the more practical side of the project making day to day decisions on matters as they arose during the 9 month period of construction.
Now the museum is open Pam continues to volunteer, both in the museum and as a member of the board of trustees. She is still vital to the running of the museum and all that goes on there. She continues to go above and beyond to ensure the survival of the museum in everything she does.
Roger Salmons, Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park
Roger is Compton Verney’s data genius. He mainly volunteers with the Marketing team helping them to analyse their ticket data, research potential audiences and the demographics of the local area, and provides insight into trends, anomalies and correlations in the data. His perseverance with extracting information from a very complex ticketing system means that they now have vast amounts of data that would otherwise remain unused and unexplored.
But beyond his data crunching, he is also always willing to lend a hand wherever is needed. He has assisted the department when running events for the press or public. He contributes to team meetings with new ideas and challenges our ways of working.
Roger has helped to facilitate a step-change in the organisation, allowing them to make evidence-based decisions and improve their customer service. The information that Roger has been able to provide has deepened their understanding of their audiences and their products, allowing them to make decisions that will ensure future sustainability and resilience.
Steven Harris, RAF Museum Cosford
Steve has been involved in many activities across three departments for the Museum. Access and learning, Public Events and Visitor Experience. Steve delivers some of our formal and informal learning workshops to a wide range of young people. He has been described by museum staff as ‘a calm and thoughtful person in both his approach and his presentation which goes down well with children’. He has planned and run with the team activities, including building rockets and cars out of paper materials, parachute and glider building. However, for students to build such vehicles they first need to be taught the science that drives them. Then how their performance can be optimised, utilising in full Steve’s knowledge and expertise.
All of Steve’s volunteering is public facing and telling of stories of science and the RAF. He always considers his audience whether that is a group of 5 year olds or secondary school students and he differentiates his delivery as needed. He is always understanding of the needs of teachers and how important our support of the visiting groups is to make their visit ‘the best visit ever’
Terry Rahilly, Coventry Transport Museum
Terry’s passion for making is enabling the learning department to develop activities in a new way, in house and on a tight budget, designing and making activities. He supports the delivery of family learning sessions and the development of school sessions. He truly encourages and motivates visitors to try out new things, to not have a fear of designing, making and engineering but to simply have a go and play, enjoying the process. He also makes visitors feel comfortable and involved in the museum setting, by explaining how things that the museum has produces might be improved and getting visitors involved for ideas in improving the design, therefore enhancing the learning experience.
Terry is being nominated because he has been so consistently supportive over such a long time. He is playful, experimental and open to working with people that think in a different way to him. He is very committed and has spent so many hours happily cutting cardboard that in the museum offices the Stanley knife is now known as the Terry knife!