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Meet Our Finalists – Special Awards: Audiences

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By West Midlands Museum Development / Posted on Wednesday 13th September 2017

Meet Our Finalists – Special Awards: Audiences

6 days to go until all of our nominees are treated to a glittering evening at Birmingham Hippodrome and we announce the winners of the 2017 West Midlands Volunteer Awards!  Before we do let us introduce you to this years finalists in the ‘Special Awards: Audience’ category…

potteriesSarah Alexander, Potteries Museum and Art Gallery

Image: Hoard Hosts, 2013 (Sarah Alexander third from right)

“Sarah Alexander is a long-standing volunteer at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, and has helped to make many thousands of visitors feel welcome and valued. She is always willing to go that extra mile to ensure that visitors leave the museum feeling that they have experienced something special.”

“Sarah was one of the very first Staffordshire Hoard Volunteers and helped make 53,000 visitors to the museum feel welcome during the three week period of the first display of material from the hoard in 2010.”

“She was then one of the first people to step forward to become a Hoard Host to help with the next exhibition, Staffordshire Hoard: Dark Age Discovery, which ran from July 2012 to September 2013.”

“Sometimes this meant talking to an individual or a small party, sometimes it involved a school group or a coach party of fifty or more visitors.”

“The main qualification for hosting is an ability to put people at their ease and make them feel welcome. Sarah has a particular ability to do this, and many visitors have left the gallery knowing far more about the hoard than they might have expected when they came in. There have been many letters of thanks from people whose visit was made special by the attention shown to them by Sarah.”

“She has also helped to provide training for new volunteers, in order to pass on to others the knowledge and skills that she herself has acquired as a host.”

“She is entirely reliable, always enthusiastic, and has an admirably practical outlook. Above all, she is adaptable, able to tailor her input to the different needs of different audience groups.”

“Sarah has also been a committee member of the Friends of the Potteries Museums & Art Gallery, helping to co-ordinate events and visits, promoting the museums, and fundraising.” [Nominated by Ian Lawley, Friends of the Potteries Museums & Art Gallery]

Back to Backs Booking Line Team, Birmingham Back to Backs

“Unlike other National Trust properties that have acres of gardens and miles of corridors and long galleries, the Back to Backs is just 11 small houses around a courtyard.”

“To get around this we operate a tour system to help us control how many people we have in our houses at any one time. If you have a tour based system, you need to have a process for booking people on. This is where our booking line team come into it.  The booking line volunteers are often the first point of contact for many of our visitors, taking the booking, answering any questions, offering advice, they offer an invaluable service.”

“It is often said that the difficulty faced in booking on a tour of the Back to Backs is one of the few negatives of the property and that is something the booking line volunteers have to confront. They regularly work alone, with a single phone, which will ring continuously through the day. As soon as they have finished one call, they have to take the next call and it is not uncommon that the person on the other end of the phone has tried 5 or 6 times to get in touch, so will often have a bit of negativity to express before they get onto booking a tour. The booking line volunteers deal with this on a daily basis and ensure the conversation they have ends up being positive, keeping the Back to Backs full of visitors.”

“They mostly go unseen and don’t receive the same praise or attention as the tour guides. They don’t feature in the promotional material like our craft volunteers or the conservation team. They just sit, behind the scenes, getting on with the job of getting people into the Back to Backs and keeping Court 15 alive for future generations.” [Nominated by Jonathan Print, Birmingham Back to Backs]

Boscobel House Volunteer Team, Boscobel House

“We here at Boscobel House strive to exceed customer expectations and our volunteers here have helped us in delivering this.”

“We now have a fantastic team of 30 volunteers who assist in the role of ‘Volunteer Explainer’. This entails providing security for the house and collection, being based in the parlour in the main hunting lodge and engaging with the public about the history of the property.”

“During the winter season of 2016/17 our volunteers kindly offered their assistance by stewarding the house in between tours to allow visitors to free-flow. This meant the house could be accessed by many more visitors, where previously during the winter the house would only be accessible twice a day by guided tour!”

“There are also two areas in the house which desperately required conservation work in order to open them to the public. This was made possible by our volunteers assisting with the winter conservation clean. Their assistance also meant we could spend more time working on ‘The Oratory’ which is reading room used by the Evans family who formerly occupied the house. Visitors have commented on how lovely these rooms are and they have been an additional attraction for our repeat visitors.”

“We also have a volunteer gardener, Tony. People come here just to spend time in these gardens or enjoy the garden games with their children.”

“Another role is the checking of our nearby free site ‘White Ladies Priory’. Unfortunately, as this site is not attended by a member of staff, it is often the victim of vandalism and antisocial behaviour. Our volunteer Rob kindly checks the building and surrounding area weekly and litter picks the area making sure it looks clean and presentable.”

“Their passion shines through and makes our visitors share an enthusiasm for the site, meaning that they return again and again!” [Nominated by Daisy Lambert, Boscobel House]

Steph Broughton, Nuneaton Museum and Art Gallery

“Steph has volunteered at Nuneaton Museum & Art Gallery for the last 5 years. She is steadfast, reliable and passionate about the museum, volunteering with us weekly to contribute over 550 hours in the last five years.”

“More recently Steph has worked closely with the Museum’s Outreach Officer on two innovative projects, driving and developing a new visitor experience for children, their families and carers. This has involved embracing new technologies and ways of working and Steph has contributed significant leadership, resilience and professional expertise throughout.”

“The ‘Tootles Tour’ project in late 2016 resulted in the creation of a digital audio tour of the museum, looking at key objects and telling their stories.”img_20161031_100254

“As a former teacher Steph brought considerable skills in children’s development and learning to steer the project. She helped to create an immersive experience that encourages children and families to engage with our collection in many new ways. Steph insisted ‘I want to get children to look at what’s around them and think about what they see in terms of stories.’ Her work on this project often extended beyond time spent volunteering at the museum to undertaking considerable research, script writing for the audio and getting to grips with some very new and challenging technology involving smart phones and beacons. All the more amazing as Steph admits to not ‘doing’ technology but being thrilled at what was achieved and what else might be possible!”

“During 2017 Steph has been working on the development and delivery of a new Under 5s project  funded by Warwickshire County Council’s Smart Start strand  The project aims to use our building and collections to develop Under 5s ‘school-readiness’.”

“In the last 12 months Steph has championed children’s access to our collections with far reaching results. She uses her personal empathy with our visitors to create intergenerational, multisensory and holistic engagement and learning opportunities.” [Nominated by Matt Johnson, Nuneaton Museum and Art Gallery]

Coffin Works Front of House Team, Newman Brothers at the Coffin Works

“The Coffin Works volunteers are a diverse group, including ex-funeral directors, professionals, craftsmen, recently retired people looking for a challenge, students and young people.”foh-group-shot

“Our volunteers kept us at the top of TripAdvisor in our first year of opening and we are consistently in the ‘top ten things to do in Birmingham’: an amazing achievement considering our size compared to some of the competition.”

“We wanted to make the Coffin Works welcoming to as wide an audience as possible, overcoming reservations to provide them with a fun but authentic and informative encounter with Birmingham’s industrial and social history.”

“All customer-facing roles are carried out by volunteers.  We’ve taken advantage of our smallness to enable a personalised, intimate and friendly visitor experience, letting the varied personalities of the volunteers shine through. From the moment that a customer steps through the door, our volunteers immerse them in the atmosphere of the factory as it was in the 1960s”

“They can often be found undertaking research while a tour is going on in order to be able to provide visitors with the answer to a question they’ve asked the guide on the way round.  If there’s a particular area of interest within a tour group then our Front of House team will tailor their introduction and let the guide know to adapt their tour appropriately.”

“The role of the Front of House team doesn’t finish at the end of the tour.  They often help visitors identify great places to eat, explain transport links or pass on their own hidden Birmingham gems.  Staff regularly book taxis for visitors and call other city attractions to check availability or book them onto their tours.”

“When they aren’t busy with visitors, our Front of House team can be found promoting the museum in blogs, vlogs and the fantastic images on our Twitter feed.” [Nominated by Victoria Cox, Newman Brothers at the Coffin Works]


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