There’s less than a week to go until all of our finalists are treated to a glittering evening at Birmingham Hippodrome and we announce the winners of the 2019 West Midlands Volunteer Awards! Before we do let us introduce you to this years finalists, first up are the groups…
Collections Volunteer Team, Heritage & Culture Warwickshire
The collections volunteer team give their time weekly, supporting the work of the curatorial and collections team at Warwickshire Museum’s offsite collections store.
Individually, Jane O’Dell has used her vast experience of working with biology collections, Elaine Moore has previously worked as a costume maker for the RSC and has worked closely with the costume collection, Anne Morton brought her experience as a keen botanist and researcher for the Horticultural Research Institute to catalogue the entire Natural History library and finally, Jane Dennick’s knowledge as a former pharmacist has been invaluable when assessing and cataloguing the museum’s medical collection.
“It cannot be exaggerated how much of a pleasure it is for all of the staff who work alongside Jane, Anne, Elaine and Jane. They are unfailingly good-humoured, kind and supportive – towards us and to each other.” [Nominator]
As a team they have become like a family and have supported staff and each other emotionally through various hardships. In this way Jane, Anne, Elaine and Jane also demonstrate the more intangible benefits to volunteering, for both staff and volunteers.
Erasmus Darwin House Education Team, Erasmus Darwin House
Team members run a wide variety of Science and History activities for school visits to Erasmus Darwin House (EDH). They assist in devising workshop activities and they prepare the resources, including models, costumes, scientific equipment.
They facilitate the activities, adapting them to each school’s specific needs. Schools which visit EDH range from Y1 through to KS3. The team accommodates individual school’s requirements and evaluate activities and develop them as necessary.
Recently the team facilitated an outreach visit to a school which was unable to finance a visit to the museum. This involved working in unfamiliar surroundings; not all the team have been teachers so they don’t all have experience of working in classrooms. It also necessitated working with full classes instead of the usual small groups at the museum.
Team members run activities for a summer school scheme which is run by Lichfield Cathedral for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
This is a small team, composed of people of retirement age, who have many demands on their time. Thus their commitment and flexibility is all the more noteworthy. They work really well as a team: supporting each other both in developing and in delivering activities.
Fossils in Shropshire Project Volunteer Team, Ludlow Museum Resource Centre, Shropshire Museums
In 2016 the Friends of Ludlow Museum were successful in gaining funding to digitise the internationally important geological collection held at Ludlow Museum Resource Centre.
At the core of the project is a super dedicated group of volunteers ranging in ages and backgrounds who, over the last 3 years, have been digitising, cataloguing and researching the collection.
Over the last 3 years the volunteer team have created and edited over 11000 records on the museum database which otherwise would have remained untouched.
Members of the volunteer team have also researched and written over 30 articles on collectors and their collections. They have spent many hours of their own time researching and travelling all over the country producing detailed research and gathering information about the collections which would never have been known if they hadn’t discovered it.
The project has now been running for over 3 years. During that time, they have had over 30 dedicated volunteers offering their skills, knowledge and time to help.
This has resulted in a detailed and vital geological resource now becoming available online. The general public, researchers and academics all over the world can now access this valuable information which would otherwise have been unknown and inaccessible to them.
Gallery Support Volunteers, Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park
The team plays a crucial role in delivering high standards of visitor care, welcome and engagement by greeting visitors into the gallery, helping to orientate them around the building and exhibitions and answering queries.
The team are superb at what they do, bringing a smile to every occasion. They are the first to offer assistance with events – one has even been both Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny.
“I’ve seen them mentor each other, bringing out the best in each other and encouraging new team members – both staff and volunteers. They bring their years of experience from their working lives – we have retired teachers, head masters, social workers, engineers and planning officers to name but a few – and offer advice and feedback which helps us develop as an organisation.
We also have mum’s returning to work, recent graduates and those that are recovering from major life changes such as bereavement and mental health issues. They say that Compton Verney offers them opportunities to be part of something and brings a real pleasure and joy to their week.” [Nominator]
Gladstone Pottery Museum Volunteers, Gladstone Pottery Museum
The Gladstone volunteers are a hardworking and versatile group who use their experience and dedication to the site in a wide variety of ways. They maintain working exhibits and several put their careers in engineering to good use when problem solving with plumbing, electrics and building repairs.
They assist with the planning, preparation and delivery of events and can be relied upon for innovative and appropriate suggestions.
They are unique as they include people who were instrumental in saving the Gladstone China factory from demolition over 40 years ago. Their strong connection and familiarity with Gladstone is precious and valued highly by museum staff. Their pride in the site shines through and when talking to visitors they’re excellent at giving both accurate information and a personal perspective about the importance of the museum.
In 2018 volunteers were the driving force behind the Festival of Bottle Ovens commemorating the 40th anniversary of the last firing of a bottle oven. Not only were they involved in planning the festival from its conception but also prepared and delivered a large number of events, from talks to activities.
“Some volunteers have been at Gladstone for over 45 years and it is not just their lengthy dedication which sets them apart but the quality of the help they provide. They can achieve anything they put their minds to and their hard work undoubtedly and repeatedly exceeds our expectations.” [Nominator]
Natural Science Volunteer Team, The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery
The group has been working as part of the Natural Science team on a range of collections management projects, displays and outreach activities.
The team has primarily been working together to digitise and document the 150,000 Natural Science specimens held at PMAG. These tasks have ranged from documenting a cabinet containing over 20,000 beetles, photographing newly acquired fossil collections and updating the taxonomy on local moths and butterflies.
The Natural Science Volunteer team are invaluable to the museum. Not only bringing essential people-hours but also a range of subject specialist knowledge that the museum would otherwise be without.
“The work this brilliant team carries out goes beyond simply numbering objects for our documentation (though I’d never underplay the importance of that!). As a relatively early-career Natural History Curator, they also provide me with an important support network, offering advice and knowledge that would otherwise have been lost with the retirement of the previous curator.” [Nominator]
Over the previous 5 years, the team has donated approximately 3,000 hours of their time – their loyalty and contributions to the museum really can’t be appreciated enough.
Oak House Gardeners, Oak House Museum
During the past four years a group of over 20 volunteer gardeners have completely transformed the Oak House gardens. The council gardeners visit once a month to mow the lawns but all other maintenance is done by volunteers along with the planning and planting of the grounds.
“We have had many comments from the public about how wonderful the grounds are and they are undoubtedly one of the reasons people visit the museum. We are also complimented on the afternoon teas the volunteers provide and the customer service in general in the tea room.” [Nominator]
The group work in all weathers without fail and work tirelessly to keep what is a huge space tidy and attractive for the visitors. During extremely busy events at the museum the volunteers in the tea room have had to cope with hundreds of customers in an extremely fast paced and sometimes stressful environment and cope incredibly well with kindness and patience.
The group is an asset to the museum but also helps the local community have a safe place to meet others and feel appreciated.
Research Team, The Staffordshire Regiment Museum
The volunteers come in twice a week to the museum without fail and carry out all the requests they get for information. These can range from personal family requests, local media or information on certain individuals or specific military events. They have provided information for museums and individuals across the globe including India, Australia and America. There is never a request that they will not try and support, going to great lengths to check as many sources as they can.
The majority come with little or no military knowledge and they very much learn as they go, which can be very challenging as our history spans from 1705 to the present day. This is very important for a Regimental Museum who places a very strong emphasis on supporting and working alongside the wider Regimental Family.
“I am nominating them because they are the group which are often overlooked when events and activities take place in the museum, which with their dedication and support I do not feel should be the case. Their dedication is second to none.” [Nominator]
Thinktank Conservation Team Members, Thinktank, Birmingham Museums Trust
David, Stephen and Robert started volunteering in May 2017 as Thinktank Conservation Team Members, their role is to support ongoing conservation cleaning at Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum.
The team have completed more than four conservation cleaning circuits of this large museum since they started over two years ago. This has involved removing dust from displays, polishing tarnished metalwork and degreasing working machinery. Their work ensures that the collection on display is better cared for, monitored and in the best condition possible for visitors to enjoy.
The volunteers have also recently supported work for MiniBrum (an interactive city for under 8s at Thinktank) by assisting with the preparation of a giant architectural model of the city and helping with the installation of text panels for this new space. This has enabled the space to be completed on time and to a high standard.
“The Thinktank Conservation Team go above and beyond every time they come onto site with us. They can always be relied on to be enthusiastic about their work even when it can be dirty and smelly, and sometimes physical too.” [Nominator]
Thursday Collections Team, George Marshall Medical Museum
“We are a tiny team of one part-time Curator and on average five regular volunteers each year. The Museum has only been open since 2003, and Robert and Margaret have been volunteering for us for in excess of 24 years between them! They have rolled up their sleeves every Thursday and have been instrumental in both providing support for the collections and in our understanding of our collections.
As a retired Theatre Manager and General Practitioner, respectively, and with all of the knowledge and expertise which comes from this joint experience, the Museum can boast of in-depth collections knowledge. Between them, they have listed the collection hazards, accessioned nearly an entire book store, catalogued the large photographic collection, ordered our research files and helped to put on a series of exceptional temporary exhibitions showcasing our little-understood and rarely-seen stored collections.
This fabulous duo do not shout from the rooftops or expect prizes for their voluntary activities, we think now is the time to truly celebrate them both, and to show how much they are appreciated.” [Nominator]
Volunteers at Broadway Museum & Art Gallery, Broadway Museum & Art Gallery
The activities the volunteers undertake include giving interesting and informative introductions on the history, background and contents of the museum. They keep the museum shop running smoothly. They restock the second-hand bookshop with personal donations, and source cards and gifts created by local craftspeople to sell in the shop. One volunteer is a keen photographer of local landscapes, flora and fauna, and now supplies the shop with cards created from these beautiful photographs. Other volunteers undertake general maintenance and cleaning on a weekly basis, and even help with painting and decorating projects. Others help to serve drinks and refreshments at evening events and at group tours, and help with clearing away afterwards. All the volunteers help to fold leaflets and from time-to-time distribute them to local tourist centres, cafes and hotels. Their outreach and educational activities are also volunteer led, with interesting and fun children’s trails created for each school holiday.
“All of our volunteers are willing to help in any way they can when at the museum, and all of them go ‘above and beyond’ the regular front of house duties.” [Nominator]
Winterbourne Volunteer Printing Press Demonstrators, Winterbourne House & Garden
Winterbourne Press was formed in 2012. Volunteer demonstrators have been instrumental in ensuring the Press’s ongoing success, the group have cleaned and fixed equipment (with one individual even making replacement parts), sorted and arranged type but probably most important of all have engaged with a wide variety of Winterbourne customers, their enthusiasm is infectious and every customer comes away with new knowledge and interest in historic printing techniques.
The group’s professionalism is second to none. Printed material including greeting cards are now available in the Winterbourne gift shop and all of the paper bags are printed in the press with a Winterbourne Logo. Not only are the cards printed at Winterbourne but the designs are created by a Winterbourne volunteer inspired by the families that lived in the house.
The group are enthusiastic engaging and encouraging; their positive attitude has added a new dimension to the museum collections. The live interpretation is always well received and the group consistently go above and beyond to ensure they are available for events out of normal trading hours on weekends and at any time to showcase the press and its collections.
Worcester Heritage & Amenity Trust Board, Tudor House Museum
In 2003, the Museum of Local Life closed due to funding issues. The MOLL was so loved by local people that a small band of them formed a group and began to campaign for it to stay, even to the point of writing to Tessa Jowell, the then Minister for Culture. When that failed, they decided to take on the running of the museum themselves, forming Worcester Heritage & Amenity Trust and taking on this huge project.
With the entire collection removed to council storage, the team opened the doors with little more than a kettle and a strong determination to keep the museum going. They began gathering a collection, learning about how an inventory works, researching topics to make displays out of and, of course, fundraising. By attending as many courses as possible, they gathered the skills to match their enthusiasm and have been consistently proactive in developing the museum.
Their efforts and productivity have inspired great loyalty to the museum from the local community and they are embedded in it in a way that other organisations struggle to achieve.