Posted Wednesday 13 June 2012
As Chair of the London Museums Group I was asked help host an awards ceremony for museum volunteers at the Museum of London on the 7th June [see picture]. What a pleasure, in the midst of so much doom and misery, to be at an event which was a celebration of museums, the people who work in them and (most importantly) the volunteers who enable London museums to punch above their weight.
The Awards are organised every year by the Museum of London’s Regional Volunteer Management Project, which supports volunteer involvement in London museums and has been running for the last four years, providing a range of different initiatives. These include supporting museums to develop and adapt volunteer management practices, helping them to ensure that volunteer involvement in their museum is sustainable, helping them to make sure their volunteers are having a high quality volunteering experience and making sure they get the most out of this valuable resource. The project is ably headed up by Kate Bowgett who also arranged the awards with the support of Arts Council England.
Being a volunteer myself (LMG is run by a volunteer coalition of the willing almost all of whom have full time jobs or their own consultancies to run) I am a passionate supporter of volunteers. I have worked with volunteers throughout my career and have been constantly impressed by their professionalism and enthusiasm. I have found them to be kind and generous people, who have supported me and the museums I’ve worked in through some tough times. They often bring a fresh set of ideas and skills to the table and I think it’s fair to say that I have learned as much from my volunteers as they have from working in museums.
At the awards ceremony we welcomed representatives from over 20 London museums with an amazing range and diversity of skills. Apparently, a staggering 9000 people offer their time for free to London’s museums, giving approximately 17 million pounds worth of work a year. Volunteers play a major role in caring for London’s heritage and culture, and ensuring that this heritage is accessible to Londoners and tourists alike. The Awards recognise the immense input volunteers make to London’s museums, large and small.
During the evening I met an inspirational array of people from a young volunteer team working at the London Transport Museum to volunteers picking up awards for long standing service. I particularly enjoyed meeting Gareth Miles who volunteers at the Old Operating Theatre (where I used to be a volunteer myself), Rose Bentley, who is 90 years young and still helping out at the Jewish Museum and Rachel Jackson who got an award for managing volunteers at the Canal Museum. It was also great to see our friends at the Cinema Museum getting a well deserved award for outstanding achievement.
I came away feeling much more positive about the future of the museum sector and about life in general, thanks to the generous catering. I wish all the volunteers who were there the very best with their projects and plans and hope to be invited back next year.
Chair, London Museums Group