Volunteers' Voice: Object handling

Volunteer Coordinator, Rob Davies, explains how museum volunteers are learning how to deliver object handling sessions.

For the past 6 months we have been working with Museum’s Consultant Charlotte Dew to create, develop object handling sessions for visitors to the museum which will be delivered regularly by our volunteers when we reopen. We’ll also be able to provide booked object handling sessions for groups.

Volunteering handling1
Six session plans were devised, looking at parts of our collections that could lend themselves to a handling experience. These included everything from spoon carving to shepherding. A diverse range of objects and sessions will allow repeat visitors to enjoy and learn something new each time they visit.

To ensure that visitors are provided with the best possible experience and the volunteers feel comfortable, confident and happy too, Charlotte and I have developed a training strategy. As this was the first time we had delivered this type of training and project, we planned our first session as a workshop to inform our actual training sessions. By using this model, the volunteers showed us what they needed to be taught and where help would be best placed. Two training sessions were devised; in the first session we covered the basics with some role play, the second session was focused on role play and having a go. It was important to instil confidence in the volunteers and prove to them they could do the role. This meant getting hands on with the objects, teaching the basic handling rules, i.e. two hands, hold over the table, don’t hold the handle etc.

Volunteering handling2
There is still a long time to go before we reopen and our volunteers will be able to provide handling sessions for the general visitor. In the interim period, volunteers will continue training and rehearsing. Some volunteers are also carrying out individual research into the some of the objects for handling. When the Museum re-opens in 2016, visitors will have a chance for the first time to have a go at touching some of our objects, which we hope will enhance their experience.

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2 thoughts on “Volunteers' Voice: Object handling”

  1. If I was to join as a volunteer, would I have to sign a “Volunteers Agreement”, and what would it entail.

    Regards, Ian Reynolds

    1. Hi Ian,
      We have a volunteer application process that involves a volunteer application form and an informal interview. If you are interested in volunteering with us, please do not hesitate to contact me on r.j.davies@reading.ac.uk.
      Best wishes,
      Rob Davies

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