Assistant Volunteer Coordinator, Rhiannon Watkinson introduces this week’s celebration of volunteers at MERL…
At The Museum of English Rural Life we could not function without the hard work and dedication of our amazing volunteers. Around 120 volunteers ensure that the museum not only runs smoothly but is a place full of passion and friendly faces. In the past we have had volunteer tour guides, gardeners, archivists and social media whizzes. We have had volunteers who help with front of house, school sessions, our village fete and in our library. In short, volunteers permeate every aspect of our museum and we are all the better for this.
The Museum of English Rural Life is currently closed to the public during our major Heritage Lottery funded redevelopment project which has thrown up new challenges for our volunteers. There is no tour guiding to be done as the collection is packed away for safekeeping and no horticulture to offer as the site of our garden is now occupied by builders!
However, our volunteers have come up with new and unique ways to keep supporting the museum. They have thrown themselves into outreach by taking their play about the Berkshire Swing Riots to local libraries and history societies. They have worked through hours & hours of transcriptions for the archive team. They have even tried their hands at object handling (no pun intended) in preparation for the museum’s reopening. This involved learning how to hold pieces from the museum’s collection, how to facilitate visitors interacting with precious objects and researching a rural topic for an object handling session on everything from bodging to wattle hurdle making.
This year we are celebrating Volunteers’ Week with a party to thank our volunteers. There will be wine, fun and games as well as a chance for a good old natter with other volunteers and staff. We are also plunging our volunteers into the world of museums on social media with a blog post every day of Volunteers’ Week written by a different volunteer about their experience. We are looking forward to sharing the experiences of our volunteers and show the huge range of things that they get up to behind the scenes. We’re also going to do this by revealing the weird and wonderful contents of our office (and I’m not talking about the staff!)