During the time the museum has been closed for redevelopment our volunteers have not been idle. Even though we are only operating a limited font of house service, and no tea-room at all, most of them are still working away. In fact, we have recruited many new volunteers, so that we get the equivalent of an extra 5 staff members from the time they put in. Many have been trained to clean objects and collect stories at the pop-up. At the moment they are cleaning our old displays ready for our re-opening in a few months time.
At the end of March we decided it was time to treat our volunteers to a trip. Sadie, our Activity Plan Programme Coordinator and Adam, our Learning Officer, had already visited Weston Super Mare Museum to find out about their highly successful volunteer programme, and we thought it would be good to check out the new displays and cafe they installed as part of a recent Heritage Lottery funded project.
Weston Museum has been through a very difficult period. Previously run by North Somerset Council, it is now operated by the Town Council, while the collections and displays are looked after by the South West Heritage Trust, based in Taunton.
We particularly liked “Ada’s Cottage”, and the new displays are very smart. The staff and volunteers are working very hard to generate income through their shop and tea-room. But the museum isn’t run very much like ours – it is crucial to Barnstaple Museum that our volunteers can work with our collections as well as the public, so that we can respond to enquiries, research requests and local project quickly and effectively.
We did come away with some great ideas about how to create more volunteer roles, some of them off-site – Weston has a sewing team for example who create replica costumes as learning resources. We also like the way they are thanking their donors by writing their names on the museum floor.
Of course, we are very lucky that our building is right in the centre of the town. Weston is a little but tucked away. Volunteers and staff all enjoyed exploring the rest of the town, the pier and the sea-front, and its lovely to get away for a day. A volunteer trip will definitely be on offer as we expand our volunteer team.
And the staff had fun too!
Many thanks to volunteer David Ifold for the photos.