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Volunteering information

Published: Tuesday, 28th February 2017

The importance of volunteers is reflected in the amount of activity that will focus on this group of Museum of Oxford supporters.

Our previous update focussed on the work we were doing to learn from other Museums, however Oxford’s Hidden Histories is much more than the built space. Alongside the building work involved with the new Museum of Oxford spaces, there will be an exciting programme of activity. The importance of volunteers is reflected in the amount of activity that will focus on this group of Museum of Oxford supporters.

To get the activity we deliver with volunteers’ right, we have consulted several other museums on how they manage and work with volunteers. The responses make for very interesting reading in the range of activities volunteers are involved in, to the different ways they are recruited. The role of the volunteer and how they are perceived by the organisation changes from museum to museum.

Some museums are completely reliant on volunteers and they simply could not open without them. Other organisations see the role of volunteer as adding to the offer, but also an integral aspect of involving the community. Interestingly, diversity is becoming an ever stronger focus in volunteering, with many of the volunteer managers stating that they are looking at ways of increasing participation. The balance between being able to open a museum (the need for those volunteers who have the time and availability to help out on a regular basis) and reflecting the community your museum is based in (meaning a variety of roles, appealing to many, at differing, flexible times) means that volunteer managers are juggling the various needs of the museum.

Volunteer retention is also an area that Oxford’s Hidden Histories will support. Many of the volunteer managers who were consulted have stated that the best way to keep volunteers is to offer a range of interesting and exciting roles. Project work can often break up the regular roles, such as front of house, and give volunteers the sense of accomplishment in getting to the end of a particular activity. Supporting volunteers through dedicated members of staff is also seen as being important.

Consistent throughout all responses was the need to recognise and thank volunteers. Through catch ups, a cup of coffee or some kind of social activity, volunteers deserve thanks and recognition for their support.