Not easily recognised, as they do not wear a special uniform or badge- in museums, there is one volunteer for every three regular staff. Volunteers are a task force that help to preserve the art and history of England; without them, several sites would have little chance of opening their doors to the public. In order to celebrate their ‘angels’, Share Museums, the portal for Museum Development in the East of England, have organised the Volunteer Awards, a ceremony that will take place on Thursday 4th June.
Just like the more common movie awards, the Volunteer Awards feature a list of nominees divided into categories and a panel that will pick the winners.
Share Museums have been gathering nominations for the last three months. Museums, organisations and also individuals have cast their votes over the most outstanding volunteers of 2014. (Nominees have all operated in a museum of the Share network.)
The categories of the awards are seven:
• Bringing innovation Award – for the most creative volunteer
• Going the extra mile Award – for the one ‘beyond the call on duty’
• Front of house volunteer Award – for the most excellent interaction with visitors
• Behind the scenes Award – for the invisible’ ones, maintaining collections, emptying the bins, taking meting notes or fixing the unfixable
• Outstanding young volunteer award – exceptional under 25
• Volunteer management Award – for the best manager, supporter, motivator
• Community Award – for a museum or its volunteers which have been actively collaborating with other community groups or organisations
A jury of experts of arts and specialists of staff development – led by Professor Sarah Lloyd, from the department of Arts and History of the University of Hertfordshire – will award the best ones of each category. The jurors will evaluate the originality, the commitment and the ability to inspire of each nominee.
In terms of nominations, Going the extra mile and Behind the scene are the most crowded categories, and maybe the most representative of a volunteer’s nature: working out of a passion even when unseen.
Among the nominated organisations and museums, there will be Bishops Stafford Museums, Essex Regiment museum, Cambridge Museum of technology, Norwich Castle. With regards to the Front of the House volunteer award, Audley End House have been nominated along with their volunteer team re-enacting domestic scenes in pure 1700 style in the nursery and in the coal gallery.
The initiative is funded by Arts Council of England in collaboration with Share Museums. It is the first edition, and Share is already planning at least three more for the future, “as volunteers really set up a benchmark in museums’ life.”
Find out more about volunteering in a local museum by contacting your local Volunteer Centre