Projects Around the UK
Projects Around the UK
Project Name: Involving Extreme Age Groups as Museum Volunteers
The Manchester Museum has a well established tradition of working with volunteers. As part of the University of Manchester, the Museum is committed to lifelong learning and constantly seeks to provide exciting opportunities and innovative ways to involve a diverse pool of volunteers.
Through links forged via an earlier Grundtvig funded project, VoCH (Volunteers of Cultural Heritage), The Manchester Museum was approached by the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest and invited to form partnership to develop and deliver a Senior Volunteer Project focusing on the inclusion of those aged 50 years and over.
Core to the project is a 3 week exchange programme, were a total of 6 volunteers from both The Manchester Museum and The Museum of Fine Arts take part in crossover visits to each museum. Over the 2 year project (2009-2011), each venue hosts 3 visits involving 2 volunteers each time. Participants have the opportunity to live and volunteer in a different country while gaining new skills and experiences and learning about a different culture.
A key aim of the project is to create an international exchange of museum volunteer experiences and to share best practice between the two organisations. It is hoped that all participants involved with the exchange programme get an insight into the partner institution’s volunteer programme from the induction training through to the volunteer activities. The participants receive support from museum staff and fellow volunteers and have the opportunity to volunteer actively in the host institution in areas such as visitor services, guiding, office administration and handling objects.
The Manchester Museum posted this opportunity to its existing volunteers and had more than double the number of eligible volunteers required register an interest. All volunteers were then asked to fill in an application form, attend a taster session and an informal interview with project staff. Six volunteers were then selected to take part, with a seventh acting as a reserve.
All volunteers who applied to take part were invited to act as mentors to the visiting volunteers. A core group of nine volunteers formed, including the six volunteers actually taking part in the exchanges and three additional applicants. These volunteers play an integral role in planning each visit and supporting the visiting volunteers during their stay in Manchester.
The Manchester Museum and Museum of Fine Arts Budapest have worked together closely creating comprehensive preparation documents for the visiting volunteers and detailed 3 week activity programmes. The activity programmes offer a rich insight into the host institution and volunteer roles available while also incorporating visits to other heritage venues both regionally and nationally.
At The Manchester Museum staff across the organisation take an active role in the delivery of the 3 week activity programme, providing training and supervision for volunteers in conservation, curatorial collections, object handling, learning and front of house. This creates opportunities for staff development.
This project has provided great opportunities for volunteers, staff and the two host institutions involved. It has created a platform to share best practice between organisations in different European countries and generated strong links with fellow colleagues aboard.
Interesting aspects of the project
The Manchester Museum and Museum of Fine Arts Budapest have developed innovative ways of working and both have expertise in specific fields. A central outcome of the project is to share this expertise between the two museums through the experiences of the volunteers during their exchange visits.
The Manchester Museum has run a successful Object Handling programme for several years, were volunteers engage visitors with original museum objects. Through this project volunteers from the Museum of Fine Arts Budapest have had hands on experience of the training, skills and procedures involved in this programme which has been able to be conveyed back to staff and fellow volunteers as they establish their first object handling collection.
The Museum of Fine Arts Budapest offers an excellent tours programme which volunteers from The Manchester Museum have been able to witness and feedback to staff and other volunteers as a comprehensive tours programme is developed at The Manchester Museum.
Volunteers from both institutions have gained an invaluable insight into these areas and picked up transferable skills which will now assist the implementation of new practices at the sending institution. The sharing of such knowledge, skills and practice is a key legacy of the project, which ultimately will enhance the visitor experience and provide increased opportunities for volunteers in the future.
Describe the impact the project has had
The volunteers that have been involved in the exchange visits to Budapest have felt privileged and honoured to be part of the Grundtvig Senior Volunteering Project. They have learnt a significant amount about their host country, the museum, its practices and have embraced the chance to live and volunteer in a different city and immerse themselves in a different culture.
For the volunteers visiting the UK from Hungary, they bring a fresh enthusiasm to the Museum and it is amazing to see the journey they go on during their 3 week stay. Their level of English improves and so their confidence increases, they make new friends and embrace new practices and the opportunity to visit heritage sites across the country.
On a personal level, the volunteers state they have gained increased self confidence, while also learning about themselves and achieving an increased sense of fulfilment and a more positive outlook for the future. The opportunity to travel and visit new places provides experiences for people who may otherwise face barriers such as financial constraints or isolation.
The commitment from all of the volunteers involved has been incredible, which is testament to the regard the volunteers hold for the project. Lifelong friendships have formed through the project between volunteers from Budapest and Manchester, this in particular has been fundamental to the success of the project.
"The responsibility of being a guest in Budapest representing the Manchester Museum was challenging but very rewarding. I consider it a great privilege and an enriching experience to be part of this project which develops wider volunteering skills."
Arnold Bradshaw, The Manchester Museum
"It has been a unique opportunity and one I never expected to have, to share experiences of volunteering with people from a somewhat different cultural background. The enthusiasm and warmth of everyone involved has been a delight. It has been lovely to meet new people and we have all got on so well! Talking to all involved my impression is that everyone is finding it a wholly positive experience. I have made some good friends and expect to keep them for life, so definitely a life- enhancing experience."
Margaret Wells, The Manchester Museum
"The project has been a brilliant opportunity to meet people who, though from a different cultural and political background, are doing similar volunteering work to us. We have been able to share experiences, learn from each other and try new approaches. Bonds of friendship have been formed, too, and I think that horizons have been broadened amongst all who have participated."
Glynis Greaves, The Manchester Museum
"I was delighted to be successful in being chosen to take part in the exchange scheme with the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest. It is a privilege to be able to learn from people from a different European country how they see and learn from the way we do things in our museum environment. It was also a pleasure to accompany them and introduce them to the culture of my own city."
Ray Jones, The Manchester Museum
"This project gave the opportunity to build new connections, to have new impression about Great Britain, British people and about the cultural possibilities in Manchester. The possibility to learn the English language, to travel to London and Liverpool and to see other museums, to meet people and see how volunteers work there and has been very important. I realised that the senior people can do a lot in both countries this is important for us but also for our country. Very important is that we are in the EU together and we can work together."
Sylvia Felegyhazi, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest
"I think the project was a life changing experience for me indeed. The project gave new educational opportunities to us and it was very interesting and useful. The Manchester Museum was amazing, the volunteer group were very helpful and we learned a lot. I think my English improved too. We can compare our volunteer work and share experience to improve our volunteering in the future. The main aim was the "Hands on" program learning and trying it here in Budapest. It has helped and will be realised later this year when we open our "Hands on" table."
Elisabeth Balog, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest
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