Leading a volunteer programme in museums

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Often in volunteering circles (speak), the act of volunteering is quoted as the ‘New Alchemy’ because volunteers give freely their donations of time and talents, they are quite literally ‘worth their weight in gold’.

National Museums Scotland staff members and Event volunteers at the National Museum of Scotland.

At National Museums Scotland we have enormous gratitude for over 500 volunteers, who help us throughout the year with many different tasks and activities. From Volunteer Guides providing free tours for our visitors at our sites; to behind the scenes volunteers in our Collections departments; and Event Volunteers involved with our annual Airshow and family activities; plus many other volunteer roles such as photographers and engineers.

A woman standing in front of a large tapestry with a tree on it.
Odile, one of our volunteer guides at the National Museum of Scotland.

With their invaluable help, more stories about our objects are shared with our visitors, meticulous identification and documentation have allowed many more collections to be accessible, and our events benefit from masses of enthusiasm and lots of extra pairs of hands.

Katty, a volunteer in our Entomology Department at National Museums Scotland collection Centre.

Therefore, it goes without saying that our volunteers are a generous and motivated bunch of individuals involved enthusiastically in all areas of our museums. They collaborate closely with staff and undertake tasks that are vital to the services we provide. Not only do they bring with them a spirit of goodwill; they also help bridge the gap between museum life and our communities by sharing their time and skills with so many different people; including the thousands of visitors, we welcome every year from all over the world.

A man sitting at a desk and looking through a microscope
David. a volunteer with our Natural Sciences department.

Here are some of the things volunteers have assisted us with over the last year, but only represents a very, very small flavour of their support:

  • Assisting with the delivery of the School’s Programme in Learning & Programmes
  • Documenting, photographing and measuring Iranian printed textiles
  • Imparting vast knowledge of the history of the Reid family with visitors
  • Contributing to the safe monitoring and operation of the working accessioned exhibits
  • Stewarding, directing visitors and checking wristbands at events throughout the year
  • Re-boxing and capturing data of over 1,000 invertebrate specimens
  • Creating records of images associated with the construction of the Forth Road Bridge
  • Helping with accessories storage of the Art & Design shoe collection
  • Improving archival storage for a large collection of Scottish Farmer Newspaper
  • Making bespoke covers for the upholstered chairs in the Furniture Collection
Volunteers at the National Museum of Flight

Thank you to all our volunteers

So, on behalf of National Museums Scotland, I would like to say a BIG THANK YOU to our Volunteers for all their help.  What you achieve allows us to do so much more year after year; and thank you also for doing what you do with such generosity of spirit!  

The Volunteer stories and tweets that we will highlight this week as part of Volunteers Week will give the best testimony of our volunteers’ talents and the richness we benefit from at National Museums Scotland.  We will however continue to share their stories and blogs to show how incredible they are.

I would like to leave you with an inspiring quote during Volunteer Week, to sum up the real value of what volunteering represents.

 ‘Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heartElizabeth Andrew

Find out more about Volunteer Opportunities with National Museums Scotland.

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