Shropshire Museums - Museums Association

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Shropshire Museums

Becky Benson, volunteering officer at Shropshire Museums, gives us an insight into the work of the service’s volunteers.

Could you give an outline of volunteering at your organisation?

Shropshire Museums and Archives is supported by a wonderful volunteer team who help welcome visitors to our venues, support us with improving access to our collection and undertake a range of activities to enhance the work we do. We are so lucky to have each and every one of them on our team.

Our visitor experience volunteers at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery, for example, share stories with visitors, bring the collection to life and really do make a visit to the museum extra special. We see this in visitor feedback daily.

Curatorial volunteers at Shropshire Museums’ Collections Centre meanwhile work with our curators to improve the documentation of our objects, help photograph and digitise these, and support repacking work to help preserve them into the future.

What are the benefits of volunteering?

For me, one of the most significant benefits of volunteering is the difference it can make to an individual’s wellbeing. I see this in action every day. Heart-warming comments on our annual volunteering survey emphasise this:

I feel more confident. I look forward to coming. I feel my spirits lifted after each shift.

A volunteer at Shropshire Museums

Volunteering has provided a structure to the week; a reason to get up and out of the house into the wider world and engage with other people, instead of looking inward and dwelling on problems.

A volunteer at Shropshire Museums

Further responses to the survey highlighted that volunteering could provide structure, offer a chance to meet people and make friends, support the development of new skills, afford a sense of purpose, build confidence and enable people to give back.

The most important thing is that volunteering must work for each individual and support their specific motivations and needs whilst also ultimately assisting the work of our organisation.

Has the pandemic had a positive or negative impact in your experience?

I think there have been both positives and negatives as a result of the pandemic. One of the biggest challenges for me has been navigating continually changing guidance and advice whilst endeavouring to keep all volunteers up to date and, most importantly, safe.

In the early stages we were exploring activities volunteers could do from home and we are continuing to offer these remote volunteering projects which have removed several barriers for new volunteers to join us. This is something we weren’t trying before the pandemic, so it has been a real positive for us.

Most of our volunteering however is now back on site, and it has become clear that the pandemic and numerous lockdowns have knocked many people’s confidence. I am seeing volunteering really supporting individuals to rebuild this and to reengage with people again.

Ultimately it feels to me that people have come out of this experience with a renewed sense of wanting to be involved, to contribute and to make a difference.

Offer: 10% off new MA memberships for volunteers

Volunteers' Week, 1-7 June 2022

To celebrate the contributions of the museum sector’s wonderful volunteers this Volunteers’ Week, enjoy a 10% discount on your new MA individual membership with the code VOLUNTEER10 until Friday 10 June.

Join us today

Photo: Becky Benson, volunteering officer at Shropshire Museums