How a rainy day led to a volunteering opportunity at the Museum of London

Posted on the 7th June 2019

It was a rainy day, in an otherwise dry Autumn, eight and a half years ago that prompted me to go out and explore the Museum of London. That rainy day was the start of my amazing volunteering experience; or more accurately experiences.  On entry I noted an advert to try some hands-on archaeology…and that’s where it began.

The session began with a brief presentation on archaeology and included the history of the museum. I was then invited to help re-pack some Roman pottery. That experience, not just viewing artefacts close-up, but being trusted to handle Roman pottery (admittedly already broken but still close to 2,000 years old) really was quite something.

That taster experience was the start of my volunteering across a variety of projects; handling/repacking artefacts, working with school children, leading tours and even engaging people during their visit to the local shopping centre with information about archaeology from their local area!

All the managers of all projects I have been involved with always make it clear that volunteers and what they do is valued by the museum. Volunteers help achieve something that would not otherwise happen.

It is great to know what you do is valued. For me personally, I take joy in what I have gained from my involvement. At times tasks have been challenging; but whether I have been delivering activities for school children, leading tours or showing artefacts there has been support and training to enable me to do this with confidence.

My knowledge and understanding of archaeology and the history of London has grown and I have gained skills in presentation and delivery to a range of audiences. I’ve enjoyed working with different people, each bringing their own skills and knowledge to the team and I have made many friends.

Overall, I have had wonderfully enjoyable and highly rewarding experiences…and it all started with a rainy day!

Wendy – Museum of London volunteer

Wendy at the London Volunteers in Museums Awards

In 2014, the Museum of London applied for the Investing in Volunteers (IiV) award.  The museum’s motivation for applying for an IiV journey was to implement and promote its commitment to Best Practice for Volunteers. The museum’s volunteer managers and volunteers used the standard’s nine quality areas as the good practice guide for development and from there changes were made.

We introduced a Volunteer Policy. The key message was that since volunteers give their time, talent and skills to the museum, the museum would aim to give something back by providing roles and experiences that supported volunteer aims and expectations, as well as the museums.

We reviewed our induction process. Now during the induction process volunteers receive training on the museum’s policies and processes to support them during their volunteering. This includes health and safety, expenses, support and supervision.

Vanessa Theed

We know how important it is for the museum to consider the needs of our volunteers. Volunteer managers check in regularly with volunteers to ensure that their roles are progressing as they expect. Managers ensure that any additional support or supervision is provided where needed.

These are just some of the improved processes and procedures which help benefit both volunteers and the museum.  Now we feel confident we have a consistent approach to volunteering, volunteers are fully informed about what roles are available and how to register and a greater understanding of volunteer’s involvement and impact has developed across the museum.

Our IiV journey has increased our confidence and credibility in the programme we offer. IiV has proven to be the foundation that enabled the museum to pull together all the previous existing elements of great practice and then focus them into a more robust and reliable volunteer programme. We are very proud of our volunteering programme and it continues to develop and grow.

Vanessa Theed

Vanessa is HR Training and Volunteer Adviser, Museum of London

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