Volunteers’ Voice #3 – Visitor research

by Rob Davies, Volunteer Co-ordinator

Last week we launched our first wave of visitor research at the Museum of English Rural Life as part of the Our Country Lives project. Each wave of visitor research will last for a week, during different parts of the national calendar and we are attempting to capture the museum at different stages of the year.

Visitor research is a big task to undergo, and for a museum with a limited staff it is quite a stretch and therefore we rely upon volunteers. Volunteers are excellent at conducting visitor surveys, not only can they provide manpower but the range of volunteers means we will have excellent people skills within the team.

Training is essential for volunteer projects and conducting visitor surveys is no different. To effectively fulfil the survey requirements, they need to be conducted with ease and efficiency.  In the training I covered:

  • Why we were conducting the survey.
  • What we were hoping to achieve from the survey.
  • The different elements of the survey.
  • How to approach visitors and explain the survey.
  • How to deal with a tricky visitor or question.
  • Which part of the museum to conduct the survey in and who is the member of staff on hand to support the volunteer team.

As we happened to choose the middle of a heatwave to start our survey, there were times when there were very few visitors to talk to, so they had a chance to explore the museum and enjoy the garden.

It is vital to make sure our volunteers continue to feel valued. I maintain contact by seeing them as often as I can, listening to their opinions and keeping them fuelled with tea! Without volunteer support we would not be able to conduct this large a visitor survey and we are forever thankful to them.

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