written by Rob Davies, Volunteer Coordinator.
It’s summer and for us at MERL it is a very busy time for us. Our varied host of family activities means that we are very busy with a large footfall of visitors who would otherwise be at school. This is an excellent opportunity for younger visitors to explore the museum and we provide an affordable, friendly and safe environment for families. However, this does provide an added strain on the staff and volunteers of the family activities programme.
In preparation for the summer activities I recruit a team of volunteers specifically for the summer; of course, I invite regular volunteers to participate as well but in order to relieve the strain on them I have the summer activities team ready too. When the summer is over I always ensure there is another project or role that the summer volunteers can feed into if they would like to continue volunteering with us.
We have a large student body within the volunteer team, which is thanks to our obvious connections with the University of Reading but also down to the current climate where volunteering is seen as part of student life. This is great during term time but leaves a hole when it comes to the holidays, and I counter this hole with other students returning to Reading for the summer – it is a continuous cycle.
The summer team is comprised of student and community volunteers, reflecting the volunteer programme as a whole. These volunteers are often people who have experience of working or volunteering with children or those who wish to gain such experience. It is a great opportunity for people to experience learning and family activity sessions within a museum environment, volunteer alongside museum professionals and develop excellent skills.
I would recommend inviting the volunteers to meet each other first, cover what each session will entail, plan arrivals and ensure that everyone is aware of the health and safety practice. All this will help ensure that the activities go as planned.
Without the strong and enthusiastic team of volunteers we would not be able to deliver such an extensive range of holiday activities. Volunteers will also be integral to our future plans for MERL in Our Country Lives, in particular because of the invaluable input and opinions of volunteers on what we can do with the museum.