After a month of deliberation over almost 100 nominations involving nearly 500 volunteers for this year’s London Volunteers in Museums Awards, the judges, which include Kids in Museums Director Dea Birkett, Arts Council England’s Relationship Manager, Museums (London), Sue Barnard, and former awards organiser Kate Bowgett, have reached their decisions.
With seven categories to judge, and nominations from museums in London ranging from large nationals to small independent museums, choosing the winners was a difficult decision, even for old stalwart Clive Pankhurst, in his third year as a judge.
The awards, now in their seventh year, will be held at The Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich on Wednesday 9 September from 6-9pm. Two hundred volunteers and their managers, along with supporters from the museum and cultural sector are expected to attend the awards.
Rachel Ball, coordinating this year’s awards, knows what it is like to win and what a career changing impact it can have. Rachel won the award for Supporting Volunteers (the only award where paid staff can be nominated), back in 2012 whilst acting as Volunteer Manager at the London Canal Museum.
Rachel said: “It was such an honour to receive the award, be recognised by my peers and know that I had made a positive impact in a job and organisation I loved. Following receipt of the award, with my confidence high, I decided to make volunteer management my only career. Alongside my role at the museum, I undertook positions at an art in mental health charity and a carer’s charity, broadening out my experience, skills and knowledge. I am now back in the museum sector, at the RAF Museum as their Volunteer Manager (London) establishing their volunteering programme. When the opportunity to be the Chair of the Awards committee arose, it was too good of an opportunity to miss; to give back to something that for me has been career defining. I know the award made a difference to how people (and I) viewed my capability. Ensuring the awards continue and people are recognised for their impact is so important.”
So who has won this year’s awards? Winners range from the 35 strong Warship Conservation team from the Imperial War Museum’s HMS Belfast to sixteen year old Taliha Gazi, founding member of the ‘Young Curators’ volunteer group at the William Morris Gallery.
The Warship Conservation team are made up of volunteers from all walks of life from younger volunteers who are either students or seeking work, to full time workers and retired professionals. Since 2006, this team have donated over 29,000 hours of voluntary support to the project. As well as actively conserving parts of the ship, they have been involved in restoring some compartments and machinery to their former glory and in giving information to visitors.
Taliha took part in a consultation project at the William Morris Gallery to develop the Young Curators group – a volunteering opportunity for 16-24 year olds. Taliha became a founding member and has played a key role in developing the gallery for young people – helping curate an exhibition, develop programmes of events and recruit new members into the group. Her supervisor, Rebecca Jacobs describes Taliha as ‘a natural leader who uses her skills and abilities for the benefit of others’ and as someone who ‘believes in widening access to the arts especially for the local community’.
New judge Dea Birkett thanked the LVMA for ‘opening her eyes to the wonderful, inclusive, empowering work’ undertaken in the museums sector which ‘wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for volunteers’. Dea said that ‘at Kids in Museums, much of our work is enabled and delivered by our large band of dedicated, expert, enthusiastic volunteers. Yet even I was surprised when reading all the nominations for these pioneering awards.’ She added that the volunteers ‘don’t only donate hours, they give the sector expertise, passion and new ideas. At their very best, volunteers connect museums to people and communities they wouldn’t otherwise reach, bringing in fresh perspectives and knowledge’.
Last year’s event held at The Jewish Museum, witnessed the London Transport Museum scoop the ‘Best Team Award’. Richard West and Paul Bogalski attended this year’s launch at the Old Royal Naval College and tried their hand in the Victorian skittle alley, which will be open to guests on the night of the awards. Anne Burton who manages the volunteers, including the new bunch of ‘skittle alley volunteers’ at the Old Royal Naval College, says the venue is ‘proud to be hosting this year’s awards, in a year that will see the beginning of an exciting restoration project in the Painted Hall.’
The Awards are organised by the London Heritage Volunteer Manager Network (LHVMN). Many member organisations of LHVMN give their staff’s time as members of the organising committee, provide other resources such as publication of the awards booklet and contribute donations to the awards. This year the awards have benefitted from funding from the London Museum Development programme – funded through Arts Council England to support museums in London. Six judges from the heritage and volunteer sector have also given their time to support the awards.