London has more museums than any other major city; there are big ones, little ones and many more in between. Last night I was lucky enough to be in attendance at a swanky soiree at the Museum of London to celebrate the most important people in London’s museums. Not the Neil Macgregors, but the people without whom London’s museums would grind to a halt – in one case this is quite literally true: Volunteers.
“With their dedication, knowledge and enthusiasm volunteers play a vital role in helping ensure these priceless cultural assets are accessible to people from all over the world,” says Boris Johnson via the evening’s programme. Alas, BoJo could not make it to the event.
Most of us who work in museums have been volunteers at some point, but what was I doing there?
Well, I was there with the Kids in Museums team. We had been put forward for an award for our work on the Take Over Day project which runs in November (for more information and how to get involved, have a look here) Almost 40 museums took part and over 500 kids took over museums with us.
And what award did we win?
Well, we didn’t win exactly, but we were Highly Commended for Bringing Innovation to Museums. Here we are, as you can see, there are quite a few of us – it was a very big project!
The overall winners in this category was the Horniman Museum, in particular Aaron Paterson and Chris Adams (you can follow the on the Twitter @acapmedia) and their video project. They wanted to give the museum a new way of telling it’s story to new and to potential visitors. I have a particular soft spot for the Horniman, (I went there as part of the Take Over Day project and the museum was founded by a Victorian Tea Trader) and I’m very pleased they won, well done guys!
The Award Ceremony gave us a chance to hear the stories of the people who usually tell the stories. We got to hear about Rose Bentley from the Jewish Museum; their longest serving member of staff who balances her duties with caring for her disabled husband. We also got to hear about Sheila Sterling from the Fan Museum, another long serving volunteer whose command of languages has saved the day on several occasions. Both of these amazing volunteers are just as knowledgeable as the curators, too, and use this knowledge to help the visitors make the most of their visits.