Volunteers Week takes place from 1 - 7 June and to celebrate we’d like to highlight some of the amazing work that our volunteers do.
The pandemic has put a stop to our in-person volunteering for over a year but we hope to be able to welcome back our wonderful volunteers again soon. Two of those are Colin and Hetty who look after the courtyard at the Museum of Edinburgh. They maintain the plants, pull out those pesky weeds and engage visitors with the fascinating architectural fragments in the space. Hetty created a fantastic guide to the stone carvings and has written extensively about the courtyard and more information can be found at Hetty's History Walks.
Further up the Royal Mile we have a dedicated group of volunteers at the Writers Museum who engage with visitors in the Robert Louis Stevenson rooms. Most of them are members of the Robert Louis Stevenson Club and have shared their expert knowledge with visitors from all over the world for many years. You can read about the favourite Robert Louis Stevenson book of one of our volunteers on the Stories page of this site.
Some other volunteers have continued to volunteer in some capacity during the lockdowns. At Lauriston Castle we have a group of tour guides who in normal times take small groups of visitors around to hear about the fascinating history of the castle. For Digital Doors Open Day last year, some of our volunteer tour guides produced short films about aspects of the castle and its collections. You can view these on Lauriston Castle's page on this website.
Three volunteers have supported our monthly programme for people living with dementia and their carers, Art in the City, for several years. The sessions were moved online a year ago, and the volunteers have gone out of their comfort zones, getting to grips with digital technology so that they can continue to support the sessions online. Volunteers research arts subjects, present themes and chat with participants.
Another group of volunteers determined not to let the pandemic stop them is Edinburgh Living History. They devise site-specific performances at museum and heritage venues, and particularly at Lauriston Castle. Often taking on the roles of the last Edwardian residents of the castle, they create performances that bring the history of the house alive. Each performance is carefully devised by the group to be as historically accurate as possible whilst also being humorous and entertaining. Events include murder mysteries, tours, and school workshops.
When museum venues were forced to close in March 2020, Edinburgh Living History members learned how to take part in online meetings so that they could continue to plan performances together. They also learned to use recording equipment so they could film themselves giving performances individually in their own homes. These were then put together with the help of an editor and streamed online. They have received fantastic feedback and allowed us to continue to engage with audiences whilst venues have been closed. View some of their films on the Lauriston Castle Facebook page.
Remote volunteers have also been hard at work contributing to our collections inventory project, Auld Reekie Retold. 28 volunteers are working from home to transcribe the vast and varied Collections Registers. Initially they’ve been working on the collections from the Museum of Childhood. We are really grateful for the huge contribution they are making to improving our records. This volunteering project is an example of how the digital world has enabled us to enlist the help of more volunteers than would be possible in person at our Collections Centre.
Finally, a massive shout out to all the volunteers who have helped with events, tours, outreach sessions, the Lauriston Castle spring clean, documentation projects, marketing and administration.
At Museums & Galleries Edinburgh we value the significant contribution that volunteers make to helping us preserve, display and interpret our collections. We also believe volunteering is a two-way street and we aim to provide an enjoyable and enriching experience that contributes to physical and mental well-being, strengthens community bonds and promotes a sense of place.
With these values in mind we are preparing to launch a new Volunteering Policy with an inclusive approach to volunteering that aims to make the experience one that is accessible to as many people in Edinburgh as possible. Watch this space!