Volunteering Good Practice: the Museum of Fine Arts Hands On! Scheduling of its Volunteer Programme

Related article: Launching a New Volunteer Programme


Sequence of steps Schedule
1.       The idea

The volunteer coordinators informed the head of the Egyptian Collection and the Antique Collection that, within an EU project, the volunteers of the Manchester Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts were exchanging experiences and visits for two years, and that one of the outcomes of the project may be the launching of the Hands On! activity, operating at the Manchester Museum, in Hungary. The idea is positively and openly welcomed by the head of the Egyptian Collection.

Autumn 2009
2.       The need

The coordinators meet with the employees of the Museum Pedagogical Department to discuss the planned programme and possible cooperation. It becomes clear that museum pedagogical experiences will need to be integrated into the programme.

A more formal consultation with the head of the Egyptian Collection is held, where a number of issues and related tasks arise.

·         What is the Hands On! programme? Where can working examples be found? What are the experiences?

·         Which part of the collection and what objects can be involved? Can replica object be used or only originals?

·         Who will present the objects to the volunteers? Who will create the object descriptions for them?

·         Are there other rules for the handling of the objects?

·         Are there any other aspects?

Coordinators consider the plans further on the basis of the reports from volunteers returning from Manchester. Fine tuning.

January 2010

February 2010

May 2010

3.       Task description

The task description and the training plan, which is commented on by the colleagues involved, is finalised and results in the approval of the Director General to launch the programme.

June 2010
4.       Organisational fit

The prospective volunteers are members of the Public Service Department, which also includes the volunteer coordinators, while the employees of the Egyptian Collection and museum educators play a key role in the preparation. This decision was made during the planning process, but it entailed the extension of an existing Volunteer Programme within the Public Service Department.

January 2010
5.       Budget

A budget plan was also prepared for the director general’s authorisation application, which included two major items: a one-time investment for a special Hands On! desk and the constantly required equipment (rubber gloves), which was a prerequisite for the introduction of the programme.

As the programme was integrated into the existing Volunteer Programme, its budget did not differ in other aspects.

However, due to the special nature of preparatory training, it was also decided that applicants for the programme should be able to commit themselves for a minimum of one year (as opposed to a minimum of half a year commitment in another areas).

June 2010
6.       Administrative duties

Due to the functioning of the Volunteer Programme, the new volunteering activity did not entail any extra administrative burden beyond the administration of processes, applications and training, which in itself is a significant activity (with a multi-day requirement).

February-August 2010
7.       Recruitment and selection

During previous discussions it was clearly outlined what kind of volunteers the organisation expected from the task, i.e. what skills and abilities were expected. English language skills (due to the Museum’s audience), excellent presentation skills, confidence and credibility (as the Museum’s first-line representatives will be the volunteers) were chosen as selection criteria.

At the time of the recruitment call, it was clear that selection could not be left to the coordinators, in order to build trust between colleagues and volunteers. The selection was therefore made by a three-member committee with well-defined roles. The Egyptologist commented on the content (credibility) of the object presentation given as a result of the volunteer’s self-preparation, while the coordinators assessed English language skills, self-confidence and commitment.

End of June 2010
8.       Security aspects

As the volunteers handled and handed over original Egyptian object to visitors, and this was an unprecedented activity, the safety of the objects was a primary concern. The safety training of volunteers therefore became a part of and the final element of the training. But the condition of the Hands On! desk was an object security aspect (if the surface is made of special material to reduce the impact of falling objects).

June-August 2010
9.       Training

As it appeared during the process that participation in certain elements of the training (volunteering, restoration, Egyptology, museum education, security, communication with visitors, unexpected situations, follow-up) is essential for successful volunteer preparation and that there will be no option for repeat training, the days and hours of the training were already published in the recruitment call. That is, they expected interested parties to submit their applications being aware of these details. Therefore, the training schedule was completed before the recruitment call.

The volunteers completed the training with an exam, and the examination committee consisted of several members: two Egyptologist colleagues, two volunteer coordinators, at least one museum educator and volunteers for the EU project (who saw the Manchester Hands On! desk in action).

June 2010
10.   Start of volunteering activity

Coordinators began preparing volunteers for their assignments in August, ahead of the exams, to help prepare the scheduling the mentoring overseeing assignment. As a mentor, from among the curators, the restorer, the museum educator, or the coordinator someone was always willing to be an observer nearby and available for any intervention needed). This achieved a twofold objective: the volunteers’ confidence increased and the activity became widely accepted. Before the first volunteer session, the Museum began promoting the new activity.

September 2010

This article based on the following document: This article based on the following document: Practical Guide for the Establishment and Operation of Volunteer Programmes at Institutions : abridged English version