Marsh Volunteers for Museum Learning Award

These Awards are run in partnership with the British Museum and recognise the best and most innovative ways in which volunteers work within local and national museums and galleries to engage the public with collections and exhibitions.

The Awards recognise 12 regional winners and celebrate projects which have taken place in the previous year.

The National Award is presented to the region in which the judges feel that the winner has made an outstanding difference to the way in which their museum engages with the public and introduced a unique dimension to this approach.

Ullapool Museum Volunteers 2017

These volunteers were committed to the Museum’s ‘Future Thinking for Lochbroom’s Past’ project, which had a bold vision to redisplay the museum’s permanent collections and create a more hands-on and engaging experience for visitors. The volunteers secured almost valuable grant funding to cover the expenses of the project and completed a great deal of hands-on work.

They undertook the physical work to create the new displays, including building new internal walls, painting, carpet laying and moving large objects, all within the constraints of the Grade A listed Thomas Telford church building. The research volunteers used their experience in oral history gathering, genealogy and local history to work on interpreting the content of the museum, developing new stories from the objects and images in the collections. They also produced three mini films connecting unique oral history recordings and images from a number of collections.

Old static displays have been transformed into new, bright spaces where people of all ages can enjoy and learn. The museum is now more attractive to young people and has had enthusiastic visits from local schools. None of this would have been possible without the dedication of the volunteers and their commitment to preserve, protect and share all that the museum has to offer should be celebrated.

This year’s Regional Winners are:

  • Northern Ireland – The ‘Christmastide’ Team at Castle Ward
  • Wales – Perceiving the Past Volunteers, Basingwerk Abbey
  • London – Heritage Project Volunteers, The Geffrye Museum
  • East of England – Jane Lowe, Gainsborough’s House
  • South East – Peter Williams, Volk’s Electric Railway Association (VERA)
  • South West – The Priest’s House Museum Learning Team
  • Yorkshire – Family Learning Team, Ripon Museum Trust
  • North East – Fusiliers Museum of Northumberland Learning and Outreach Volunteer Team
  • North West – Niall Kenyon and Robert Docherty, The Whitworth Gallery
  • East Midlands – Cromford Mills Volunteer Tour Guide Team
  • West Midlands – Back to Backs Learning Team, Birmingham National Trust

Previous Winners

'Never Going Underground' Community Curators and Scruton Station Heritage Education volunteers

‘Never Going Underground’ Community Curators

This team of 9 Community Curators have been the driving force behind the landmark exhibition ‘Never Going Underground: The Fight for LGBT+ Rights’ which ran at the People’s History Museum in Manchester from February to September 2017. The Curators researched the exhibition, travelling across the country to delve into archives, build relationships with partner organisations and meet with activists who wanted to be part of the exhibition. The result was an exhibition filled with never before seen material charting the past, present and future of LGBT+ activism. The team were fully involved with every stage of the exhibition development, including writing the labels, recruiting designers and developing family friendly interactive material. The museum has benefitted greatly from the over 1,500 volunteering hours that the team have contributed and their knowledge and enthusiasm has had a positive impact on the whole staff team. The museum staff hope that this innovative exhibition will inspire more like it in the future.


Scruton Station Heritage Education volunteers

This dedicated team of 20 volunteers has brought Scruton Station in North Yorkshire back to life through an innovative programme of educational visits for schoolchildren. The station has been redisplayed as it was in 1916, creating a period setting for a programme of curriculum-linked school visits designed to engage primary-aged pupils with the story of the station and its community during the First World War. The volunteers have created period-style costumes for use by the visiting schools, sourced and repaired original railway artefacts, undertook extensive archival research and interviews to create an authentic and immersive experience for visitors. 300 children from local primary schools have visited and engaged with the site and its heritage in a memorable and educationally-enriching way. The volunteers have been vital to the success of the project and have been engaged with it at all stages from conception to delivery.

This year’s Regional Winners are:

  • South West – Dr Jenner’s House Museum and Garden Volunteer Team, Gloucestershire
  • London – LGBTQ Tour Volunteer Team, Victoria and Albert Museum
  • North East – Victoria Tunnel Volunteer Guides, Ouseburn Trust, Newcastle
  • North West – ‘Never Going Underground’ Community Curators, People’s Museum, Manchester
  • Yorkshire – Scruton Station Heritage Education Team, Wensleydale Railway
  • West Midlands – Fleece Barn Volunteers, Acton Scott Historic Working Farm
  • Scotland – CEUT Volunteers, Taigh Cheasabhagh Museum, Isle of North Uist
  • Northern Ireland – ‘On the Brink 1914-16’ Volunteers, Mid & East Antrim Museum, Ballymena
  • South East – Trevor Rand, Rayleigh Windmill
  • East of England – Learning Volunteers, Ely Museum, Norfolk
  • East Midlands – Green’s Windmill Trust Volunteer Team, Nottingham
  • Wales – The Egypt Centre Volunteers, Swansea University Museum

Blaenavon Community Heritage volunteers

This dedicated team of volunteers were instrumental in managing the relocation of the Blaenavon Community Heritage and Alexander Cordell Museum in January 2015. From packing and recording artefacts to planning new displays and researching collections, the volunteers have revamped the museum so that is clearly tells the story of the Blaenavon community and the cultural heritage of the South Wales coalfield. Tourism opportunities have been vastly improved as visitors can now experience a guided tour of the Blaenavon Workmen’s Hall as well as visiting the museum. The volunteers also run a family history service, allowing visitors from all over the world to be able to discover more about their Welsh roots.

This year’s Regional Winners are:

  • Scotland – Louise Donnelly, National Museum of Scotland
  • North West England – Richard Croasdale, Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery
  • North East England – Marilyn Weerasinghe, Auckland Castle
  • Yorkshire – The Preservative Party, Leeds City Museum
  • West Midlands – Malcolm Nixon, Museum of Royal Worcester
  • East Midlands – Betty Stevens, Maya Stigner, Bill Fowler and Malcolm Foster, the Abbey Pumping Centre (Leicester)
  • East of England – Portals to the World Volunteers, The Fitzwilliam Museum
  • South West – Rachel Collin, Clifton Suspension Bridge Visitor Centre
  • London – Feeling at Home Volunteers, Geffrye Museum
  • South East England – Mick Oakey, Chiddingstone Castle
  • Northern Ireland – Craft in Mind Volunteers, National Museums Northern Ireland



Brewhouse Yard Museum Volunteers

The Museum of Nottingham Life depicts the social history of Nottingham over the past 300 years. In 2012, the site had to be closed to the public due to the challenging financial climate and was only open for group visits. However, thanks to the efforts of the dedicated Brewhouse Yard volunteers, the museum has fully reopened to the public and has been transformed into an engaging and interactive space for visitors of all ages.

The group have taken on a whole range of tasks; they provide information and assistance to visitors, they have developed the gardens and outdoor space at the museum, they have developed the Rock Cottage School where they take on the roles of Victorian historical characters and give visitors and immersive experience and they have been able to put on a great number of events where they have delivered a variety of activities for the public to enjoy.

This year’s Regional Winners are:

  • Scotland – Bob Shanks, The Highlanders Museum (Inverness)
  • North West England – Edmund Gardner, Volunteer Museum Guide at Merseyside Maritime Museum (Liverpool)
  • North East England – Joan Milne and Fiona Southern, Costume and Textiles Volunteers at Discovery Museum (Newcastle Upon-Tyne)
  • Yorkshire – The Education Volunteers at The Bronte Parsonage (Haworth)
  • West Midlands – The ‘Arty Tots Team’, Market Hall Museum, Warwick
  • East Midlands – Brewhouse Yard Museum Volunteers, The Museum of Nottingham Life
  • East of England – Ian Reed, East Anglian Railway Museum (Colchester)
  • South West – Archive & Library Volunteers, Wiltshire Museum (Devizes)
  • London – Still House Volunteers, Ham House & Exhibition Volunteers Team at The Society of Antiquaries, Burlington House
  • South East England – STEM Learning Volunteers, Mary Rose Museum (Portsmouth)
  • Northern Ireland – Paul McAlorum & Stephen Doyle, The Naughton Gallery (Belfast)

Family Learning Volunteers at the Museum of London Archaeological Archives and the Herb Garden Volunteers at Bede's World

The Family Learning Volunteers are a team of volunteers who were recruited to develop and deliver an educational programme for children under five years old. The team have helped create sessions based around the adventures of Marti the Mouse, a puppet used as the central character of several events. Workshops have included writing and literature, artwork, music, and food and dining, allowing children and families to directly interact with objects from the Museum’s collection. The volunteers have put in extensive work into delivering workshops and they are creative, enthusiastic and make sessions entertaining, demonstrating their passion for history and learning and enabling the Archives to reach a new audience.

The Herb Garden at Bede’s World has been designed, maintained and developed by the same group of volunteers for the past 12 years. The Herb Garden is well laid out and easy to navigate, even for less mobile visitors and all of this work and maintenance is undertaken by the volunteers. They even contribute tools, timber for fencing and other resources through their fundraising efforts. The volunteers produce information booklets on the herbs and their uses, both in the past and present, and give talks and guided tours to visitors and staff.

This year’s Regional Winners are:

  • Scotland – Museums Alive Volunteers, Edinburgh Museums and Galleries
  • North West England – Nigel Meyrick, Grosvenor Museum (Chester)
  • North East England – Herb Garden Volunteers, Bede’s World (Jarrow, Tyne & Wear)
  • Yorkshire – Adult Tour Volunteer Guides, Ripon Museum Trust
  • The Midlands – The Millers at Sarehole Mill, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery & Peter Gilbert, Erasmus Darwin House (Lichfield)
  • South West/East– Roy Calthorpe, Battle Museum of Local History
  • London – Family Learning Volunteers, Museum of London Archaeological Archives
  • Northern Ireland – Joni Wilson and Ann Mayne, Carrickfergus Museum and Civic Centre
  • Wales – Archive and Library Volunteers, Pontypool Museum

Erene Grieve and Nathan Lightowler

Erene Grieve has been running the Stamps in Schools project as a volunteer with the Learning and Access Team at the British Postal Museum and Archive for the past seven years, reaching between 15,000 and 20,000 pupils a year. She leads workshops which introduce pupils to the history of stamps, and the idea of starting their own stamp collection. The project is a great way in which children can engage with objects from the museum in an interactive way, an experience which is accentuated by Erene’s fun and creative methods of teaching.

Nathan Lightowler is a volunteer with the RPSI and has been responsible of the bulk of work involved in the restoration of the compound steam locomotive No.85 Merlin, the only compound locomotive which can be steamed and operated for the public in the UK. He has spent hundreds of hours working on the No.85 and thanks to his hard work has been able to share his passion for the unique locomotive with the public, by allowing them to experience it in operation.

This year’s Regional Winners are:

  • Scotland – Eilidh Lawrence, Scottish Fisheries Museum
  • North West England – Irving Czechowicz, Manchester Museum
  • North East England – Stephanie Sutherland Bramley, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art
  • Yorkshire – The Barley Hall Servants Team, Barley Hall
  • The Midlands – Morgan Jones, Compton Verney
  • South West– The ‘Uncovering Volunteers’ Team, Holbourne Museum & The Young Explainers Volunteers Team, Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery
  • South East – The Normandy Veteran’s Society, D-Day Museum
  • London – Erene Grieve, British Postal Museum and Archive
  • Northern Ireland & Wales – Nathan Lightowler, Railway Preservation Society of Ireland
  • East of England – Young Events Volunteers, Norwich Castle Museum

Sue Clark

Sue Clark has spent the past five years raising the profile and improving understanding of the costume, textile, hat and headwear collections at the Wardown Park Museum in Luton. She enthrals visitors to the museum with her knowledge of these important collections and also runs study days during which she is able to explain the making of samplers and the hidden stories behind many of the items included in the collections. Sue has also been instrumental in acquiring an important hat collection for the museum, which has seen the number of millinery and hat design students who visit the museum rise significantly. She leaves visitors enthusiastic and fascinated in objects they did not know they were interested in before they came.

This year’s Regional Winners are:

  • Scotland – Jan Rogers, Anna Geddes, John Coleman and Gordon Rennie, Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre
  • North West England – Art Bites Group, Manchester City Art Gallery
  • North East England – The Volunteers at Ryhope Engines Museum
  • Yorkshire – The Formal Education Team, Ripon Museum Trust
  • East Midlands – The Friends of Jewry Wall Museum Volunteer Team
  • West Midlands – Ron Hawkins, Sue Vaughan, William Rollinson, Wendy Tipper, Paul Robertson and Carol Kendrick, Walsall Leather Museum
  • South West– Liz Harman, Penlee House Gallery and Museum
  • South East – Pauline Price, HMS Warrior
  • London – Colin Jackson and Martha Snooks, Ragged School Museum
  • East of England – Sue Clark, Wardown Park Museum


Rutambhara Joshi

Rutambhara Joshi is a dedicated volunteer at the ThinkTank Planetarium in Birmingham. Her tireless contributions have meant that ThinkTank have been able to triple the number of presenter-led shows at the Planetarium, enabling the museum to increase its level of engagement to a wider audience. She has introduced a unique personal dynamic to the shows she presents and her enthusiasm has been recognised by staff and visitors alike.

This year’s Regional Winners are:

  • North West England – Lawrence Turner, Harris Museum and Art Gallery
  • North East England – Pat Wright and Ron Blackburn, Beamish Museum
  • Yorkshire – Elizabeth Stainforth, Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery
  • The Midlands – Rutambhara Joshi, ThinkTank Planetarium
  • South West– The Education Team, Tiverton Museum of Mid Devon Life
  • South East – Volunteering Team, Museum of History Science (Oxford)
  • London – Mary Maidment, Tate
  • East of England –Volunteering Team, Ancient House Museum (Thetford)
  • Wales – John Hughes, Sir Henry Jones Museum

Del Elliot

Del Elliot is a volunteer at the National Museum of Wales in the Origins Gallery, three days every week. He facilitates informal handling sessions where the visitors can handle a range of objects from prehistoric eras, including a 250,000 year old hand axe. Del inspires a sense of ‘wonder’ in visitors of all ages and is very good at communicating the enthusiasm he feels himself and inspires others to feel the same.

Del has helped to raise public awareness of the Portable Antiquities Scheme and other archaeological issues. He inspires visitors and makes learning more accessible, powerful and memorable, rightfully earning him excellent feedback from staff and visitors alike.

This year’s Regional Winners are:

  • North West England – Community Outreach Volunteers, Tullie House
  • North East England – Modern Times Volunteers, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art
  • East Midlands – Jackie Goodall, Woodhall Spa Cottage Museum (Lincolnshire)
  • West Midlands – Sandra Parsons, Nature in Art, Wallsworth Hall (Gloucester)
  • South West– Linda Harrison and team, SS Great Britain
  • South East – Judy Hewins, Old Kiln Museum Trust (Farnham)
  • London – Tom Palser, Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons
  • East of England –Ron Fletcher, Stockwood Discovery Centre
  • Wales – Del Elliot, National Museum of Wales
  • Scotland – Jamie Allan Brown, Glasgow Museums

Beth Talbot

Beth Talbot is a volunteer at Pollok House, the ancestral home of the Stirling Maxwell families, run by the National Trust in Scotland.

This year’s Regional Winners are:

  • North West – Bolton Museum
  • Wales – Egypt Centre, Swansea
  • Yorkshire – National Railway Museum, York
  • South West – National Maritime Museum, Cornwall
  • Scotland – Pollok House, Glasgow
  • South East – Mary Rose Trust, Portsmouth
  • West Midlands – Northgate Museum, Bridgenorth, Shropshire
  • North East – Beamish Museum, County Durham
  • East Midlands – Ruddington Knitter’s Museum, Ruddington, Nottingham
  • East of England – Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, Dereham
  • London – Kenwood House, English Heritage