Research and Cultural Collections has a vibrant programme of volunteer and student projects for both undergraduate and postgraduate students. Participants work alongside the curatorial team to undertake projects that are beneficial to both parties, taking into account the student's areas of interest.
“A curator's job is all about discovery - it means finding out new things about objects and, most importantly, finding new ways of telling people about them.”
Nearly all staff working in museums will have carried our a voluntary role at some point in their career. It can be an important stepping stone to a museum career. It is a great way for students to get involved with culture and to learn new skills in the heritage sector. Many of our former volunteers have gone on to work in museums and galleries. Volunteering is important for Research and Cultural Collections as it enables us to carry out a range of additional activities as well as enabling us to work closely with students, our main audience.
Volunteering will allow you to:
- Gain valuable experience of the museum world
- Learn a range of new skills, useful for future employment in a range of sectors
- Expand your knowledge of the museums and collections
- Meet new people from across the University and other cultural organisations
- Opportunities for professional development and a reference for future employment
Voluntary roles within the Research and Cultural Collections team are split into three main areas:
- Documentation and Digital Access
- Collections Care
Examples of Projects
Documentation and Digital Access
The main focus of this role is improving documentation held about the collections and its online accessiblity. Recent projects have included a location audit of the art collection, with related picture research and object labelling, and subsequent work with the collections database.
Collections care encompasses a variety of activities to care for and protect objects, also known as preventative conservation. This role involves helping with everyday housekeeping of collections, such as monitoring conditions and carrying out basic cleaning and checks on objects. As a recent example, under supervision, volunteers have cleaned silver candlesticks using conservation cleaning methods.
The main focus of this role is research and interpretation of the collections. As an example, a recent placement student carried out research into a group of paintings related to John Galsworthy and his family, complementing recent new photography of the collection. As the final outcome of her project, she created an online exhibition to add to RCC's flickr channel.
Why do we offer these opportunities?
Providing work experience opportunities for UoB students is one of the key ways in which RCC engages with its student body. These opportunities focus on the importance of developing employability skills and enhancing the student experience. Working with undergraduate students from a diverse range of academic backgrounds means that students will bring subject specific knowledge to their RCC role and also allows the opportunity to analyse and research areas outside of their experience e.g. an art historian’s eye on physics collection. By nature, one of RCC’s core purposes is to encourage interdisciplinary working – involvement in this way of working enables students to both use analytical and research skills in an area outside their own academic background but also introduces them to new ways of thinking and methods of professional collaboration.
Emily Millward (volunteer from 2008 to 2011)
I first began volunteering for RCC in 2008, working with the Archaeology Collection. At the time I was studying towards my undergraduate degree in Archaeology and Ancient History and my volunteering was the perfect complement to my academic interest as well as my early interest in working with collections. During the 3 years that I volunteered with RCC I began to develop basic collections skills such as object handling, cataloguing and even conservation cleaning – I have since learned that these are essential when applying for any position in a museum! Volunteering really helped me to gain a good understanding of working with objects as well as giving me a good taste of the type of role I could carry out in a museum environment. Whilst studying towards my PhD in Egyptology (since 2010) I gained a position as Collections Assistant at RCC, which I know would not have been possible without the essential experience and support from RCC staff that I gained from my volunteering. In 2011 I became a Museum Collections Assistant at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and I was promoted to a House Steward in 2015. The skills and experience I gained at RCC have been essential and really allowed me to progress in the sector!
You can find more information via our volunteering page on our blog.
How to apply
Currently all of our volunteering positions are filled. We will be advertising new positions in January 2017.
We recommend that you first refer to our volunteering policy and guidance.
If you have any queries please email firstname.lastname@example.org.