Museums Partnership Reading (The MERL & Reading Museum)


We heart Volunteering

One of the major aims of the partnership between The Museum of English Rural Life (The MERL) and Reading Museum, is to offer volunteering opportunities to the local community to improve wellbeing, connect people to their personal histories and identities, and get to know more about Reading's rich cultural heritage.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of our organisation.

We want you to feel part of the team, to have fun, to meet new people and perhaps to gain experience in the workplace, while developing supplementary skills to enhance a CV.

 

You may wish to apply existing skills and knowledge in an area in which you are already comfortable.

 

Alternatively, you may wish to try something new, and develop new skills or simply give something back to your local community.

 

Whatever your reason for volunteering, we are thrilled you are considering joining our volunteer community who work across The MERL and Reading Museum.

 

Obviously with the Covid pandemic, things are a bit more complicated than they once were. But there will still be opportunities to get involved and be part of our volunteer family. And it doesn't mean that when the world is a little less strange, we won't welcome you back with open arms.

 

To apply to become one of our volunteers, grab yourself a cup of tea, and fill in the application form by following the 'I would like to volunteer' link on the right hand side of this page (or if you're on a smaller screen it will be below this message). 

 

Should you need support in filling in the form, give us an email, and we'll do what we can to help.

I would like to volunteer

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Ways you can volunteer with Museums Partnership Reading

Abbey Quarter Heritage Custodian

An outdoor role, helping to keep the Abbey Quarter interpretation signs clean and the area free of litter.

Abbey Quarter Tour Guide

An outdoor role, sharing stories about Reading's great and the good to pre-booked groups. Normally on a Saturday, unless by special arrangement.

Admin volunteer

Lovers of admin help our staff to analyse information for our many and varied reporting purposes!

The MERL

Art Collections Research Volunteer (MERL)

Helping the University Art Collections Curatorial team to prepare for forthcoming exhibitions or research.

The MERL

Art Collections Research Volunteer (RM)

Unearthing the stories behind the artists and the works in the Reading Museum art collection, helping the Curator prepare for forthcoming exhibitions.

Better Impact Ambassador

You will share your IT experience and skills to help other volunteers who are less confident online to get the most from our volunteering platform.

Building Connections Project Volunteer (MERL)

Host venue: Virtual volunteering for The Museum of English Rural Life 

Why we want you 
The aim of the Building Connections Project is to tell the stories of our objects in a new light, developing the online interactivity of our collections, whilst helping users to engage with various social contexts. 

We want to draw in new audiences to engage with the collections by linking our collections to current, topical themes. One key goal is to encourage our social media following to engage with The MERL website, through online content such as exhibitions and blog posts.
We need help researching the many objects The MERL has in its collection, to see if we can connect them to themes which will form this new online content.

Here is an example of the latest blog by Collections Researcher, Nic Minney: https://merl.reading.ac.uk/news-and-views/2020/10/superstitious-countryside/

 

 

We are also seeking to deepen the link between the object collections and the museum’s archive and library collections. For example, many of our objects come from organisations for which we also hold archives, and this link is not currently explored to the extent we would like it to be.  Archive and library material will be just as important to our online content as the objects.

Finally, we are likely to need help in visitor evaluation. This can help us judge how visitors use our museum, and how to improve their experiences with the content we deliver.

What you will be doing 

As a Building Connections Project Volunteer, you will be involved in independent research to compile information on different aspects connected to the rural life collections at The MERL.

 

 

 

 

 

The topics could include but are not limited to: Decolonisation, Migration, Rural Togetherness in Times of Crisis, Folklore and Superstition, Animal Welfare, Environmental Issues and Rural Advertising.

This project will be taking place over the next year, and the work you produce may be used in online exhibitions and other online content.

You also may be asked to help evaluate our visitor experiences either within the museum and / or online.

This role will suit you if you are

  • Able to work both independently and as part of a team
  • Interested in rural history
  • Enthusiastic, proactive and curious
  • Able to explain historic information through excellent, clear writing skills

What you will gain in return  

  • Become part of a friendly team
  • Learn some interesting facts about rural history
  • Contribute to the museum’s development
  • Develop your research skills
  • Gain some new skills for your CV
  • Learn about visitor engagement with museums

How much time will it take up? 
There will be an initial online meeting at 10.30am on Friday 6th November, on Zoom, to explain in detail what we require. Thereafter you would undertake independent research at home, and where possible in The MERL library, archive or museum collection over a period of several months, with the aim of the project finishing around summer 2021.

We will organise a progress meeting a few weeks into the project and then a final meeting at the end of the project, where you will provide a written report of your findings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to apply

If you do not already volunteer for Museums Partnership Reading, please ensure you have completed your volunteer registration form on our volunteering platform Better Impact by Wednesday 4th of November.
If you do not already volunteer for Museums Partnership Reading, please ensure you have completed your volunteer registration form on our volunteering platform Better Impact by Wednesday4th of November.*Please ensure you tick ‘Building Connections ProjectVolunteerin your ‘Interests’ Section under My Profile* *Please ensure you tick ‘Building Connections Project Volunteer’ in your ‘Interests’ Section under ‘My Profile’*.

If we think you are a match for this role, we will invite you to the Kick-off Meeting at 10.30am on Friday 6th November so you can hear more about the project. It will be an opportunity to join fellow interested volunteers, and hear from The MERL Curator, Dr Ollie Douglas, about how you can contribute to the digital reinterpretation of The MERL galleries, including our proposed focus group, and upcoming research and user testing roles.

The meeting will take approximately 1 hour, and we welcome involvement and questions from volunteers.

Requirement prior to attending the Kick-off Meeting:

Prior to attending the meeting, please complete The MERL Online Exhibition Questionnaire   https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/3MGHV88

This survey will be the starting point for volunteer involvement in the ‘Building Connections’ project.  Based on our early research into exhibition formats and potential themes, we have put together the survey to gauge your opinion and help us decide where to go next. 

We would like you to navigate through three of our existing online exhibitions and answer the questions on the survey.

The online exhibitions are: 

Land Girls: https://merl.reading.ac.uk/explore/online-exhibitions/land-girls/  

A History of the Open Spaces Society: https://merl.reading.ac.uk/explore/online-exhibitions/open-spaces-society/  

Welcome Case: https://merl.reading.ac.uk/explore/online-exhibitions/welcome-case/ 

To read more about the funding behind 'The Building Connections Project' - please see: 

https://www.reading.ac.uk/news-and-events/releases/PR833698.aspx#:~:text=The%20museum's%20'Building%20Connections'%20project,by%20Art%20Council%20England's%20fund. 

Code Club Facilitator (MERL)

 

Be part of The MERL's Code Club, a nationwide network of volunteer-led clubs, inspiring young people to learn about coding in a fun and interactive way.

 

The MERL

 

Collections Cataloguing Volunteer (MERL)

Helping The MERL Curatorial team to catalogue objects in the rural life collections.

The MERL

Collections Cataloguing Volunteer (RM)

Helping the Reading Museum Curatorial team to catalogue a huge variety of objects in store at the off-site collections facility.

Collections Research Volunteer (MERL)

Helping The MERL Curatorial team to research into items in our rural life collection.

The MERL

Collections Research Volunteer (RM)

Helping the Reading Museum Curatorial team to research into items in our collection.

Reading Museum

Costumed Interpreter (RM)

Wearing a replica historic costume and talking to visitors at public events and tours can help people better understand famous Reading residents from various points in its fascinating history.

Digital Content Volunteer

Combine your love of storytelling, interest in history, all love of all new media to help us share those stories far and wide.

Events Volunteer

 

Find out more about being part of our Events Team, delivering a dynamic programme of fun, friendly and fabulous special events all year.

 

 

Friday Fledglings Volunteer (MERL)

                                                 

Volunteers help at our popular outdoor toddler sessions ‘Friday Fledglings’ .

 

The MERL 

Group Visit Welcome Host (MERL)

Help us introduce our group visitors to our fascinating collection with an introduction to the galleries, and share personal stories of the objects that mean most to you.

The MERL 

Ladybird Artwork Cataloguing Volunteer (MERL)

Supporting the Curatorial team to catalogue the wonderful collection of artwork that formed the Ladybird books

The MERL 

Learning & Engagement Volunteer (MERL)

Supporting the team to deliver fun and engaging sessions about rural life for all ages and abilities, including reminiscence work with younger or older people with dementia, and with school groups.

The MERL

Library & Special Collections Volunteer (MERL)

Helping to increase the public accessibility of a wide range of books, publications and ephemera held by the University of Reading

The MERL

MERL Players

Performing pre-rehearsed pieces to pre-booked groups, acting out stories based on individuals and incidents from rural history., e.g. the Captain Swing Riots

Museum on Wheels Volunteer (RM)

Enthusing members of the public about the museum and collections while we're out and about at community settings and at stalls at large scale events

 

 

Object Handling Volunteer (MERL)

 

If you have always wanted to get your hands on museum objects, why not go beyond the cases and become an object handling volunteer!

 

The MERL

Outreach Talk Volunteer

Help us spread the word about our fantastic museums and collections, delivering pre-prepared Powerpoint presentations to community groups such as the U3A and Probus, at their meetings. 

Outreach volunteers

Oxford Road Research Volunteer

Oxford Road Research Volunteer

Host museum: Virtual Volunteering for Reading Museum

Why we want you 
Reading Museum has provided visitors with opportunities for learning, inspiration and enjoyment since 1883. Today, we have almost 500,000 accessioned objects of archaeology, art, natural history, social history and world cultures.

The museum runs a well-established learning programme that actively engages with local young people, schools and groups. Our sessions include how children were taught in a Victorian schoolroom, local history talks related to the national curriculum and loaning out object-handling boxes.

Oxford RoadAs part of the ‘High Street Heritage Action Zone’ Reading Borough Council has been awarded £806,500 of funding from Historic England to transform the high streets in three conservation areas in the town centre, including the Oxford Road. To support this project in schools, Reading Museum is developing new resources based around the history and development of the Oxford Road.

 

https://www.reading.gov.uk/planning/reading-high-streets-heritage-action-zone/

What you will be doing 

As an Oxford Road Research Volunteer, you will be involved in independent research to compile information on different aspects connected to Oxford Road in Reading.

The topics could include but are not limited to: Architecture, Local Geography, imagery of the site, past and present photos, as well as changes in the community over time.

This short research project will take place over a five to six week period and be used to provide tailored local information for our Oxford Road School’s Project to use in resources and future learning sessions.

A house next to a ChurchDescription automatically generated

This role will suit you if you are

  • Able to work both independently and as part of a team
  • Interested in local history
  • Enthusiastic, proactive and curious
  • Able to explain historic information through excellent, clear writing skills
  • Passionate about Reading’s heritage!

What you will gain in return  

  • Become part of a friendly team
  • Learn some interesting facts about Oxford Road
  • Contribute to the museum’s development
  • Develop your research skills
  • Gain some new skills for your CV

How much time will it take up? 
There will be an initial online meeting at 10am on Friday 20th November, on Zoom, to explain in detail what we require. Thereafter you would undertake independent research at home, on the Oxford Road, and in places like libraries, archives or museums over a period of five to six weeks, with the aim of the project finishing around the end of January.

We will organise a progress meeting two weeks into the project and then a final meeting at the end of the project, at the beginning of January, where you will provide a written report of your findings.

To apply

If you do not already volunteer for Museums Partnership Reading, please ensure you have completed your volunteer registration form on our volunteering platform Better Impact
by the 15th of November
(the link can be found under https://www.readingmuseum.org.uk/explore/volunteer-reading-museum  or follow the link here: http://bttr.im/w2yev

*Please ensure you tick ‘Oxford Road Research Volunteer’ in your ‘Interests’ Section under My Profile*

If we think you are a match for this role, we will invite you to the Kick-off Meeting at 10am on Friday 20th November so you can hear more about the project.

The meeting would take between 30 minutes and 1 hour, and we welcome involvement and questions from volunteers.

Buildings on Oxford RoadDescription automatically generated

 

 

Photography Volunteer

Using your photography skills to help us share pictures of our fabulous events and activities, and of course the buildings and collections too.

Virtual Reality Headset Facilitator (MERL)

A family enjoying the VR headset

Help visitors understand rural life in a lively and interesting way!

The MERL

Visitor Counter (RM)

An outdoor role, working in a pair to count the number of people who enter the Abbey ruins during a given period

Visitor Experience Researcher

Help us gather vital visitor feedback either on iPads or paper questionnaires

The MERL

Visitor Welcome Volunteer (MERL)

Help us enthuse visitors of all ages by becoming part of our welcome team!

The MERL

A volunteer helps a young visitor to interact with an exhibit

 

Visitor Welcome Volunteer (RM)

Help us enthuse visitors of all ages and encourage donations by becoming part of our welcome team!

Reading Museum

Wardrobe Assistant to Costumed Interpreters (RM)

Making running and permanent repairs to replica historic costumes, and general support to Costumed Interpreters including helping them to dress in their many layers ready for the public events.

Youth Panel Member

We love to hear regularly from our younger supporters to make sure that we are offering exhibitions and experiences that are of interest across the generations

Welcome to Museum Partnership Reading!

We heart Volunteering

One of the major aims of the partnership between The Museum of English Rural Life (The MERL) and Reading Museum, is to offer volunteering opportunities to the local community to improve wellbeing, connect people to their personal histories and identities, and get to know more about Reading's rich cultural heritage.