Object Encounters Volunteer (MERL)

Object Encounters Volunteer


Location: The Museum of English Rural Life (The MERL)

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Why we want you:   

To enhance the visitor experience, we’re looking for enthusiastic people with an interest in enthusing visitors of all ages in a ‘Mystery Object’ style Object Encounters session.

Along the way you’ll engage with visitors to explain the items’ significance and history. You will give visitors the opportunity to handle genuine items from our collections, under your close supervision. 


Object handling activities need to be managed carefully.  Objects might be damaged and visitors possibly injured if instructions are not followed.  Sometimes you may need to keep reminding visitors, particularly younger ones, how objects can be safely touched and handled.

You’ll be willing to engage with a wide variety of members of the public and be understanding about a range of needs in a museum where we are inclusive and want everybody to feel welcomed.

What you will be doing:
You will attend a two hour training session led by our Learning & Engagement Manager to understand how to help visitors handle museum objects correctly. You will learn ways to show visitors what they can learn about our objects by holding them and looking closely.

Once you are trained, you will run Object Encounters sessions at the purpose-built object handling trolley situated in the museum galleries, or in the learning studio during busy school holiday periods.


This role will suit you if you are able to:

  • volunteer alongside others to provide a confident and enthusiastic welcome to visitors
  • approach visitors with a short, informal invitation to attract visitors to participate
  • demonstrate an interest in historic objects and the stories they have to tell
  • undertake our in-house training session


What you will gain in return:

  • Training in correctly handling historic objects
  • Experience of working with the general public, including families and young people
  • Knowledge of a collection and how to present a collection to a varied audience
  • Experience of handling museum objects
  • Experience of working as part of a team


How much time will it take up?

Shifts usually run for 2 hours either in the morning or the afternoon.


You can sign up on the volunteering platform for a regular two hour shift, choosing from a Tue, Wed, Thur, Fri, Sat, or Sun.

We particularly welcome sessions during our busy school holidays, as this activity always proves popular.


Who does the role report to?


Training for the role is overseen by Phillippa Heath, Learning & Engagement Manager p.heath2@reading.ac.uk and supported by Volunteer Coordinator sheila.fisher@reading.ac.uk


Object handling volunteers in training





To apply

New prospective volunteers - If you are not already registered to volunteer with Museums Partnership Reading, please register on our volunteering platform, ensuring you tick the box next to ‘Object Handling Session Volunteer in your ‘Interests’.

Existing volunteers - If you are already registered to volunteer with Museums Partnership Reading, please log in to the volunteering platform, click on My Profile, select the ‘Interests’ section, and ensure you tick the box next to ‘Object Handling Session Volunteer’.


Matching to the Role

To help us select our volunteers, we will look through all the application/ registration forms of those interested, and we will invite a limited number of those who most closely match our ideal requirements to a training session.

Object handling volunteers in training