Hunters and Gatherers: a different approach to volunteering

At Hampshire Cultural Trust we are continually striving to make more meaningful experiences for volunteers. Our National Lottery Heritage Fund project, Data Hunters and Story Gatherers: Towards community curatorship, is all about approaching volunteering in a different way to reach new and more diverse audiences. Project Manager, Sam Butcher, gives an insight into progress to date.

Our hunter volunteers get hands-on with objects in our stores. As well as developing collections management skills, volunteers earn points for every item they catalogue. The team with the most points gets to choose the prize. It’s a great way to make the work more engaging, especially for young adults.

Hunter volunteers have inventoried and photographed a massive 3,885 objects and created 600 new records in our catalogue. This work has helped us share more of the objects in our collections with the public through our online catalogue and in our exhibitions.

Our gatherer volunteers are researching for two exciting exhibitions. Basingstoke’s My Home: Local stories with global roots is opening at the town's Willis Museum in November. Our volunteers are working to record oral histories that celebrate different cultures to include in the exhibition.

Our gatherers are also researching to support the development of an exhibition on working women in Regency Hampshire, set to open in 2025. Their hard work in uncovering stories of past working women is helping us to make the exhibition far more relatable, rich and informative.

The project has diversified our volunteer base. Hunters and gatherers volunteers are younger than our wider volunteering base, with 70% under 34 years old, demonstrating the need for a different approach to volunteer roles to cater for younger adults' needs. In return, the fresh perspectives and skills younger volunteers bring really enhance our work.

Over 90% of our hunter and gatherer volunteers want to gain knowledge and skills; more than half are looking to advance their careers. Our volunteers have had training in museum object handling, collections management, using historic archives, capturing oral histories and sharing stories. Some of our 44 volunteers have left to start new careers or move into education.  It’s always bittersweet when volunteers leave, but it’s fantastic to see many of them move on to bigger and better things, proving their time with us was worthwhile.

Our volunteers' contributions have been invaluable in preserving and sharing the heritage of the county. Thank you to each and every one of them for their dedication and hard work!

This article was written by:
Author image

Sam Butcher

Curatorial Assistant who looks after objects and works to make them accessible to the public.
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