Marsh Volunteer Team Award with the Museum of London

This Award is run in partnership with the Museum of London and recognises the exceptional contributions of some of the hundreds of volunteers who help the Museum to share with the public London’s great history.

From looking after collections and archives, to supporting learning programmes and welcoming visitors, the role of volunteers is vital to the Museum. The Volunteer Team of the Year Award recognises volunteers who have successfully worked together as a team on the same project which has made a significant contribution to the Museum.

Nominations for the Award are gathered by the Museum of London and judged in partnership with the MCT.

Listening to London: New Museum Volunteers 2022

These volunteers worked together for 6 months to research the museum’s oral history collection and identify clips which could be used in one of the permanent galleries at the New Museum of London. Their commitment and passion towards the project was extraordinary and this is the first time that research from a group of volunteers will have a permanent home in the museum. The group of 15 volunteers worked collaboratively on the project, both as a group as a whole and in smaller groups according to their personal experiences and interests. The volunteers completed the relevant training and looked beyond the tasks that they were assigned to also contribute to wider museum activities. They were encouraged to take ownership of their research and, thanks to their success, the museum is now considering more projects involving co-curation with volunteers. This will help in the museum’s ambition to connect with, talk to and collaborate with Londoners in order to tell their story in the new museum. As the new site does not open for 4 years, the volunteers will have to wait to see their research come to life, but the background work that they have put in deserves to be recognised.

Previous Winners

Beth Barber and Joanne Hayes, Collections Information Upgrade Project volunteers (Dress and Textiles)

Beth and Jo began volunteering at the Museum in August 2019 and have become highly valued members of the team, making a significant contribution to a variety of the museum’s ongoing projects in the Dress and Textile store. They were selected through an interview process calling out for skilled hand sewers, both demonstrated a passion for sewing and a keen interest in using their skills with museum textile collections. They work diligently alongside the textile conservator and fashion curator and their main role has been as part of the Collections Information Upgrade Project, involving auditing, photographing, labelling and re-packing some of the 24,000 objects in the Dress and Textiles collection. They have sewed in small museum labels and creating custom made storage for dolls, handkerchiefs, handbags, purses, parasols and archaeological textiles. The nature of the project is that it changes from week to week, and Beth and Jo have adapted well to this way of working.

They have helped to process 149 individual objects, documenting and stitching in museum labels for all of them. They have marked and packed new additions, and undertaken database training to enhance their skill and better assist with object documentation. They also played active roles in the ‘Hanging around the Christmas Tree’ hanger making day to make much needed hangers for the costume collection. Lockdown has not slowed their contributions to the museum, they have been hard at work researching less well known areas of the collection and contributing to the Scrub Hub initiative creating scrubs for the NHS. The museum are finding new ways for Beth and Jo to stay involved with the museum during these unusual times. Not only do they work well with museum staff, they work very well with each other, demonstrating careful handling of fragile objects and a passion for their roles.

Centre for Human Bioarchaeology Volunteers

This team are a dedicated trio of volunteers who have brought their own skills and experiences together to work collaboratively to aid the long-term curation of skeletal remains and add to the knowledge learnt from these remains.

Veronica, having trained as a skilled osteologist, is invaluable in being able to carry out the analysis of skeletal remains and record her observations on the osteological database.

Stuart has also been a volunteer for many years and has been magnificent in assisting with the enormous task of marking the bones of the skeletal remains in the curated collection, numbering now over 20,000, with the respective information for the site they come from them and their identifying number. Stuart has patiently marked over 500 skeletons (only 19,500 to go!).

David started volunteering a few years ago to help work through the digital radiographs of the skeletal remains in the collections. Having been a radiologist for his working career, his knowledge and experience are much appreciated in the interpretation of the radiographs and for his creation of a radiological archive which will allow the Centre to more readily search the images and share with researchers.

Although they all work in different roles and not always on the same days, through their hard work they contribute as a team and further the development of the Centre within the museum.

'Our Future City' young volunteer team

The ‘Our Future City’ team was made up of eight young Londoners, aged between 14 and 20 years old, who were invested in the future of London, what it might look like and how they could shape it. The project ran from October 2017 to March 2018, with the team meeting twice a month to research, plan and deliver their takeover at the Barbican Open Fest weekend. The team successfully juggled their commitment to the museum alongside their studies, extra-curricular activities and their social lives, as well as dealing with people dropping out of the project which gave those who stayed even more to do.

The volunteers grew in confidence throughout the project and were active contributors making decisions with lasting impact. They also had to deal with the unexpected hurdle of the ‘Beast from the East’ which came just as the final touches were being made to their plans for the takeover.

On the night of the takeover their ability to work collectively as a team shone, their confidence had clearly grown and museum staff were impressed at the range of new skills that they were showing. At the end of the project, the volunteers were asked what was the one thing they would remember about their time at the museum, and all of them said that the most memorable and important part of the project was meeting each other.

Delivering the Past Collective

The Delivering the Past team came together in 2016 to deliver public engagement activities in connection to a Looking for Londoners display at the Museum of London for a 5 day a week programme, the most extensive volunteer/visitor programme to date. This was the first time that volunteers from across the Archaeological Archives were united under one project. The Collective included volunteers of a range of ages, backgrounds and experiences who united their skills and talents to produce an engaging and interactive experience for visitors.

Over 63 days, the Collective engaged with 14,149 visitors who were able to literally touch the past thanks to the hard work of the volunteers. Thanks to public participation, visitors and volunteers repacked and audited over 300 boxes of archaeology, improving the potential for research and future displays. The team engaged with 7,123 children, including 4,597 from visiting schools.

The Collective were responsible for selecting the final set of objects used for object handling and throughout the project they provided constructive feedback to help it evolve. Together they developed their own styles of presentation, creating narratives and techniques to engage visitors with animal bones. They were the ultimate example of how a team can work together, support each other, provide excellent visitor engagement, complete masses of important collections care work and, most importantly, make it fun.

The Fashion Collection Volunteers

The Fashion Collection Volunteers have been instrumental in preparing the Museum of London’s fashion collection for the move to the new Smithfield Market site and in cataloguing the new acquisition of 100 items of menswear from 1960-2013. They bring lots of energy to the collection and are enthusiastic about getting the collection to its highest possible standard.

The team have replaced 66 non-archival boxes with archival ones, added labels to 103 repacked archival boxes listing what is inside to improve access at collection, moved 34 boxes to improve the store and helping to clean the new archive storage units. Thanks to their close care and attention to detail in their work, the team were able to find 9 misplaced artefacts which had been missing for 2 decades.

Additionally, they completed the cataloguing for half of the newly acquired Francis Golding Collection in relation to their physical description, date, measurements, materials, maker and significance. Their work on this collection has allowed the materials to be published on Collections Online, which is available to the public. Their volunteer work has led to 3,255 artefacts being improved.

Core Volunteers, Archaeological Archive

These volunteers have a cumulative length of service of over 120 years. The team of eleven have dedicated enormous amounts of time and energy to the museum’s archaeological collections, fundamentally improving access and research of the collection over the years.

The earliest members of the team started in 2002 when the Archaeological Archive officially opened as the centre for deposition of material excavated from the city and boroughs of London. Under the Minimum Standards Programme, the first of the core volunteers undertook the task of bringing the collections up to the proper standards of documentation and care.

The work of this team perhaps goes unnoticed but these individuals have tirelessly worked to improve the basics of the collections, uncovering new objects and stories hidden away in the shelves of the Archive. They have also dedicated their time to numerous events which have engaged the public at the Archive, the museum or other areas across London. They have assisted on open days, worked with schools and helped run family events.



The Sainsbury Archive Volunteers

This group of dedicated volunteers help to protect a rare collection of photographs at the Sainsbury Archives at the Museum of London Docklands. The collection demonstrates the transformation of a London family business into a retail giant. The volunteers are all part of the Sainsbury Veterans network and have brought valuable inside knowledge to the Archive Team from their long careers at Sainsbury’s. The archive contains a photographic collection of thousands of images kept in storage at risk of being damaged. The volunteers have worked through the files, removing damaged images and repackaging and reorganising photographs. They have helped rescue more than 10,000 images and have opened up new parts of the collection which are now available in an online catalogue for researchers around the world.

Conservation and Collection Care Volunteer Team

This team of seven committed volunteers has been responsible for the cleaning and caring of the Museum’s stored collections. They have undertaken a range of projects, including marking objects, and cleaning and improving storage space, all of which are vital to ensure the longevity of the collections. The volunteers have embraced their work with enthusiasm, a great sense of humour and professionalism and their contributions to the Museums have inspired other departments to work more closely with volunteers.