Volunteer Resource: Volunteer Voices

The project

Today, many heritage organisations invest in contemporary art to help tell new and different narratives about their properties. Research shows that, to engage heritage visitors successfully, interpretation of these artworks is vital. Heritage Volunteers could play a key role in this interpretation, but better training for volunteers is necessary.

Volunteer Voices is a pilot training programme created for and with heritage volunteers to develop skills in contemporary art in heritage interpretation. Volunteer Voices has developed an innovative programme of heritage volunteer training on contemporary art interpretation, which will result in a resource that can be rolled out to the heritage sector nationally (75% of heritage organisations identified volunteer development, training or experience enhancement as their top priority after recruitment (Heritage Volunteer Group Survey, 2019)).

The project is led by researchers at Newcastle University working in collaboration with Arts&Heritage, the Heritage Volunteering Group and national and local heritage sector partners including Durham Cathedral, English Heritage, National Trust and Ushaw Historic House.

Volunteer Voices is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as a follow-on from Newcastle University’s ‘Mapping Contemporary Art in the Heritage Experience’ research project (2017-20). MCAHE research revealed that while volunteers play a key role in engaging visitors with heritage sites, the volunteers often lack the knowledge and confidence to introduce this audience to the contemporary artworks that are increasingly a feature of heritage programming. Without interpretation, many visitors struggle to fully appreciate and enjoy the art they encounter.

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