Volunteering at Wakefield Museums

Building a new volunteer programme from scratch for Wakefield’s museums and castles


Between 2012 and 2014, Wakefield Museums were unable to maintain a volunteer programme, due to a combination of a high level of organisational change and the relocation of museum sites.

However, in 2014, with support from Museum Development Yorkshire, they put together a brand new volunteer programme, working with York CVS.

Because Wakefield Museums do not have a volunteer manager, they needed to develop a programme which would operate satisfactorily without one. This meant that instead of recruiting a pool of volunteers, they recruited to individual or specific projects.

Now, whenever a member of their museums team needs volunteer support for a project, they put together a role description for that specific purpose and then recruit short-term volunteers to assist.

For their castles, they have taken a slightly different approach. At Pontefract Castle, they have the benefit of HLF-funding for four years, which includes support for a volunteer co-ordinator. The co-ordinator is currently developing a longer-term programme for a number of volunteer roles including an events assistant, customer services (which include visitor guides and front-of-house) grounds maintenance and administration, using the museum-developed structure of defined volunteer roles.  This approach will help to promote sustainability after the end of the funded project.

A four year project

The four year project aims to recruit 40 volunteers over its lifetime, and has already attracted 19 recruits from a range of ages and sectors of Wakefield’s diverse communities. These roles complement rather than aim to replace the work of paid staff and the museum service works to ensure that the volunteers gain the skills and experience that they desire from volunteering.

An evaluation of the volunteering programme shows it is demonstrating its valuable role in developing important skills and engaging diverse communities in the life of Wakefield’s castles and museums.

They believe this approach is an innovative and effective way of creating a sustainable volunteer programme, which will continue to benefit us through the coming years.


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