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Oct 23rd 2020

#RDNetwork: Volunteering


During 2020 the Cornwall Museums Partnership Twitter page will be handing the reigns over each month to local organisations, who will be guest hosting our Rural Diversity Networking hour; #RDNetwork.

In July, Tehmina Goskar, Director of the Curatorial Research Centre, kindly took over our Twitter page to discuss museums and volunteering. Please continue reading to hear all about Tehmina’s experience of our #RDNetwork Twitter Takeover…

I was really pleased to revisit the Rural Diversity Network which I helped set up in 2017 as an Arts Council England Change Maker. When I look at how far we have come, while it is easy to get frustrated at lack of progress it is important to focus on what has changed for the better. I have observed more discussion about diversity when previously there was none, a more nuanced understanding of how diversity and inclusivity relate to each other – both processes of unlearning our expectations for a ‘typical museum audience’ and generally more self-awareness among colleagues in spotting lack of diversity.

My particular topic was volunteering. A topic close to my heart as we continue to pioneer our flagship Citizen Curators programme that I am leading on behalf of CMP and seven partner museums. Over the last two years (there is one to go) we have provided high quality training in museum awareness and good curatorship to over 50 people – all volunteers from our communities. The programme is designed and constantly being adapted to flex to the needs of the participants rather than just focus on organisational needs. This is a very different way of thinking about volunteering as participation as opposed to free labour.

As someone who has also started a new business in the last two years (Curatorial Research Centre) it is important to me to continue advocating for a progressive mentality in museums, particularly smaller museums in rural regions, not just in Cornwall but all over the world. These museums are the backbone of our sector and yet are so often ignored. So many of these smaller museums and cultural organisations do sterling work in their communities and yet have, over the years, been forced to orientate themselves fully towards the visiting tourist in the tourist season. This means that volunteering has a critical role to play in diversifying what museums exist for and more importantly, for whom. Are we really welcoming to one and all? The other major facet of this work is to make cultural educational opportunities more easily available in places where time and cost of travel is a major barrier. As we plan for yet another radically different year for Citizen Curators (delivered entirely digitally) our volunteers will need to understand their museums as if they had no walls and a genuinely global audience.

-Tehmina Goskar