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Museum wins funding to better lives through volunteering

27 Mar 2013

Manchester Museum is celebrating a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant of £528,700 for a ground-breaking volunteer and learning programme, in partnership with Imperial War Museum North.

Manchester Museum

The three-year project, ‘Improving Futures: Volunteering For Wellbeing’, will build on the huge success of the previously HLF-funded In Touch project which, as part of its evaluation, highlighted the need for greater public involvement and volunteer opportunities at key heritage venues across Greater Manchester. It also highlighted the potential heritage volunteering has to change people’s lives.

The new Improving Futures project is a life-changing social learning programme, which uses the heritage assets of IWM North, Manchester Museum, Museum of Science and Industry and other partner venues to help volunteers move away from social and economic isolation. It will provide personal development opportunities to those who need help reintegrating into society.

It will see 225 people from a diverse range of backgrounds – including people between the ages of 16-25 and over 50 years old, as well as ex-service personnel – given the chance to become volunteers and benefit from a bespoke training programme accredited by The Manchester College.

 They will get the chance to work with some of the most prestigious heritage venues in the North West, including the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester City Galleries, People’s History Museum, Manchester Jewish Museum, Dunham Massey and Ordsall Hall. These venues in turn will be able to cultivate a valuable volunteer base that will enhance the visitor experience and provide access and interpretation to the collections.

This is the first major project to measure the impact of responsible volunteering in the heritage sector on health and wellbeing, exploring how it can combat social and economic isolation. IWM North and Manchester Museum hope the project will demonstrate enormous benefits to volunteers, museums and society.

Learning opportunities forming the core of this project will include a varied range of heritage training courses, work placements at the selected venues, volunteer-to-volunteer mentoring, and the chance to visit and learn from a range of national and local heritage venues. The scheme will help to create three new posts and a paid internship placement, who will work across both Manchester Museum and IWM North.

Nick Merriman, Director of Manchester Museum, said: “This is fantastic news for the Manchester Museum, IWM North, our partners and the wider sector. Improving Futures will have a significant impact on the organisations it involves, transform the lives of those we engage and create a lasting legacy for heritage volunteering.

“At the Manchester Museum, the project encompasses our core values, ambitious plans and commitment to engaging communities with our unique collections. We are delighted to receive the support of the HLF to capitalise on learnt experiences and take the lead with our partners on the development of socially engaged volunteer programmes.”

Sara Hilton, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North West, said: “This is an inspiring project that should be used as an example for heritage venues across the UK.”

Kate Green MP, said: “Volunteering is so important and benefits both the local community and the volunteer themselves. Volunteers can help make new friends, learn new skills, advance their career, and even stay healthy. It’s great that IWM North and Manchester Museum are giving the opportunity for people in Trafford, Manchester and beyond to get involved in this exciting volunteer and learning project.”