A medieval key and a 23 million year old piece of coral!

A lucky few of us broke away from Knole for the day last week to visit the British Museum and the Natural History Museum to see how they were running visitor engagement programmes with volunteers.  Although building for our conservation studio will not begin for another two years (if we get the funding) we are already thinking about how visitor access to the studio can work, and how to provide conservation engagement opportunities for visitors everyday in the show rooms.

Samurai armour and swords in the Japan gallery at the British Museum.

Our morning began with a free talk in the Japan gallery at the British Museum.  Given by an very knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteer, I learnt a lot in 30 minutes as we were taken from 1000 BC to the present day.  Afterwards we made our way to the Enlightenment Gallery and temporary exhibition gallery to experience the Hands on Desks, manned by volunteers every day.  



Zena (Volunteer Conservation Assistant at Knole) handles a medieval key.

We were able to handle medieval objects including a belt buckle, key and glass bead.  The volunteer let us guess what the objects might be (I guessed the belt buckle correctly) before telling us all about them.

After lunch we headed off to the Natural History Museum to see their Investigate Centre and V Factor programme.  The first is a fantastic space where visitors can handle specimens in the collection and examine them using a range of equipment provided.  We all had a lot of fun looking at the different specimens, including insects, fossils and a badger skin.

At the Investigate Centre

Jonathan (Community Engagement Officer at Knole) learning about different types of rocks.

Some of the trays of specimens for visitors to get out. The centre runs sessions for schools in the mornings, and all visitors are welcome in the afternoons.

Next it was of to the Cocoon to see V Factor.  V Factor offers the chance to work alongside scientists at the museum and help work on specimen collections, taking visitors to being proactive volunteers.


The lab inside the Cocoon where V Factor volunteers work cleaning coral and interact with visitors.

We got to go inside the lab and meet the volunteers and have a bit of a nosey round.

One of the V Factor team explaining about the current research on coral.

Me holding a piece of 23 million year old coral. Amazing!

It was a very interesting and fun day.  We all came away with lots of ideas about how we can develop volunteer involvement and visitor engagement in our conservation work.  Thank you to all the staff and volunteers at the British Museum and Natural History Museum for giving up your time and sharing your knowledge and ideas.





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