The Connecting Ripon column with Angela Jones: Delight as museum volunteers return

On Wednesday, July 15 Connecting Ripon member Ripon Museum Trust opened the Workhouse Museum and Prison and Police Museum, followed by the Courthouse Museum on Saturday, August 1. This followed a period of intense planning and risk assessments.

Wednesday, 30th September 2020, 12:45 pm
Ripon Museums volunteers are back helping visitors to enjoy these special sites.

Helen Thornton, director at the trust said: “Using Government guidance, all aspects of the visitor experience and our staff and volunteer procedures had to be reviewed. We had to source lots of extra cleaning products, perspex to protect our desk volunteers, and new signage to help visitors use our sites safely.

“We re-organised the layout of our spaces, worked up new guidance on first aid, use of toilets and kitchens, and signing in processes to name but a few.”

At the same time all volunteers returning needed to have an easy-to-use Risk Assessment checklist, clear induction and time to get used to all the new systems.

The new online timed booking systems to help control numbers of visitors took a bit of getting used to.

The museums rely on a large team of 145 volunteers and it was critical to have them back in important roles such as serving on the desk, selling in the shop, cleaning, helping visitors socially distance, delivering essential maintenance work and keeping the gardens looking fabulous

Helen said: “Quite understandably some people need time to decide whether to return to their old routines and commitments, some people continue to shield themselves or others who are vulnerable. We have taken time to explain our safety measures, show people what we have done and gradually many of our valued volunteers are returning. This is a huge joy, we are all part of the same ‘family’ here and we have all missed each other.”

After all the work that had been done, the team was pleased to get the Visit England’s Good to Go kite mark and to display the Government’s Covid-Safe Poster and they have had some really great feedback from visitors. However, Helen knows that it is vital not to become complacent and that everyone has to remain vigilant.

All the safety measures put income under extreme pressure and, like many organisations; the trust cannot carry on like this indefinitely.

Whilst fortunate in having a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant to help with the extra resources needed and to care for the buildings and a small business grant from Harrogate Borough Council, these extra inputs are, of course, time limited.

It is really wonderful having visitors back enjoying these special sites.

Helen said: “Our visitors love the Autumnal harvest in our Victorian kitchen garden, learning new things, being inspired by the stories we tell here. This whole experience has given us new insights into how to deliver our business and presented us with new opportunities – especially around developing our digital offer. We are also using our experience with risk assessments to look at welcoming some local schools back in the near future.”

If you are interested in joining the team at the museums please contact volunteer and operations manager Vicki Lever on 01765 690799. Have a chat and see what you think.

You would be very welcome!

Whatever your interests and availability at this time, there are many different local volunteering opportunities with local charities to suit your skills and needs. Visit the HADCA Volunteering Directory at to find out more.