The Oxford University Museums and Collections Volunteer (OUMC) Service has over 400 active volunteers that give their time to help at seven sites. Their roles vary from family friendly to collection care and it goes without saying that our museums would not thrive without them. Therefore the volunteer service show their gratitude in many ways, but probably most pronounced at their bi-annual volunteer parties. These parties, one in the summer and one at Christmastime, allow the museums to give something back to their volunteers whilst giving the volunteers a chance to mingle with one another and other members of staff.
I was put in charge of organising this year’s Christmas Party and I was happy to do so as I really enjoy the festive season and I too was once an OUMC volunteer, therefore I felt, with the help of the volunteer coordinators, that I could put on a fun celebration. We invited all of our active volunteers and received a ‘yes’ RSVP by just under one hundred people.
The celebration was the night before the International Volunteer Appreciation Day this year and took place in the recently reopened Oxford University Museum of Natural History. The beautiful setting was accentuated by Christmas decorations and its open plan allowed the volunteers to enjoy food and drink whilst mingling amongst one another. The turnout was great with volunteers representing our varied range of volunteers from retired individuals to A-level students.
We wanted the party to be a bit more than just drinks and include a different level of mingling therefore I put together a museum ‘pub’ quiz. The quiz broke down the audience into groups of about six in which the people in each team would have to work together to go around the museum to find the questions and answer the Christmas-based link to the objects. Armed with just a map and their own previous knowledge the groups had about 45 minutes to complete the five rounds of the quiz. It was evident by watching the groups that it gave them a real opportunity to talk with each other and have fun by engaging on a similar level.
We also received feedback from some volunteers the next day in regards to the party:
“Firstly, very many thanks for a splendid Volunteers' do last night - fun crazy quiz and a good time was had by all! I went home feeling full of Christmas cheer.”
“Thank you so much for the party yesterday. It was most enjoyable, the setting was spectacular, and my team were very forgiving. Please thank your colleague for the quiz.”
I am thankful that I was able to put together an event for a very different audience to what I have prepared in the past. It was great to give something back to our volunteers and to see them have a fun time. It also gave me the chance to meet more of our volunteers and put faces to names of people I have been corresponding to through email only. I truly hope all the volunteers, even those who could not attend, realise how much we appreciate them.