V Factor: Volunteers as a bridge between museum scientists and the public

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2013
Authors:R. Miller, Johnson, K. G., Thomas, A. L., Douglas, L. G., Santodomingo, N., Broom, Y. Shum, Avedillo, T., Murray, C., Sadler, T.
Journal:Journal of Natural Science Collections
Start Page:48-58

V Factor is a new programme at the Natural History Museum in London. It offers volunteers the chance to work in public view alongside Museum scientists on collection-based research and curation projects, taking them from visitor to proactive volunteer. It aims to involve a volunteers project manager, scientists, curators, volunteers and the public in the museum’s research. Volunteers work alongside scientists on a research project whilst benefiting from a unique, informal and fun learning experience. Visitors are able to observe the processing of samples and interact with those involved. The management of this volunteer programme is described in this paper. The pilot project was ‘Throughflow’; an international study of Southeast Asian fossil corals as a means to describe the high biodiversity of their ecosystem and the effects of environmental change. Volunteers have successfully assisted with the cleaning of specimens so that they may be curated. At the same time, they have been discussing with experts project-related information, collections care, and the role of museums today. The programme has been continuously evaluated and changed as felt necessary. By March 2013, 45 volunteers were involved. Outcomes have included improved volunteer talent and education management, excellent assistance with scientific work and novel means of attracting the public to the museum’s work.

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Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith