Museum Connects Communities With Remote Volunteering

The Museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket may have closed its doors due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but that doesn’t mean that work has stopped. With their remote volunteering project Search for the Stars truly shining during this time, the museum is providing an outlet for those looking for a project to get involved with from the safety of their own homes.

The Search for the Stars project, generously funded by Esmée Fairbairn and the Headley Trust, aims to transfer all of their 40,000 paper-based object records over to the museum’s online collections management system.

The project will make the museum collection accessible to everyone with some records already searchable through their website. Along the way the star searching team have also been identifying ‘star objects’ to be researched for an upcoming travelling exhibition Fake News in the Age of the Horse.

All volunteers need to take part is a laptop, so when social distancing began the museum started to get more requests from people wanting to take part. Over 40 people reached out about getting involved, in addition to over 200 who have already taken part.

Volunteer Elza Zeneli explains: “During such a difficult time I thought that volunteering to help people in a small way would be the best use of my time, especially giving back to my community. I am very proud to given an opportunity to represent my voice within this exciting project that focuses on making history and culture accessible to all particularly to those who are more vulnerable/in rural areas. It’s a truly inspiring project to be a part of.”

Search for the Stars has been running since the end of 2017 and recently hit the 14,000 record mark thanks to the efforts of volunteers both onsite and remotely, across the country and worldwide with volunteers taking part in countries such as Australia, the USA and Canada.

Jin Lu, another volunteer, said: ‘I’m volunteering because this is a great opportunity to convert any anxiety or uncertainty into satisfaction and fulfilment. You don’t need to go out but you are still making contributions and developing yourself.”

The project is headed up by museum curator Kate Knowlden who has been tirelessly co-ordinating the work being done.

“I’ve been overwhelmed with the amount of interest we’ve had in this project from people who have had to give up other volunteering roles or have been unable to work or continue their studying. It’s really moving to see how people are still so giving during such a difficult time, and it’s going to make a massive difference to the accessibility of our collection.”

Volunteers are given copies of object records which they then transfer into an online collections management system, each object is a fascinating look at a different part of East Anglian history.

Though the project is suited to adults and older teenagers, the museum has also developed a family resource to accompany the project. Be a Historian is available free to download from their website.

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