New Year Resolution: Become a Museum Mentor

Whether you’re looking to develop your skills and knowledge, or just want to give something back to the sector, it’s an ideal time to start volunteering as a Museum Mentor.

  • What is a Museum Mentor?

All Accredited museums, or museums working towards Accreditation, should have access to professional knowledge and support. If they do not have a paid member of staff who can provide this, they need a “Museum Mentor”: a museum professional who provides advice and guidance. A Mentor can have a background in any of the three areas of Accreditation: organisational health, collections and audience engagement. Most professional museums will support their staff to take on this role as it helps build relationships between museums and the knowledge the Mentor gains benefits their employer. Being a Mentor looks great on your CV and broadens your understanding of the sector.

  • Who can be a Mentor?

You do not have to be a curator or museum director to be a Museum Mentor. What you do need is:

  1. “A minimum of five years’ experience working professionally in museums, with recent experience at curator/manager level”. This means you could be a Conservator, Registrar/Documentation Officer or a Learning Officer, just as long as you have reached an equivalent level to “Curator”
  2. “At least three years in an area of competence relating to organisational health, collections, or users and their experiences”
  3. “A relevant or linked qualification”. This could be Museum Studies, but it could also be a teaching qualification, a business management qualification – anything that fits into the three areas outlined in point 2.
  4. “A commitment to career-long continuing professional development (CPD)”. This could be taking part in a formal CPD scheme like the Museums Association’s AMA, or it could be the “training needs” section a local authority annual performance review and attendance at SHARE training days.
  • What does in entail?

A Museum Mentor:

– “provides support and advice relating to Accreditation from their own expertise

–  confirms the Accreditation application and Accreditation return, and provides a report as part of the Accreditation return

– works with the museum to establish what other areas of expertise are required to meet and maintain Accreditation standards

– acts as an ‘advice co-ordinator’, identifying sources for advice from their own networks or through other professionals

– acts as an advocate for the museum and helps the museum to develop links and relationships with the wider museum profession”

If you become a Mentor, you can support your “Mentee” through visits, emails and over the phone. The Arts Council suggests that you’ll need to commit the equivalent of four days per year, including a minimum of two visits, but you’ll need to meet with them more during your first year to get to know the Museum and its volunteers.

  • Current vacancies:

Essex museums currently recruiting for a mentor are:

Colne Valley Railway – CVR are beginning the process of becoming Accredited and are need a Mentor to help them on their way. Apparently, there is the offer if a free trip on the steam train if you take on this role…

Little Baddow History Centre – Also just starting on the Accreditation process, they have a mostly paper-based collection of social history and a changing programme of exhibitions.

Museum of Power – This museum is currently Accredited and are awaiting the results of their most recent renewal. They’ve recently been awarded “Engineering Heritage Listed Status” by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers for their triple expansion steam engine.

  • More information:

– Visit Arts Council England’s pages for Museums Mentors and download the Mentor Handbook

Email me to volunteer or with any questions

~Amy Cotterill, Museum Development Officer

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