Volunteering programme at the Latvian National Museum of Art implements the idea of a socially inclusive museum, promoting collective responsibility and public participation in cultural and artistic processes.
Today, more than 30 volunteers representing different age groups ranging from high school students up to seniors donate their free on a regular basis time to support the museum with their skills in a variety of museum activities.
It started in 2009 with another name - “Museum Ambassadors” – as a response to the decreasing standard of living in Latvia caused by the global economic crisis.
The museum offered unemployed people to become ambassadors of the Latvian National Museum of Art, which meant visiting various exhibitions and events and an opportunity to improve their knowledge regarding the field of arts. Furthermore, the ambassadors were encouraged to inform the society about the museum offers and their own personal experience.
Due to growing interest in the programme and rising activity of the employed part of the society, the programme was extended and improved. Oftentimes the ambassadors of the museum took part in various museum activities, not only as reporters, but also as active helpers, for example, by assisting in organising the Museum Night events.
The major turning point for the program was in 2011 – for the European Year of Volunteering – when volunteers from the Latvian National Museum of Art and from the Budapest Art Museum in Hungary participated in the experience of an exchange project with the support of European Union funding programme „Grundtvig.” The aim of the project was to overtake the best voluntary work practices and implement them in their own countries.
Learning a lot from the Budapest Art Museum, the program became stronger and more advanced. Many new members willing to help the museum joined the programme, assisting the museum personnel with their various skills.
Most of the time volunteers are helping the museum in visitor services as well in assisting museum educators during creative workshops. Additional groups of volunteers help also as photographers and document events and the museum’s collections. Besides the work in the museum’s public area, the volunteers provide their help behind-the-scenes, assisting different museum specialists as communication specialists and exhibition curators.
The inventive and diverse Volunteering programme of the Latvian National Museum of Art has also been recognised by other professionals and institutions in the art field. The programme has received the following acknowledgements:
· Latvian Museums Association award in nomination “Best Museum Lifelong Leaning Project 2011”. The prize was attributed for the improved inside organisation of the programme, motivational system, as well as for the extensive admission of new members.
· European Union (EU) prize for Lifelong Learning Programme quality “Spārni 2013” for the project “Volunteer Ambassadors of the Eastern Europe” where 6 senior volunteers of the Latvian National Museum of Art and 6 volunteers from the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts went on a three-week experience exchange tour.
· Latvian Museums Association award in nomination “Best Museum Lifelong Leaning Project 2014”. The prize was attributed for the project “Experience the East through different senses”, which was organised for the International White Cane Day. Within the project volunteers together with museum professionals organised special guided tours at the Art Museum RIGA BOURSE for visually impaired and blind teens, offering them a different museum experience based on sound, touch and smell.
· Our volunteer Herta Jansone has received the prize “Volunteer of the Year 2014” for her contribution to the development of the volunteer work in Latvia.