IN the foreground joe welch stands behind a wooden stand. three volunteers are standing in the background

Joe Welch’s Volunteer Story

I began as a volunteer at the Coffin Works in April 2019 after volunteering at the Pen Museum (another amazing museum) for the previous two years whilst studying for my History Degree at Newman University. As a volunteer I have come face-to-face with the public by leading guided tours where I have used my skills like; historical analysis, effective communication and Front of House duties.

This has ignited my interest to explore local history and how these small-scale museums promote the history of trades like the Steel Nib trade that established Birmingham as an industrial city. Having heard good reviews from visitors I spontaneously visited the Coffin Works and was immediately impressed with the dedication of the volunteers to provide thebest experience for all visitors that is fun and interactive. Not long after visiting, I began volunteering at the Coffin Works alongside the Pen Museum which was has been mutually beneficial for both museums to share ideas on inclusivity, events and public promotions. Sarah and the team of volunteers have always been a very friendly and approachable group taught me all the tips and tricks on tour guiding and handling machinery.

This has really helped me undertake more responsibilities and opportunities like day-to-day management of front of house and tour times. As a result of my experiences in the CoffinWorks and the Pen Museum I then went on to study for my MA in Museum Studies at the University of Leicester. As my dissertation focused on Inclusion and Education I noted the use of their ‘relaxed tours’ how this strategy could be adapted to museums that promote alternative learning and inclusion.

On the whole my experience as a volunteer has been very positive as I have met some wonderful volunteers with the same goals to show the best potential that the museum sector has to offer the wider community. From simply volunteering I have built my confidence, learnt the inner workings of this sector and obtained a specialised Masters degree. Despite the limitations that the Covid-19 pandemic has placed on the museum sector, I have no doubt that Coffin Works will quickly make a comeback and will interest new generations of history and museum enthusiasts.

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