Mental health and volunteering at Bradford Museums and Galleries

Bradford Museums and Galleries

Mental health and volunteering at Bradford Museums and Galleries.
This is an ongoing initiative to provide volunteering opportunities for people experiencing mental health issues in our museums and to embed this within our service.

Description of the arts activity

Bradford Museums and Galleries has been awarded the gold standard for its excellence in working with volunteers. ‘Investing in Volunteers’ accreditation recognises our working practice and policy around diversity and the support we give to our 100 strong volunteer team.
Our volunteer policy clearly states our commitment to engage a diverse volunteer team, our aim to work with groups who are currently under represented and where possible, our ability to make reasonable adjustments to support the full and safe involvement of volunteers with differing needs.
The first step of putting this into practice is made by forging links with local charities and primary care health organisations such as the Specialist Autism Service and other well-being projects.
William was referred to us in summer of 2014 through our work with the Cellar Trust which is charity that provides support to people recovering from mental health problems. William who had a diagnosis of  Aspergers and depression, had a degree in history and a particular interest in volunteering in a museum.

Our volunteer co-ordinator met William to discuss his particular skills, interests and any extra support he may need, a role was found for him working with the collections manager at Cartwright Hall Art Gallery. Here, he helped by updating records that document objects in our collection.

Details of the project participants

We look at need within the service rather than recruiting and trying to fit as it needs to be mutually beneficial. We work with local charities and service providers. The process is fairly straightforward - where we need support, we contact local charities, and through the relationships we have developed, we sometimes get contacted by local agencies.

Project management

We have a dedicated and experienced member of staff to manage volunteers with specific needs.
We work to Investing in Volunteers quality standards. We regularly review progress with staff and volunteers.
We share information about specific needs for staff involved. Create safe working environment that is suitable for individuals. Work to policy and inline with Data Protection Act
Expenses are paid.

Evaluation methods and findings

This project has been written up in West Yorkshire’s Museums: Making a Difference (2016) available online here:

Testimonials from William:
‘Thanks for setting up the placement working within the accession records at Cartwright Hall. I feel the experience working with databases has helped me gain employment within my current role.’

‘In the interview I gave examples from my experiences at Cartwright and I used Gavin as a reference. I feel that without the experience gained from voluntary work, my chances of getting the current job would have been greatly reduced. Feel there is plenty of experience working with databases in my work history, but the voluntary work was recent and working with large database (numbers was important as I work with databases with 2000 plus students).’
William, 12/11/2015

Supported using public funding by the Arts Council England