It’s incredible to think that a year ago this month, on 23rd March 2020, the country went into lock down for the first time. At the time we had no idea what was going to happen, and anxiety levels were high. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster since then, but one of the things that has kept up going has been the updates from our regular volunteers, telling us what they’ve been doing during this unexpected break from visiting and helping with our sites and collections. Barnsley Museums volunteer co-ordinator Ben Marsh tells us more.
When the first lock down was announced in March 2020, along with other museums across the country, we had to close our doors and put our volunteering programme temporarily on hold. With heavy hearts we asked our fantastic cohort of volunteers to stay at home. We also asked them to let us know what they were doing in lockdown, so we could all keep in touch. We didn’t know what to expect, but their response was amazing. From competition flower growing and lockdown artwork, to heritage cakes and home crafts, our volunteers are a wonderful and creative group of people, and we feel lucky to have them. With warm days approaching and another Spring having now arrived, we want to take a moment to look back and celebrate our volunteers sharing their personal joys in the hope it may bring a smile.
Daffodils from Elsecar
Shortly after the first lockdown was announced, regular volunteer Alison sent us some lovely daffodil photos. These would have been her entries into the Elsecar and District Chrysanthemum and Gardening Society daffodil show in March 2020, which also had to be cancelled because of Covid-19. Before Covid-19, the society held monthly meetings in Elsecar, and hosted three shows a year including the Daffodil and Spring Flower Show, keeping up a traditional of flower and vegetable shows that has been going in the village for over 170 years.
Alison’s photos inspired us to take a quick look into the archives to find out more about Elsecar’s long connection with horticulture. This report of the 35th Elsecar Floral and Horticultural Society show, from the Sheffield Telegraph in 1885, paints a fascinating picture. There were three categories for competitors – farmers, cottagers and amateurs. Presumably the cottagers included people with allotments living in the estate-built workers cottages like Old Row and Reform Row. Their produce was reported to be of the highest quality! The show was serenaded by the Elsecar brass band, and a dance was held in the evening.
As the weeks turned into months, volunteers continued to send us updates about research they’d been doing, artwork they’d created and photos of some very tasty-looking home baking, including cakes in the shape of Barnsley heritage sites. These were shared in a regular volunteer e-newsletter, which was sent out every two months to keep everybody up to date with what was happening. Barnsley Museum staff got involved and contributed to the newsletter with their own lockdown stories.
As Christmas arrived and we faced ongoing restrictions, and further lockdowns, our volunteers again stepped up, working remotely to help create a hugely popular Christmas trail at Worsborough Mill and Cannon Hall, bringing a bit of festive joy. We also successfully trialled remote ‘micro’ volunteering with a pilot group of volunteers carrying out research for the new Heritage Action Zone project in the town centre, using digital tools like the British Newspaper Archive and Ancestry Reunited.
Awards and achievements
2020 was a year that was full of challenges, so we were delighted to win a volunteering team of the year award, and a ‘Bee’s Needs’ award for our wildflower planting – a project led by a volunteer student placement.
Twelve months on, as we continue down the ‘road map’ and see those we care about being vaccinated, it’s hard to imagine how we’ve gone through a year of lockdowns, with the huge changes and emotional turmoil that has brought, and still managed to keep going and achieve, but we did.
The resilience, understanding and flexibility shown across our volunteer team has been amazing, and we will be building on this as we further open up volunteering in 2021, welcoming old and new faces back to our sites. We can’t wait to see everybody again, and to see what we can achieve together in the next twelve months.
Message in a bottle
As we move into the next phase of the pandemic and start to look towards recovery, we are asking people to share their thoughts and feelings about the past year as a ‘message in a bottle’. Find out more and download a message in a bottle postcard to share your thoughts on the Barnsley Council website (link opens as a pdf).
We have created a series of activities for volunteers and visitors alike to keep you all busy over Easter. Find out more on the Barnsley Museums facebook page. Send us a message a let us know how you get on!
Here are a few videos that were made last Easter as part our Barnsley Cares project too:
To find out more about volunteering with Barnsley Museums, please visit the Barnsley Museums website. Please note that at the time of writing (March 2021) Covid-19 restrictions still apply.