Project that enlists refugees as tour guides wins Collections Trust Award 2019

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 18.09.2019
Initiative was funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund
Two museums have won the Collections Trust Award 2019 for a joint project that enlists refugees to volunteer as tour guides and co-curators. 

The Pitt Rivers Museum and the History of Science Museum, both in Oxford, will share the £1,000 prize for their groundbreaking Multaka-Oxford programme, which creates volunteering opportunities for forced migrants that have recently arrived in the UK from Africa and the Middle East. 

Using collections as a meeting point (the meaning of Multaka in Arabic), the programme enables the volunteers to engage with heritage and bring different perspectives to the presentation and interpretation of museum objects, while at the same time improving their English language skills and knowledge of UK culture and working practice. 

The volunteering programme is structured to support a pathway towards work and education in the UK for participants.

Rana Ibrahim, the collections project officer at the History of Science Museum, who accepted the award last week, said: “Multaka-Oxford creates an open space, and working with our collections helps people find their identity, their heritage, their faith and their place in the community. 

This award is a great endorsement of the work of the museums’ teams and volunteers, and we’re absolutely delighted with it.”

The project was funded with a grant from the Museums Association’s (MA) Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund. 

Sarah Briggs, the MA’s collections development officer, said: “We’re thrilled to see an Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund project winning this award. So many of our projects demonstrate exemplary use-led collections work to the sector and Multaka is not only delivering long-term strategic and collections benefits to the museums involved, but offering real opportunities and meaningful participation to the volunteer team.”

This year’s Collections Trust Award focused on “use-led” collections projects, in response to one of the recommendations of the MA’s recent Empowering Collections report. 

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