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MERL Celebrates Volunteers – University of Reading

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MERL Celebrates Volunteers

Release Date 30 May 2007

The Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) will be hosting a Garden Party on 6th June, to celebrate the important contribution made by volunteers to the work of the University of Reading Museums and Collections Service (UMACS).

Over 80 volunteers support activities and projects at the University's museums, from providing guided tours at weekends and cataloguing steam engine archives at MERL, to database work at the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology.

The event coincides with Volunteers' Week, the UK's annual celebration of the work of volunteers, running from 1 - 7 June.

Jennifer Allison, Volunteer Development Officer at UMACS, said: "Volunteers play an invaluable role at MERL and the other University museums. They volunteer for many different reasons and we try to make sure they get as much out of their experience as possible. Some come to offer their spare time and meet people. Others are interested in gaining useful work experience in such areas as customer services or marketing.

"There are all kinds of opportunities and MERL couldn't function properly without its committed volunteers. The new garden for example, will be almost entirely maintained by a team of volunteers which we are currently recruiting."

Anna Ward, a student of Archaeology and History at the University of Reading, volunteers as a tour guide and helps with education sessions at MERL.

"Volunteering with the University's museums began as an opportunity to gain experience and insight for my proposed career in the heritage sector, "she said. "The staff offered me great encouragement and many new opportunities to work with the collections as well as providing excellent training schemes in both tour guiding and education.

"They welcomed me as a friend and colleague, offering advice and encouragement to help me achieve my career goals."

Over 22million people are involved in volunteering in the UK every year and Volunteers' Week is an opportunity for organisations to publicly recognise the work of their volunteers. It also aims to raise the awareness of the benefits of giving time, inspiring a new generation of volunteers. Volunteers' Week is co-ordinated in England by Volunteering England.

Kate Arnold-Forster, Head of UMACS, said: "There are many benefits we gain from our volunteers, not only their enthusiasm and dedication but also the skills, knowledge and experience they bring us. This party is a thank you for their hard work and dedication, and also to highlight to the University and local communities, the invaluable contribution made by volunteers to the life of our museums."

Anyone interested in finding out more about volunteering opportunities at MERL should contact Jennifer Allison, Volunteer Development Officer, at call 0118 378 8660.

For more information on how to get involved with Volunteers' Week 2007 go to

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Note to the media: The event takes place at MERL on June 6th from 2 to 5pm. Members of the press are welcome to attend. For more information on the event, please contact Jennifer Allison, Volunteer Development Officer, at call 0118 378 8660.

Notes to Editors:

1. In England, half of all people have volunteered (formally or informally) at least once a month. This translates to 20.4 million people. This is a significant increase from 2001 (47% and 18.8 million people).

2. Volunteering England works to promote volunteering as a powerful force for change, both for those who volunteer and for the wider community. For further information go to or call 0845 305 6979.

3. More information about the Museum of English Rural Life

The Museum of English Rural Life, in London Road, Reading, was founded by the University of Reading in 1951 to reflect and record the changing face of farming and the countryside. It houses designated collections of national importance that span the full range of objects, archives, photographs, film and books. Today, it forms part of the University's Museums and Collections Service. The Museum operates as a major resource and research centre for the history of food, farming and the countryside with links into the School of History and other academic departments at the University.

4. . More information About the University of Reading

The University of Reading is one of the foremost research-led universities in the UK. Founded in the nineteenth century and gaining a Royal Charter in 1926, we offer a wide range of programmes from the pure and applied sciences to languages, social sciences and fine art. New research and the latest thinking continually feed into undergraduate teaching, with our academic staff working at the forefront of their fields of expertise.

For all other University of Reading media enquiries please contact James Barr, Press Assistant, tel 01189 3787115 or email

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