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Inclusive Volunteering In Museums

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A project which looked to remove barriers to volunteering in museums and heritage sites for disabled people

Inclusive volunteering in volunteer-run museums was a project delivered by Volunteer Centre Dorset, led by Chloe Hixson, a disability access consultant who has worked with a range of heritage organisations in the South-West. Volunteer Centre Dorset remit’s is to promote and support volunteering across Dorset. The project aimed to support museums to recruit and retain more disabled volunteers, by identifying barriers to participation and providing guidance on how to remove or reduce those barriers.

Statistics show that disabled people are under-represented in the heritage sector. At the same time, nearly half of the UK’s accredited museums and heritage organisation depend on volunteers to run their day-to-day operations. Some organisations are struggling to operate due to challenges in recruiting enough volunteers, with 30 accredited museums across Dorset being either volunteer-led or using the services of volunteers. Access audits were offered to museums in the region as part of the project, along with Disability Awareness training and recruitment guidance. In completing the work, Volunteer Centre Dorset identified obstacles that museums face and reflected on lessons learned during the project and how those wanting to work with museums on inclusive volunteering might approach this.




Museums face several obstacles when addressing accessibility issues. The primary ones are:

  • A lack of funding provision
  • Operating within a listed building
  • Fear of doing the wrong thing, particularly where there is a risk of mis-spending limited funds
  • Capacity issues within the museum. The project came at a time when the sector was still recovering from the impact of Covid-19, along with the cost-of-living crisis, both of which have hugely affected volunteer engagement.

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