Next year marks the 17th anniversary of the Museums + Heritage Awards for Excellence and chair of the judging panel, Diane Lees says the winning projects from last year were the ones where the judges really felt the passion coming through the application.

This was epitomised by the volunteers at the Alzheimer Scotland Football Memories project who teamed up with the Scottish Football Museum to deliver a programme of events that provided a therapeutic intervention for people living with dementia.

Richard McBrearty, Project Director, Football Memories Scotland, who picked up the award for Volunteers of the Year Team, said it was a way of paying tribute to the volunteers on the project and goes to show that “museums and heritage attractions, irrespective of size, can make a real difference in people’s lives”.

Why did the Scottish Football Museum enter the Museums + Heritage Awards?

We wanted to pay tribute to the network of volunteers who have been absolutely vital to the success of the Football Memories programme. Many of them are unsung heroes who work hard to make a real difference in people’s lives without receiving the recognition that they deserve and the Scottish Football Museum felt that the Museums + Heritage Awards provided a wonderful opportunity to introduce and showcase their contribution to a UK wide audience.

Can you briefly describe the museum’s volunteer initiative that won the award and what made it unique and successful?

Football Memories Scotland is a network of reminiscence groups which provides therapeutic interventions for people living with dementia and which supports people who may otherwise be socially isolated within communities across Scotland. Volunteers have been at the heart of the reminiscence project from our humble beginnings in 2009 and it is down to their drive and commitment that the project has developed from what was initially a one year pilot scheme into what is now the world’s first national football reminiscence programme. The volunteer network is responsible for running and supporting community groups meeting in football grounds, libraries, museums, and public halls. They also support people living in residential care in hospitals and care homes.

Art Fund – Going Places – Oct 2023


A word from the chair of the judging panel and Director General of Imperial War Museums, Diane Lees

What effect has volunteering had on the fortunes of the museum?

Volunteering has enabled the Scottish Football Museum to reach out to communities across Scotland in a way that we could not have thought possible back in 2009. We are a modestly sized museum with approximately 12 members of staff which manages an important national collection for the subject that we cover. Thanks to the commitment of our partners and the volunteer networks our collections are being widely used from the Scottish Borders to the Western Isles to support elderly people living with dementia and people who may otherwise be socially isolated. Thanks to the volunteers our project has been quoted as a best practise model for dementia friendly communities within Scotland’s National Dementia Strategy, 2017 – 2020.

Where does your award sit – is it on view to the public?

The award has been on a mini tour of Scotland as we have been organising regional meetings and this has meant that local volunteers have been able to see the award and get their photograph taken with it. We have a National Convention taking place in Glasgow in November when volunteers from across Scotland will all convene at Hampden Park and again it will be out on show in the centre of the hall to encourage volunteers to view it and get their photograph taken with it. After the convention it will go on public display within the Scottish Football Museum.

In what ways has the positive feedback from the M+H Awards and elsewhere spurred the team on for future volunteering initiatives?

We have definitely broadened the scope of our engagement with volunteers. For example, we are now working with volunteers at two football clubs to support exhibitions which are being planned for 2019. Whilst the existing volunteer programme remains core to the Scottish Football Museum the positivity surrounding the M+H Awards has certainly given us confidence to push on from our current model into new ventures working with volunteers and external partners.

What advice would you give to museums and heritage visitor attractions planning to enter the 2019 Museums + Heritage Awards?

We entered the Awards in 2018 with the view that we had nothing to lose and everything to gain from participating. When writing the application we tried to keep our message as simple and as clear as possible highlighting the work of our volunteers and the impact of their contribution. Our experience emphasises the fact that museums and heritage attractions, irrespective of size, can make a real difference in people’s lives and the Museums + Heritage Awards was an ideal platform from which to highlight the impact of the work of our volunteers’ network.


How to enter the Museums + Heritage Awards

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