Museology Master of Arts Program

November 13, 2019

Gloves on! A study of supervisor support for collections volunteers

Thesis by Sam Howes (2019)

A recent survey of Seattle area heritage organizations found that one of their most pressing issues was a lack of volunteers with collections care experience. At the same time, these heritage organizations reported that professional development was not a priority. The purpose of this research study was to understand the nature of support for collections volunteers in Seattle area heritage organizations. Designed as a descriptive survey of local heritage organizations, data were collected through an online questionnaire completed by 41 collections managers who supervise volunteers and interns. Overall, this study found that collections supervisors supported volunteers through hands-on supervision, but they did not provide volunteers with much autonomy or include volunteers in staff meetings. Organizations supported volunteers through annual recognition events and onboarding orientations, but did not seem to offer written job descriptions for volunteers. This work is significant to collections managers and volunteer coordinators, as the results suggest a number of ways to improve engagement and retention of museum collections volunteers.

Keywords: Class of 2019, collections, interns, job demands-resource model, museums, supervisors, volunteer, museum studies, museology


Howes, S., & Luke, Jessica J. (2019). Gloves on! A study of supervisor support for collections volunteers. Seattle]: University of Washington.