Experiential learning or exploitation? Volunteering for work experience in the UK museums sector
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Aspiring museums professionals often have to volunteer outside of formal study programmes in order to gain paid work in the UK museums sector. Volunteering for work experience however, has been largely ignored by previous studies of museum volunteers. This paper aims to provide an insight into the extent of volunteering for work experience and the experiences of these would-be museum workers. The paper presents the result of a postal questionnaire and interviews with both volunteers and managers. A key problem for museums is the resources needed to provide meaningful work experience. For volunteers, a worthwhile work experience placement appears to be almost entirely due to luck and finding a mentor. Voluntary experience therefore seems to be more about developing contacts than learning museum-specific skills. Recommendations are made for improving the volunteers’ experience.
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