New colleagues, in depth discussions and great insights together with glorious sunshine and delicious pasties – the inaugural meeting of the Industrial Heritage Network Cornwall & Devon (IHNCD) was a great day, and a brilliant start to a new network!
Our first meeting at the King Edward Mine Museum last Thursday brought together many varied industrial heritage sites and organisations from all over Cornwall & Devon – the South West region covers a huge area which is why it has been split for logistical reasons to help members get to meetings easier. However, both networks (IHNSW and IHNCD) will work closely together, and members will be free to attend each other’s meetings in the future.
Industrial Heritage Network Cornwall & Devon is one of the 11 regional networks currently in development across England.
As with the other networks’ inaugural meetings, the agenda for the day included an update from the IHSO (Industrial Heritage Support Officer), a talk from our host, a presentation from one of the members – last week we heard from John Puddy from the Steamship Freshspring Society who talked to us about brining a historic vessel from scrap to a public resource – interactive group session, site tour, some discussions and plenty of networking.
David Ager, from the King Edward Mine Museum, has talked to us about their challenges and the great work they have been doing with the local community. Some of the museum’s activities include working closely with the local schools and creating a STEM Club, offering variety of volunteering roles including guiding and administration, and engaging local businesses through ‘Workspace Project’ – renting out space across the site and working together. One of the recent organisational challenges is looking at the museum’s governance and structure change – the museum is considering converting into a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO).
Becoming a CIO, and what benefits this might have, have formed a large part of the discussions during the day. There is some information about CIO available on the following government website: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/charity-types-how-to-choose-a-structure
John Puddy, our second speaker, mentioned that the Steamship Freshpsring Society has become a CIO as well, and he complemented that choice. John also talked to us about the journey the SS Freshspring has been on since it was recovered from a scrapyard and turned into a thriving, local visitor attraction. After her restoration in Sharpness, and the move to Bideford, the Society started engaging the local community in volunteering – currently, there are 30 active volunteers supporting the Society every week. The Society also created an educational programme with the help of teachers from local schools by inviting them to visit the SS Freshspring, asking them how the vessel and their activities could fit into the curriculum and work together to offer practical teaching sessions. The programme, which focused on engineering in practice, has been so successful there is now a waiting list for schools looking to take part.
During the day various other topics emerged including conservation or lack of funding, however attracting and retaining volunteers appeared to be a common challenge across the member sites and organisations who attended the meeting. Some members have been successful in attracting volunteers but found it difficult to keep them coming back, and then there were some members who have had a dedicated team of volunteers for a while but have struggled to engage and attract new ones.
The important message that came through was to always listen to your volunteers and understand their needs: why are they looking to volunteer with you in the first place? Why have they stayed with you? Or, what would make them stay?
Talk to your volunteers and ask them what it is they would like to gain from volunteering at your site/organisation. Ask them to explain why they chose you and why they continue to support you. When you search for new volunteers make it clear how volunteering for you will be beneficial to them, and what it is exactly they will do, learn and discover. Keep your volunteers interested by engaging them in variety of tasks and development opportunities, if that is what they are looking for. Create a role description before you advertise a volunteering opportunity – if you are looking for younger volunteers outline what skills they will be able to use and develop in that role.
Remember to always ensure all volunteers are made welcome and know that they are part of the team. Through continuous and clear communication with your volunteers you will be able to understand their motivation and through that, you will be able to meet their expectations and encourage them to stay.
The various areas of volunteering management will form an important focus of future meetings for networks across England.
Our schedule on the day at the King Edward Mine was fully packed and there were many areas to cover. Members were happy to share and discuss various issues. Unfortunately, there is only so much that is possible to address and go over in one day. Therefore, the bi-annual meetings are ‘instigators’ for further networking, discussions, and development of ideas. The purpose of the IHNCD, and the other Industrial Heritage Networks (IHNs) across England, is to offer peer to peer support throughout the year.
The IHNCD currently has 42 members representing 33 industrial heritage sites and organisations. The full list of member sites and organisations can be viewed on the IHNs website:
Industrial Heritage Network North East has its second meeting this Thursday the 4th April at the Land of Oak & Iron, and the West Midlands network will have its second meeting at the Coffin Works on the 8th April.
The networks which are currently being developed include North West and Yorkshire with their inaugural meetings planned for June with East Midlands and East of England set to be established by July.
The IHSO, Joanna Turska, brings industrial heritage sites and organisations together, organises inaugural meetings, facilitates each network’s development and provides tools and resources for networks’ growth including the dedicated IHNs website for promotion, awareness and knowledge sharing:
Do subscribe to the IHNs website to stay in touch and receive the most up to date news and stories from across the industrial heritage sector!
For more information about a network in your region, contact the IHSO on: email@example.com