Thackray Museum volunteers receive national recognition
Thackray Museum of Medicine
Leeds’s own Thackray Museum of Medicine is delighted to have been praised by the National Art Fund for the work of its volunteers.
Although the museum did not ultimately win the coveted title of Museum of the Year 2021, for which it had been shortlisted, a letter received by its CEO, Nat Edwards, read: “The judges commended the brilliant volunteers with medical expertise who brought the collection to life for visitors and the excellent community work with people of all ages. They found Thackray Museum’s vision to be a hub for their local communities, somewhere to hold space and open up conversations, demonstrating and living empathy, humility and kindness, nothing short of remarkable.”
The museum’s current volunteer team includes a host of medical professionals, both retired and practising, as well as students training in subjects that range from genetics to psychology. In addition to sharing their stories with visitors, they offer handling sessions with all kinds of medical objects and support the museum’s events and school visits.
Volunteers who met and interacted with the Art Fund judges during their visit include Prem Mistry, a pharmacist with over forty years’ experience in Yorkshire, who has his own collection of medicine bottles and ephemera at home. He loves to spend time in the museum’s Apothecary Shop, chatting to visitors about the vast collection of delftware and other historical objects on show.
Ann Christian, a retired anaesthetist who worked for the Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust, was also on hand in the Cutting Edge gallery, which focuses on medical innovation. Ann has personal experience of various items on display and encourages visitors to think about how and why these might have been developed and used in the past.
Lastly, Yvonne Key has volunteered at the museum for several years and, during its recent refurbishment, helped to consult around access for people with visual impairments. She brought her own experience of the subject to life in a short talk about the history and use of the white cane – something she’s always happy to demonstrate and discuss with visitors.
Together with the rest of the volunteer team, all three bring unique perspectives and character to the Thackray, making it no wonder that the Art Fund judges called it “a medical museum unlike any other… placing lived, human experience at its heart.”