Torre Abbey has been awarded £18,054 of National Lottery funding to launch a digital volunteering initiative and break down barriers to heritage. The funding is part of The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Digital Skills for Heritage initiative, which aims to raise digital skills and confidence across the whole UK heritage sector.

This ambitious project will fund the recruitment, equipment, support and training for a new volunteer team to digitise and catalogue the whole Torre Abbey collection and transfer this onto an online portal. The project will support innovative ways of encouraging participation in the collection through research and engagement activities.

The project will encourage skills development in the local community, with specialised training offered to volunteers. A digital volunteer’s hub will also be created, which will provide a hybrid working space for both the Torre Abbey staff and volunteers. This will provide a conservation standard space for the collection during processing.

A ‘Revisiting Collections’ approach will be undertaken to capture and permanently associate newly acquired knowledge within the documentation of the object or record to give it a new voice and perspective. This will be done through a series of locally produced creative workshops and online approaches to engage a significantly diverse audience. This research will lead to an exhibition showcasing new stories around the pieces in the collection, which will form part of the launch of the online portal.

Seventeen projects have been awarded funding to create digital volunteering opportunities, supporting volunteers to develop and contribute their digital skills. Some opportunities will be offered online – removing barriers such as place, mobility, time commitments and confidence in returning to in-person activities due to the pandemic.

In turn, heritage organisations will gain the perspectives and skills of ‘at distance’ and on-site digital volunteers including many who may not have had the chance to volunteer before. The impact of the new volunteering opportunities and ways of working will be shared across the heritage sector.

Cllr Mike Morey, Cabinet Member for Infrastructure, Environment and Culture for Torbay Council, said: “This is fantastic news for Torre Abbey and will mean that a wider range of people will be able to volunteer – including those working from home – for the first time in the museum’s history.  This project will also link to the £7,000 funding from South West Museums Recovery Grant, which will create a full digital tour of the museum. This means that people who are unable to visit the museum in person, perhaps because they are in a care home setting, or even in another country, can still enjoy the collection. It will also make the arts and heritage more accessible and inclusive for many other groups and individuals.” 

Ros Kerslake, CEO at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Volunteers play a crucial role in supporting and sharing the UK’s heritage. Thanks to National Lottery players we are delighted to support these trailblazing projects, including Torre Abbey as they create exciting new digital volunteering opportunities, helping to break down barriers and inspire the sector to get even more people involved in the heritage they love.”

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