Oxford University museums win Museums + Heritage award for project working with forced migrants

Multaka-Oxford, a project at the History of Science Museum and Pitt Rivers Museum to create volunteering opportunities for forced migrants, has won Volunteer Team of the Year at the Museums + Heritage Awards.

The annual awards, which were announced on 15 May, celebrate innovative and ground-breaking initiatives from museums and heritage visitor attractions across the UK and overseas.

Multaka – which means meeting point in Arabic – is a two-year project at the History of Science and Pitt Rivers Museums which uses the collections as a meeting point to bring people together. Working in partnership with local community organisations including Asylum Welcome, Connection Support and Refugee Resource, the museums have recruited a team of over 30 volunteers, who have recently arrived from Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Burma and Oman, and have been helping them learn new skills and gain work experience.

volunteers look at a scarf from damascus

The volunteers are working with museum staff to learn about and research two collections: Islamic scientific instruments at the History of Science Museum and a recent donation of textiles from the Middle East and North Africa at the Pitt Rivers Museum. This wealth of knowledge is being added to the museums’ databases and is being shared with the public through multilingual events, tours, blogs and displays.

volunteer Waed Alawad at the history of science museum

Volunteer-led tours of the History of Science Museum launched late last year, with tours of the Pitt Rivers set to begin in June. And a display of textiles from the Middle East and North Africa, called 'Multaka: Connecting Threads', is currently running at the Pitt Rivers, which weaves in personal stories and observations from the volunteers to offer new perspectives on the collection.

Talking about the Multaka-Oxford Volunteer Team, Diane Lees CBE, Director General of the Imperial War Museums and Chair of the 2019 judging panel, noted: “The genuine mutual benefit to both organisation and volunteer is clear to see with this winning team. They have shared their experience, insight and expertise to collaborate and to reach new audiences, helping the museums to be more relevant and accessible to their communities.”

Anna Preedy, Director of the Museums + Heritage Awards commented: “These awards recognise the amazing achievements, creativity, innovation, hard work and utter commitment evident throughout the museums and heritage sector. The awards have become the benchmark for excellence and the winners represent the very best of the best.”