Gainsborough’s House Volunteers Win Award

Every year museum volunteers in the East of England are honoured at a special award ceremony for the contributions they make to support our regions museums. This year our Education Team won the Learning Volunteer Award.

Led by our Learning Officer, the team has developed and delivered a huge range of exciting activities from working with local schools to create a printing tent that goes out and about throughout Suffolk and Essex, to making a 3-D living painting with families, to running sessions for adults with learning disabilities in our weekly museum club.

Our hugely versatile, dedicated and talented volunteers provide a dynamic and creative learning programme for the whole community

Here is a snapshot of their work during the last year:

Creative Spaces Tent

Inspired by two exhibitions a Gainsborough’s House, exploring artists’ studios, the volunteer education team worked in 3 local primary schools to design and make a pop-up creative space for children to get creative in.

Many children do not get to experience printmaking in school or at home, so new techniques were taught by the team, who brought their expertise as practicing artists themselves. Once created, the tent then re-visited the schools and the children who designed it led storytelling and creative sessions for other pupils.

The tent then went on tour and the volunteers ran a series of creative printmaking sessions throughout the summer holidays at countryside sites in partnership with the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, the Field Studies Council and Babergh District Council.

“This has been a fantastic project, the children are rightly very proud of the work they have created”

Nani Broadbent-Yale, Year 2 teacher, Woolpit Primary School.

Tom’s Tuesdays

For every Tuesday in the holidays the team develop and run drop-in family learning activities. The emphasis is very much on families working together as a team. The volunteers have worked with families to create shadow puppets and theatres and a 3-D living version of a landscape painting by Thomas Gainsborough including the sky, animals, trees and even the people. Amazing imaginative costumes have been sculpted using paper alone, inspired by our portrait collection.

“I liked making the painting come alive and it was great to walk around in it. It made me see loads more in the paintings in the museum”
Tom, aged 8.

Museum Club

Our weekly club for adults with learning disabilities could not run without the dedicated volunteers who help design and deliver heritage sessions for the group. We have explored our natural heritage this year and have created a small exhibition to be held at the local centre for adults with learning disabilities.


How do you inspire children to discover more about Thomas Gainsborough? The volunteers came up with an innovative answer in the form of Tom’s Trunk. They created a handling resource consisting of an 18th century trunk filled with objects that could have belonged to Thomas Gainsborough. Through taking part in handling sessions in school, walking in Gainsborough’s footsteps around Sudbury and visiting the museum, school groups must decide whether the trunk is fake or fortune. The project has been very popular, with a quarter of school bookings for the year choosing to explore Tom’s Trunk

Earlier this year, our learning officer was taken suddenly ill and was off work for seven weeks. This amazing team picked up the learning work and delivered a fantastic service to all booked groups and events.

Finally, congratulations go to our Volunteer Coordinator, Jacqui Robins, who was honoured with a highly commended in the Volunteer Management category.