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A history project for young volunteers aged 11-16 who are on the autism spectrum has won the East Midlands regional Marsh Trust ‘Volunteers for Museum Learning’ award.

The British Museum and the Marsh Christian Trust have been working in partnership since 2008 for the ‘Volunteers for Museum Learning’ award which recognises the hugely valuable contribution that volunteers make in helping museums galleries and heritage sites all over the United Kingdom engage with their visitors.

This year’s ceremony took place last month at The British Museum where winners were invited to celebrate their achievements and receive their award.

Cllr Richard Blunt, Leicestershire County Council Cabinet member for Heritage, Leisure & Arts, said:

“We are delighted that volunteers from Project Digby have won this prestigious national award. Their efforts and commitment highlights that everyone has something valuable to offer as a volunteer. Their contribution inspired a change in how our heritage sites and teams can work with and for their local community. The legacy of the project has been far-reaching and has improved everyday working practices.”

Project Digby was a free five-week programme based at the 1620s House & Garden in Donington le Heath, near Coalville, which ran in the summer 2018. It was developed by Leicestershire County Council’s Participation team, in partnership with Autism East Midlands and focused on the history of the 1620s House and the Digby family who lived there. Through the group’s learning, they were able to make the museum more autism friendly and create a fun quiz for visitors to enjoy.

Some of the interpretation volunteers at the 1620s House & Garden were also involved in delivering the project.

Jane Howson, Autism East Midlands Chief Executive said:

“We are extremely proud to be part of a project that was designed to engage autistic young people in a heritage environment. Working alongside Leicestershire County Council developing this project was extremely rewarding, and all members of the team were passionate about developing the best possible environment for autistic individuals to thrive in.

“It was fantastic to see how the individuals who accessed this project became less anxious and more willing to engage. We hope that moving forward the work produced during this five-week project can be developed across the county’s heritage and museum sites, allowing autistic individuals across Leicestershire the opportunity to engage with, learn from and enjoy the county’s heritage sites.”

Project Digby has also left a lasting legacy, with more than 30 staff receiving autism awareness training, the completion of environmental audits across three sites and the creation of a guide available to independent museums throughout Leicestershire to help put on autism-friendly activities and make autism-friendly adaptations.