Volunteer Handbook

Welcome from Director

gail (1)To our Birmingham Museum of Art volunteers,

Let me offer my deepest gratitude to all of you who contribute your time, energy, and experience to the Birmingham Museum of Art. It is your commitment to our mission and program that allow us to serve so many and remain free to the public.

We count on you in so many ways, from assisting our visitors to insure their experience is the best it can be, to providing vital support behind the scenes to our staff members and for serving as informed advocates of the Museum in the community. We value your knowledge of this community and institution, and are rewarded by your presence, and we want your experience to be just as rewarding. We invite your comments, suggestions and ideas for ways we can enhance our services for the thousands of visitors that enter our doors for exhibitions, programs, and activities.

Thank you again for choosing to give your time and talents to the Birmingham Museum of Art.

Gail Andrews, The R. Hugh Daniel Director

Welcome from Volunteer Services Manager

Dear Volunteer,

I would like to thank you for agreeing to be a part of the Volunteer Program at the Birmingham Museum of Art.  Your dedication and commitment are extremely important to the continued operation of this institution. Because of you and the efforts of all our volunteers, we are able to offer a friendly and inviting experience to our public.

No matter what volunteer area you choose-greeting our many visitors, assisting in the Museum Store, being a staff assistant, or staffing a special event–you will play a critically important role in helping our visitors feel welcome.

Again, we thank you for your commitment to the Birmingham Museum of Art and look forward to having you at the Museum. Our strong hope and expectation is that your volunteer service will offer you the same opportunities you may provide to visitors: the opportunities to learn, accomplish, and grow.

If you ever have any questions or need to talk with me, please call me at 254-2070. We value your support and look forward to working with you at The Birmingham Museum of Art.

Lindsey Hammel, Volunteer Services Manager

Museum Volunteer Procedures, Policies, and Benefits

Birmingham Museum of Art Mission Statement

The mission of the Birmingham Museum of Art is to provide an unparalleled cultural and educational experience to a diverse community by collecting, interpreting, and preserving works of art of the highest quality.

Volunteer Mission Statement

To advance the mission of the Birmingham Museum of Art by welcoming visitors, engaging visitors in museum programs, and responding to visitors’ educational and hospitality needs.

Procedures and Policies
  • Only current members of the Museum may become volunteers.
  • Orientation and training are required of all active Museum volunteers.
  • A Museum identification badge must be worn when working as a volunteer in the Museum.
Benefits of Volunteering
  • Volunteering provides personal enrichment, offers increased knowledge in the arts, and provides opportunities to develop new skills and make new friends with similar interests.
  • Volunteers help to strengthen the Museum and play an active role in its success.
  • Volunteers receive an additional discount in the Museum Store and Cafe, above that of regular members.
  • Volunteers are eligible to take advantage of the “volunteers only” trips.
  • Volunteers are recognized for the annual service hours at a special volunteer recognition event held at the end of the season.
Ethical Standards for Volunteers

The following list of standards for museum volunteers is to serve as a guideline for ethical volunteer behavior:

The volunteer…

  • Understands and supports the purpose, structure, and policies of the Birmingham Museum of Art and of the volunteer program.
  • Offers the use of his/her special skills or experience.
  • Conducts himself/herself in accordance with the standards of conduct and ethics of the Birmingham Museum of Art.
  • Completes any orientation, training course or on-the-job training that is required.
  • Endeavors to be flexible in accepting assignments, performs assigned responsibilities willingly and courteously to the best of his/her ability, and accepts the guidance of his/her manager or supervisor.
  • Complies with the scheduling and dress requirements of the Birmingham Museum of Art.
  • Obeys all security and safety rules of the Birmingham Museum of Art.
  • Respects the confidentiality of sensitive or proprietary information.
  • Provides timely notification to the supervisor or manager of absences or termination.
  • Serves as a goodwill ambassador in the community on behalf of the Birmingham Museum of Art.
Interacting with Visitors

It is one-on-one contact that will determine the satisfaction of our visitors. We all know the results of a poor customer service experience. It lingers. In our case, the tremendous efforts to present some of the finest art exhibitions will pale in the remembrance of an unpleasant experience with staff or volunteers.

We strive to make our guests and all those with whom we come in contact, comfortable with the Birmingham Museum of Art. That process begins at the first point of contact, whether in person or on the phone.

When answering the phone or making phone calls, address callers first by identifying yourself.

While in public areas of the building, staff and volunteers should make every effort to enhance our guest experience by:

  • Treating visitors as you would want to be treated, in all ways.
  • Greeting visitors appropriately.
  • Being alert to visitor’s needing assistance of any kind.
  • Responding to questions and concerns immediately by addressing them or finding appropriate assistance; In short, taking possession of a question or problem.
  • Inquiring about visitor’s experiences.
  • Asking if the visitor has any questions.
  • Offering information about special programs and lectures available.
  • Offering membership information.
  • Thanking guests for visiting the Birmingham Museum of Art!
Safety and Security

Visitor and staff security is of paramount importance to the Birmingham Museum of Art. While primary responsibility for the Museum’s safety and security resides with the Security Department, ensuring the safety and security of visitors, the facility and its contents is a responsibility that is shared by all. Security Personnel are located at desks on both entrances of the museum, as well as in the galleries.

Protecting our guests and the integrity of the building and its contents is a task that requires constant vigilance. To assist in those efforts:

  • Be alert for situations that threaten the safety or security of visitors, the facility or its contents.
  • Trust your instincts. If you get a feeling that something is not right, there is likely a reason. It is far better to err on the side of safety and security than to regret not acting should a situation warrant.  Do not put yourself at any personal risk.

Examples of Possible Safety/Security Threats:

While it is impossible to anticipate every situation that may represent a threat to safety or security, possibly threatening situations may include:

  • An unattended package
  • An apparent heart attack or other acute physical distress
  • Threat to the art
  • Lost child
  • Smoke or fire
  • An accident involving a guest or visitor
  • A visitor in an agitated state that is attracting the attention of other guest
  • The display of a weapon of any kind, including scissors or pocket knives.


If you encounter a lost child:

  • Calmly tell the child your name and ask for theirs.
  • Notify a Security officer or dial extension 3907.
  • Follow any instructions provided by Security personnel.

If a parent or teacher reports a lost child:

  • Notify a Security officer or dial extension 3907
  • Follow any directions offered by Security personnel.
  • Calmly reassure the person reporting the lost child that Security is acting immediately and is working to locate the missing child.
  • Be prepared to answer any questions posed by Security personnel.

Visitors who are separated from their group:

  • Direct the visitor to the Security officer or dial extension 3907.

Lost Belongings:

  • Lost and Found is located in the main Security Office. Anything found must be turned over to Security. Before returning lost property to a guest, Security will ask the guest to describe the property.
Tips on Handling Difficult Situations

Try these tips:

  • Give a warm smile
  • Listen carefully to the visitor
  • Remain calm
  • Respond with meaningful comments


  • “I can appreciate your problem…”
  • “I understand that you would like to bring the backpack into the gallery, however we do not permit…”
  • Offer to solve the problem… “Let’s see what we can do.”
  • If necessary, allow the visitor to speak with supervisory staff.

Two broad categories of irate guests include:

  • Those who have a specific complaint
  • Those who are upset about something other than the  (crying child, rainy day, etc…)

Please do not:

  • Challenge a visitor
  • Speak down to a visitor
  • Be baited by an irate visitor

If you notice a visitor leaning on casework in the galleries or propping his or her feet on platforms, you may say: “Excuse me, but I’m afraid you might set off our alarms.”

Should a visitor become tired and need a place to rest, you may point out available seating in the galleries or suggest a seating area located outside the last gallery.  This area can also serve as a cry area for young children.

Visitors with Special Needs

The Birmingham Museum of Art is an inclusive, guest services-oriented organization. Employees and volunteers receive special training to address the needs of visitors requiring special assistance. The Birmingham Museum of Art welcomes visitors with special needs and every effort will be made to accommodate the special needs of visitors:

  • Accessible Entrances for visitors are marked outside the building.
  • Seeing eye, hearing ear and other animals assisting people with disabilities are welcome in all areas of the Birmingham Museum of Art.
  • Restrooms are all equipped for visitors with disabilities.
  • Wheelchairs are available in the Coat Check area for guests needing mobility assistance.
  • The Audio Script of the Museum’s Permanent Collection is available in a booklet to be checked out at the information desk for the hearing impaired.
  • A Blind and Visually Impaired Program is available. Tactile models and pictorial description allow the blind to “see” art.  The Birmingham Museum of Art is one of four Museums chosen by the Museum of Modern Art to participate in a study to develop tours for the sight impaired. Appointments for this program should be made through the Education Department at 205.254.2975.
Selling Museum Memberships

Greet Museum visitors with a smile and welcome them to the Birmingham Museum of Art. Ask if they are a member of the Museum and if not, would they like to become one. Open your member’s brochure and provide them with the basic membership cost information. Go over the benefits if they inquire about a level of membership.

On the membership application, check the desired membership category. Ask them if they are interested in joining one of the Museum support groups. Support Group information is also on the Information Desk in one of the rack cardholders. Museum Membership is an essential prerequisite for joining a support group, so, have the visitor fill in the necessary information.

You may take a check or credit card number. Check the credit card with the given number and expiration date to make sure the number is written correctly and be sure to get the expiration date also listed on the credit card. If they are paying with cash, walk them to the Museum Store and let the store employees take care of the transaction in case the visitor does not have correct change.

Give the new member the half of the membership brochure that lists the membership levels and benefits. Inform new Museum members that they will receive their membership cards within two weeks. You will keep the membership application with the check and put in the membership cash box. If you have any questions call Membership at x3915 or the Volunteer Office at 205.254.2070.

Volunteer Agreement

The volunteer agrees:

  • To volunteer at least 3 hours per month
  •  To become familiar with policies and procedures set fourth by the Birmingham Museum of Art
  • To be prompt and reliable for each volunteer shift
  •  To find a replacement if unable to work assigned shift
  • To notify the Volunteer Office if unable to find a replacement
  • To attend a minimum of two sessions through the year and undertake additional education as necessary
  • To inform the volunteer office in writing of resignation or leave of absence
  • To enjoy yourself and let us know how to better our volunteer programs

The Museum agrees:

  • To provide professional orientation and training
  • To keep volunteers informed through the year by newsletters, emails, and special mailings
Information Desk Checklist
  1. Sign-In at volunteer check in. You may also sign in at the Museum Store.
  2. Make sure you have a vest, apron or name tag – vests are at the sign-in station. You may bring your own BMA apron. BMA volunteer nametags are in the information desk drawer. You may purchase a personalized name tag for $10.00.
  3. Check for brochures including maps, membership application, current exhibitions, and My Museum magazine.
  4. Do not clutter the top of info desk. The only thing that should be on top of the desk are current exhibitions rack cards, maps, and ArtBreak brochures. Other brochures should be kept in the slots on the desk.
  5. If the computer is not logged in, the password is:  infodeskvol. Click on Mozilla to get to BMA website. Museum website is artsbma.org. If computer needs to be turned on, button is on the left bottom side of computer. Do not change anything on the computer.
  6. Bottom left drawer of credenza has file folders with directions, local gallery listings, eating establishments, and Braille maps.
Important Phone Numbers

Information Desk 205.252.0667
Volunteer Office 205.254.2070
Membership, Debbie Bartoletti 205.297.8088
Curatorial, Mollie Bartholomew 205.254.2567
ArtBreaks, Kristen Greenwood 205.254.2856
Registrar’s Department, Eric McNeal 205.254.2968
Main Switchboard, Melissa Schoel 205.254.7780