Museum Volunteering: Heritage as 'Serious Leisure'

N. Orr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The growing number of volunteers in the heritage sector indicates a desire for a leisure experience by pursuing a subject interest with like-minded people. Millar and others have suggested that volunteers are the `ultimate frequent visitors', and as the day visitor market for museums and heritage attractions declines, this paper offers the repositioning of `heritage visiting' from day visits to longer term connections with particular heritage attractions via volunteering. It draws on Stebbins's concept of serious leisure as a way of reading museum volunteering as a leisure practice and argues that museum volunteering is a way of practising heritage as leisure that is `self-generated', with museum volunteers active in constructing their own identities. According to the concept of `serious leisure', museum volunteers become part of a social world inhabited by those knowledgeable about heritage and history. The paper concludes by examining the adequacy of Stebbins's P-A-P system for analysing the power relations between museum professionals and volunteers in the museum social world.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-210
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal or Heritage Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2006


  • History
  • Heritage
  • Visitors
  • Volunteers
  • Serious Leisure
  • United Kingdom


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