Volunteers are the backbone to the smooth and efficient running of the Craven Museum and Gallery in Skipton.

Without them, many of the projects, the displays, the research and cataloguing would be almost impossible to complete.

“We just couldn’t function without them,” said Martin Wills, collections and interpretations officer, who, alongside the manager, Suzanne Callaghan, are the only two full-time paid staff.

Throughout January, the place is thronged with volunteers as the museum is closed to the public so it can be cleaned, items renovated and displays updated.

Preparations are under way to set up a SMART Gallery, co-ordinated by artist-in-residence Helen Peyton and designed to encourage members of the public to submit their own items.

It will run from Monday to May.

“It allows people to decide what they think would be interesting or has personal value attached. It should be fascinating to see what goes on display,” said Martin.

Most of the volunteers work on Tuesdays when the museum is closed.

One of the tasks involves transcribing and digitising a large collection of oral histories collected on tape from the 1970s to the year 2000.

Much of it is of voices from World War Two but also some from the First World War.

“This is a huge job. We have been working at it a year and it will go on for much longer.

“One of the most interesting discoveries is how people’s accents have changed.

“In the early days the accents were much broader – I think it is much less so now simply because improved communication allows people to hear so many different accents,” said Martin.

Museum staff are now waiting anxiously for approval of the application which was submitted for funding to employ an officer to spearhead the work of commemorating the centenary of the start of the First World War on August 4, 1914.

Volunteers are always welcome and anyone interested in getting involved should telephone 01756 706407.