The crew behind the Diving Deep: HMS Invincible 1744 display at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard clinched the prestigious 2020 Marsh Award for museum learning.
Staged at the British Museum in London, the ceremony recognised the 33 volunteers from the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) for putting together the best display in the south-east region.
The volunteers’ heritage project focused on the doomed "Ferrari" of the Royal Navy, HMS Invincible, the 18th century 74-gun warship which was seized from the French by the British but sunk in the Solent in 1758 after she ran aground.
After a year at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, the exhibition will move to Chatham Historic Dockyard in Kent.
From diving and excavating the famous wreck which lies in the Solent, to conserving and recording the finds and developing and installing a travelling exhibition - the team played a critical role in bringing the display to life.
Their work is now informing the development of a new volunteer strategy at the national museum.
The team faced its challenge of being able to tell the exhibition’s story in a Covid-safe way when it opened in 2020.
Eileen Clegg, community archaeologist at the NMRN who led the team and nominated them said: ‘Despite a global pandemic, this group of volunteers worked against the clock online and in person during national lockdowns to successfully install the exhibition in time for its opening.
‘The volunteers are located across the south of England from Dorset to Kent and even as far away as Canada.
‘They worked together both in person and virtually for two years to research Invincible, prepare collection items and develop an exhibition interpretation plan which has been based on public, access, and community group consultation.
‘The result has been a very popular exhibition that explains complex archaeological science in an engaging and creative way with visitors touching, feeling and even smelling objects from the ship in a safe and appropriate way being Covid safe.’
Volunteer Brent Piniuta, who lives in Canada, was part of the team who helped the display make its debut in Portsmouth.
She said: ‘I really feel blessed. So many wonderful people I’ve met through my volunteering for Diving Deep that I can’t wait to meet in person. And all done from across the Atlantic.’