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Volunteering benefits our staff as well as the organisation as a whole. Hear from some of our employees about their experiences working with different groups and individuals.
Amy Tuffnell - Conservation Technician, Collection Care
I've been working with volunteers at The National Archives for over nine years and it's given me valuable experience leading and supporting a diverse team to deliver a range of projects. Volunteers have cleaned books, rolled maps and other support tasks for larger conservation projects. Our current team are re-housing over seven hundred RAIL photographs, helping us to increase the accessibility of this great resource.
I have met some wonderful people who have been enthusiastic, interested, funny, dedicated and a pleasure to work with. The work of our volunteers has provided essential support to many projects and The National Archives has benefitted from their energy and skills.
Jenni Orme - Records Specialist - Diverse Histories, Advice and Records Knowledge
The Gold Coast 1900 project aimed to highlight one eventful year in the history of the Gold Coast and the potential of the rich records held in CO 96: Gold Coast General correspondence. To do this we looked to recruit volunteers who had an interest in African history with the hope that their interest and knowledge would help drive the project forward. This was particularly important as we wanted to encourage further research in the area that we simply don't have the resources for.
We recruited two students of African history from SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies), one from Kingston University and one recent graduate. All had an interest in African history through study or heritage.
Over six months, the volunteers worked through the nine enormous volumes, cataloguing every piece of correspondence so they could be uploaded to our catalogue and searched to draw out previously unknown stories in future.
The volunteers did an amazing job and kept their enthusiasm throughout the project, even when dealing with the rather more mundane sides of colonial administration files. They made my job very easy. We organised a public talk at the end of the project which gave the volunteers an opportunity to speak about the work they had been involved in and audience members to learn about the cataloguing work that goes on behind the scenes. Their talk was very well attended and attracted interest from researchers in the area, hopefully fuelling further work in the future. You can listen to a podcast of their talk.
Dinah Eastop, Research Fellow, Collection Care
The National Archives holds nearly three million designs registered at the Board of Trade between 1839 and 1991. A special feature of the resulting Design Register is that the designs take many forms, including drawings, tracings, photographs, samples of cloth and occasionally complete artefacts (for example, straw bonnets, leather gloves and printed handkerchiefs).
We have been transcribing and cataloguing the name-rich registers, which record the names and addresses of the proprietors who registered designs, and the dates of registration. We are enhancing these online resources via an ongoing user participation project.
Volunteers have examined more than 40 huge volumes of designs and transcribed any additional text written on or alongside the designs themselves. Examples include commemorative handkerchiefs recording details of Queen Victoria's long reign, or labelled portraits of King Taki of Accra (Ghana) and Robert Raikes, Founder of Sunday Schools.
The project has provided an opportunity for volunteers to work alongside specialists in the conservation team, to explore the designs (many in their original, bright colours) and to contribute their knowledge of places and poetry. One volunteer recognised that a series of shawl designs is named after places and characters in Sir Walter Scott's novels. In this way volunteers are helping users to discover even more about these fascinating records.