An audience

This page provides answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about volunteering at The National Archives. We plan to keep this page updated as more questions are asked.

What volunteering opportunities are currently available at The National Archives?

Please see our current opportunities page to see a list of projects which are looking for volunteers. This page is updated regularly, so check for the latest listings or sign up for our enewsletter to keep up to date with new projects.

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When can I start volunteering?

If the project you are interested in is based behind the scenes at The National Archives in Kew, you are required to undergo basic security clearance. This usually takes two to three weeks but can occasionally take longer.

Before starting a project, we invite prospective volunteers to come to The National Archives for an informal discussion with a project's volunteer supervisor. The supervisor will explain the project and what is expected of project volunteers, to make sure that both volunteer and supervisor are happy to proceed before applying for security clearance. Once the clearance is received, your volunteer supervisor will arrange a date for you to come in for any training required for the project (for example, how to handle the documents).

If you are volunteering online, you will not require security clearance. Some of our online volunteering opportunities can be undertaken at any time, for example tagging documents in Discovery.

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Will I be able to claim expenses?

Yes, all reasonable travel expenses will be reimbursed by The National Archives. However, if your supervisor decides that your travel expenses may exceed the project's budget, they might discuss alternative volunteering arrangements with you.

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Can I volunteer from home?

Yes. Many of our volunteering projects have been designed for people to carry out online, without any need to visit The National Archives in Kew. These vary from adding tags and descriptions to digital copies of our records (such as tagging records in Discovery or commenting on images on Flickr) through to large-scale cataloguing projects.

We hope to add more online volunteering projects to our current opportunities page soon, so check back regularly or sign up for our enewsletter.

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What time commitments are required?

How much time you give depends on you: your role, your project and your availability. Regular attendance is important to us so that we can ensure that our volunteer projects operate smoothly and efficiently, but we appreciate that many volunteers require more flexibility than paid staff.

We hope that volunteers will make every effort to attend and arrive on time, but understand that unexpected events may on occasion prevent this from happening. If you are unable to attend on a certain day, please inform your volunteer supervisor as soon as possible so that alternative arrangements can be made.

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What training will I receive?

It very much depends on the project, as each will require very different skills and experience from volunteers. Your volunteer supervisor will tell you about the skills or experience required for a project when you first express your interest.

They will also explain what training will be provided, as this will vary from project to project.

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Who will look after me?

You will be assigned a volunteer supervisor, who will make sure that you have all the information you need to fulfil your role. They will introduce you to other volunteers and staff, and will show you around The National Archives.

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What happens when the volunteering project I am working on finishes?

If your project comes to an end and would like to keep volunteering with us, we will tell you about other volunteer opportunities and try to match you to another project.

If we do not have any other opportunities available at that time, we will contact you as soon as new opportunities arise.

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If I want to move to a different project before mine finishes, can I switch?

This will depend on whether other project spaces are available at that time. If you are having any concerns about your project, the volunteer supervisor will be on hand to discuss these concerns and make arrangements to improve your volunteering experience, if reasonable.

If this does not result in a mutually acceptable resolution of the issue, further advice should be sought from the head of department responsible for your project. Your volunteer supervisor will provide you with their details during your induction.

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Where can I find archive-based volunteering opportunities in my local area?

Many local archives rely on volunteers to deliver successful projects - some of them are explained on our archives sector case studies pages.

Find contact details for archives in your local area using Find an archive, in Discovery. This lists the contact details of archives, museums and local study centres listed alphabetically by region for England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.

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