Completed volunteering projects

We run a diverse range of projects to engage volunteers, covering a broad spectrum of interests.

Read about our current opportunities.

You can also find out about volunteer cataloguing opportunities with the Friends of The National Archives.

The Carleton Papers

In the early spring of 2018 a team of four dedicated volunteers completed the cataloguing of the private (Ashley family) papers of Sir Guy Carleton (last British military governor of New York), and related North American Army Headquarters papers between 1747 and 1788, which largely concern the Revolutionary War.

As a volunteer orientated project, the team released item level descriptions of the content of 104 volumes in the series PRO 30/55.

The project, being a continuation of the ‘Loyalty, Rebellion, and Sedition’ work programme, made Discovery catalogue descriptions (based on printed material summaries) available online for all to search, particularly military historians and the wider academic research community.

Centered on New York and the Atlantic seaboard, the material is wide ranging and includes reports from the northwestern frontier and Upper Canada, and dispatches from the southern colonies of Georgia and the ‘Floridas’. The collection also includes correspondence with the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. Many of these letters concern the American ‘Patriot Forces’ and are very often sent from George Washington himself.

Modern Materials – Photographs

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Volunteers in the Collection Care department have completed a survey of our eight million photographs.

They learned how to identify different photographic processes as well as the reasons that photographs tend to develop a silver sheen, turn yellow or fade, and how these effects can be prevented through cooler and drier storage conditions.

The information gathered has given us a better understanding of the scale of the photographic collection, as well as the different processes and storage materials it includes and the photographs’ condition. This information is now being used to formulate scientific research topics, improve housing and perform conservation treatment, and further volunteer opportunities will follow.

Modern Materials – Transparent Papers

A team of seven volunteers has completed a survey of Transparent Paper contained in The National Archives collection.

The aim of the project was to identify where in the collection transparent papers occurred, and what their condition and colour were, to build a data set of known transparent papers that could be used as a basis for further research into whether or not colour can be a reliable indicator of brittleness of transparent papers and their manufacturing method.

Over an eighteen-month to two-year period 1600 pieces suspected to contain transparent paper were surveyed. The team identified 3000 transparent papers in 937 of the 1600 surveyed, and recorded the condition of the most and least damaged papers within the top two most prevalent colours.

Assessing Transparent Paper

The team, between them, had a wide range of skills built up by working on a variety of different projects across The National Archives and were very keen to learn about a new vulnerable collection material. During the three-month trial period they learnt more about transparent papers – how it’s manufactured and used, how to handle the different types of documents they were surveying, how to carry out the assessment on the transparent paper and how to enter the information gathered onto the iPad survey. Their grasp of the project and skills already gained helped us to fine tune the questions to be answered in the survey.

Though this was perhaps a more involved and complex project than some they had worked on, or had a different of complexities, they enjoyed the experience and were quite disappointed when it finished. We were so impressed with the work they had taken on that we nominated them for the Museums + Heritage Awards 2019 in the Volunteer(s) Team of the Year category. Sadly, they did not make the shortlist, but they were awarded a certificate of Special Recognition for volunteering.

Design registers

This project involved transcribing and cataloguing large volumes of BT 43 designs registered at the Board of Trade between 1839 and 1991. The designs cover a range of materials and products, including metal, wood, glass, earthenware, paper hangings (wallpaper), carpets, yarn, lace, printed and woven fabrics, including shawls.