Current opportunities

The National Archives offers the following volunteering opportunities:

  • Remote projects
  • On site projects
  • Projects involving online collaboration – you do not need to contact us to take part in these activities

Get started using the links below.

To find out more about upcoming opportunities, sign up for regular email updates from The National Archives. You can contact volunteer@nationalarchives.gov.uk if you would like to get involved.

You can also read more about other volunteering projects happening at The National Archives now and the experiences of our volunteers.

Remote projects

Royal Navy First World War Lives at Sea

We are currently running a joint collaboration between the National Maritime Museum and The National Archives, with the generous support of the Crew List Index Project team, to recreate the crew lists of Royal Navy ships for the First World War from service records of Officers and Ratings.

The project’s aims are to identify from service records which officers and ratings served in the First World War, their dates and place of birth, their occupation prior to joining the Royal Navy, names and dates of ships, submarines, shore establishment served in during their service, together with their ranks or ratings, what battles they served in, and cause and date of discharge.

The project team is looking for more volunteers to ‘work from home’ to create this online resource to be hosted by the National Maritime Museum.

If you would like to volunteer to help us with this project by transcribing these service records, please get in contact at crewlists@nationalarchives.gov.uk.

Ecclesiastical Census 1851

HO 129/1 Ecclesiastical Census 1851

We are running a project to index the records of the Ecclesiastical Census of 1851 held in record series HO 129.

This survey was run in conjunction with the 1851 census for England and Wales, to gather information on places of worship.

The records are available as digital microfilm and provide details of the religious denomination, date of foundation, and the size of the congregation.

Currently, the records are catalogued only by registration district, and this project will make them searchable by place and by religious denomination, which will be of great benefit to family and local historians.

If you would like to participate, you can sign in and begin transcribing immediately using this link.

On site projects at Kew

HO 42: French Wars and Beyond (Phase 3) Cataloguing Project

For more than 10 years volunteers at The National Archives have been cataloguing our series of Home Office Domestic Correspondence dating from the reign of King George III, making the series searchable via our catalogue. This has been achieved in two phases, and has so far covered the period from 1792 to 1805.

Due to the expansion of the project we are looking for volunteers to help us with Phase 3, which will take us through Napoleon’s Continental Blockade, the start of the Peninsular War, the construction of Dartmoor Prison, Lord Nelson’s funeral, and on through the Regency era with the start of the Luddite disturbances. All of these events, and other day-to-day occurrences, generated notes, letters, reports and petitions sent to the Home Office from 1806 to 1811, and it is these that you would be working on.

HO 42/118 Notice against Frame Breaking, Leicester, December 1811

Although this series has been digitised, volunteers will need to be able to visit The National Archives on a weekly basis to consult the original paperwork. The work will involve more than simple transcription – you will need to be able to read, interpret and understand each item before summarising its content into a Word document.

You must be comfortable using computers, and experienced in reading 18th/19th-century handwriting. It will also help if you are familiar with the historical events, the politicians and the notable people of the period.

Volunteers will receive training and will join a small existing team who usually work on Tuesdays between 09:00 and 17:00.

What’s in it for you?

  • A chance to work on a ground-breaking project
  • The opportunity to join a small existing, enthusiastic volunteer team
  • You will develop knowledge of 19th-century politics and events
  • You will gain experience of working in an archive
  • Subsidised restaurant and agreed travel costs

What will you bring?

  • An interest in history and archives
  • Ability to read 19th-century handwriting
  • A curiosity about life in 19th-century Britain
  • Familiarity with basic computer programmes
  • Commitment to working five hours per week
  • A good eye for detail

How can you find out more?

Try downloading a volume from our catalogue to see the type of material included. Then register your interest by contacting us on volunteer@nationalarchives.gov.uk.

‘In Their Own Write’: The Lives and Letters of the Poor, 1834–c.1900

We are looking for a volunteer to work on an exciting project which aims to reveal the voices of the poor in 19th-century England and Wales. Buried within volumes of correspondence relating to the New Poor Law are letters from paupers to the central office complaining, begging, pleading and just occasionally praising. The volumes are not indexed and the pauper letters are dispersed randomly within the volumes.

Our project

‘In Their Own Write’ is an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) sponsored project. Its aim is to survey the correspondence volumes for one hundred local poor law unions, to find and record, and then to digitise pauper letters. It will be the first time that the voices of paupers have been gathered together in this way.

The opportunity

We are looking for a volunteer who is interested in photographing historical documents. Our current volunteers are working away identifying letters and other material in the sources. The next step is to photograph the letters (in situ in the volumes), so that images can be sent out to our external team of transcribers. We have a growing backlog of letters waiting to be photographed and we need someone to tackle this queue.

You don’t need to be an expert photographer, but you must be comfortable handling a camera (we use an SLR camera for the job). Perhaps you have experience photographing archival documents for your own research? You will be given training on how to take the images.

We would like someone who can start as soon as possible, and who can dedicate one or two days a week to the project, initially for about three months.

What’s in it for you?

""

The lives and letters of the poor

  • You will work on a ground-breaking project
  • You will join an existing, enthusiastic volunteer team
  • Experience working in archives
  • Exposure to original documents which tell stories of the lives and experiences of 19th-century poor
  • Subsidised restaurant and agreed travel costs

What will you bring?

  • Experience of photographic work in an archive (either for personal or professional use)
  • A good eye for detail
  • Commitment to working on Mondays and/or Thursdays

How you can find out more?

Go to our project blog to explore what we have already found: intheirownwriteblog.com; or contact us on volunteer@nationalarchives.gov.uk.

Projects involving online collaboration

  • Help us to describe our records online. We are encouraging users to help tag and contribute to our records, both in our online catalogue, Discovery, and on other interfaces such as the photo-sharing website Flickr.
  • Discovery – the introduction of a tagging tool to Discovery allows users to assign key words or phrases to our records, helping other users to find records that they previously wouldn’t have identified. As much of the catalogue data also uses older language to describe our records, tagging presents the opportunity to refresh and modernise some of this language, making it relevant to today’s users. This will lay the foundations for future developments, such as adding user-generated content to catalogue descriptions and tagging records with location information.
  • Through a lens – our ‘Through a lens’ series has seen the publication on Flickr of the CO 1069 series of photographs, providing online access to thousands of photographs previously only available at Kew. This has given users the opportunity to engage with our records, to tag and contribute comments and suggestions to help improve catalogue descriptions and geographical references. Our ultimate intention is to extract these contributions from Flickr and add them to our catalogue. Building on the success of our Africa through a lens project in 2011, and the Your Caribbean Heritage cataloguing project, our wider Caribbean through a lens project seeks to build relationships with under-represented communities regionally and engage with non-traditional audiences of archives. Contribute to our collections on Flickr now.