Volunteering can play a vital role in many people’s lives, from young people who need experience to get their careers started to those making the move from work to retirement. And it also improves the work of many organisations.
The National Archives continues to benefit from the dedication and commitment of volunteers from across the world through a number of onsite and online projects. Some of these projects came to fruition in 2016 or reached key milestones. This blog examines some of those successes but also looks at how we engage with volunteers in the future to help us continue to achieve our goals through our vision of Archives Inspire.
Many of our volunteers are involved in collection enhancement initiatives, such as adding content to Discovery, our online catalogue. This can involve adding new descriptions or enhancing existing ones.
One such project which ended last year saw the re-cataloguing of some 220,000 First World War Officers personnel files held at Kew in the record series WO 339 and WO 374. Prior to the work, the records were arranged by surname and first initial only, making it difficult to distinguish between the several hundred J Smiths. Now, the collections have been expanded to record full name, rank and regiment, which has enabled us to focus, celebrate and commemorate colourful and moving stories among the collections, including papers relating to Ralph Vaughan-Williams, Basil Rathbone, Claude Raines and TE Lawrence, Ronald Coleman and Walter Tull, the first black officer in the British Army at a time when the manual of Military Law forbade non-Europeans from becoming combat officers. The blogs Give Leadership and Name, the Hollywood battalion, and Walter Tull: from a cobbler to a soldier explore these collections in greater detail demonstrating how the work of the volunteers has vastly improved access and understanding of these records.
But our volunteering activity is not solely focused on cataloguing. We also have volunteers who help us maintain our library collection and promote our museum, the Keeper’s Gallery, by providing tours to the public. Volunteers help prepare our records for collection care work prior to digitisation, as well as supporting the conservation treatment and rehousing of collections as Jacquie Moon’s blog Eight million photographs explains. Continue reading »