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Heritage Bulletin blog

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Keep up to date with the latest news and happenings at the Archive and Heritage Collection. Send us your email address to receive notifications of new posts to your inbox, or follow us on twitter.com/RVSarchives

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Quantum Archiving

“Traditional” skills needed by archivists today include arrangement, description and an understanding of the importance of original order. Applying all three skills/theories when repackaging and cataloguing a series can lead to issues when original order is being kept to but does not fit with the original order of the collection (you can find out more about collections and series and their structure here). However this can be easily solved with some Quantum Archiving (as thought of by our Archivist). In this week’s blog we look at what Quantum Archiving is and how this has been applied in the Royal Voluntary Service Archive & Heritage Collection.

Quantum Archiving is similar to the second interpretation of Quantum theory known as the many-worlds or multiverse theory; where an object can exist in many states in a number of parallel universes.  In archiving, a collection could exist in many states: analogue; digital or a reconstructed version e.g. in a transcript to name a few. These formats would be in different places (universes) such as a store room, a server or a database.  Over the years we have been working on preserving and making accessible the 300,000 fragile pieces of paper which hold the hidden histories of millions of women and men who have given their time as volunteers to WVS and WRVS between 1938 and 1996 also known as the Narrative Reports. In 2018 we started work on more recent reports written in 1980s and 1990s however this part of the series is very different from earlier reports.

By 1980s the geographical structure of WRVS had changed from being organised into twelve regions following the Civil Defence Corps organisational structure to the follow Local Authorities restructured in 1974. This meant WRVS was split into districts rather than centres, thus fewer reports were produced and less frequently from monthly to quarterly and finally biannually. As well as writing monthly narrative reports areas particularly counties wrote annual reports. These reports were usually kept separately in the archive’s collections from the Narrative Reports however when the 1980s annual reports for some counties and districts arrived at HQ they were stored with the Narrative Reports for those areas.

When volunteers started working on the reports carrying out basic preservation and giving sub series reference numbers they noticed that sat on top were some annual reports. The team then discussed what we should do and how they should be ordered. Should they be classed as Narrative Reports? Should they be moved to the collection of annual reports? It was decided that the physical order should be kept as the original order while the catalogue record, reference and description would reflect the order of the rest of the archive’s theoretical structure e.g. fonds, series and files. Therefore the annual reports exist in two different states in two different “universes”; the physical and the theoretical. To further complicate matters the 1980s and 1990s reports are ordered differently to the 1938-1979 reports. Earlier reports are ordered by region then date then county then centre but after 1980 they have been ordered by region then county then centre then date. A slight difference but means that they are physically stored in their original state but described and referenced as the rest of the series was intended.

In conclusion arrangement and description (including reference) do not always fall in to line in archiving. Therefore a collection can exist in two different states in a physical and theoretical/digital world. This example is just one of many and I’m sure we will continue receiving surprises from the Narrative Report collection which makes us look at the different ways it can exist.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 14 January 2019.

Labels: quantum, archiving, arrangement, Narrative Reports, description, theory

New Year's Research Solutions

Tomorrow is the start of a New Year and perhaps for some the start of some New Year’s resolutions. If one of those is researching a new project or discovering something new we can help. In this week’s blog we provide a guide to using our online resources to research the history of Royal Voluntary Service.  

Fact Sheets

From an in-depth analysis to a short overview of the history and origins of some of the charities most enquired about services.

More detailed fact sheets can be found on the Royal Voluntary Service website and include among others:       

  • Hidden Histories of a Million Wartime Women - kickstarter updates    
  • Welfare work in hospitals 1938 - 2013       
  • Origins of WVS        
  • WVS Housewives' Service     
  • One in Five  

On our school resources pages Voices of Volunteering you’ll also find brief overviews of many services including among others: ·        

  • Books on Wheels       
  • Clothing Depots       
  • Good Neighbours       
  • Lunch Clubs      
  • Services Welfare

School Resources

There are two sets of school resources available from Royal Voluntary Service, firstly there is The Army Hitler Forgot these resources are for teachers of Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 classes, focusing on the Home Front, drawn from the Royal Voluntary Service Archive and Heritage Collection. Titled The Army Hitler Forgot, the activities and pages lead school children on a journey from recruitment, to awards for bravery and the tragic consequences of war. The resources are available free for all. Visit The Army Hitler Forgot.

Secondly as mentioned above we have the Voices of Volunteering resources; these resources are for teachers to use with students age 14+ studying Citizenship, PHSE, English language and History or who are involved in extracurricular activities such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award. Titled Citizenship and Service, the activities and oral histories illustrate to students the significance of volunteering through the volunteers’ own eyes and how volunteering has adapted to the changing needs in society. The resources are available free for all. Visit Voices of Volunteering: 75 Years of Citizenship and Service.

Collections

There is a very handy list of some of the collections held in our Archives which you can find on the Archive & Heritage Collections page.

Heritage Bulletin

As you are already doing you can keep up to date with the Archive and find out about the history of the Charity in this blog. An archive of these blogs is also available on the right of the page. There is also access to the six volumes of the Heritage Bulletin printed between 2010 and 2012 which provide a variety of stories about WVS and WRVS.

Social Media

Believe it or not Social Media can be a fantastic resource for research and finding out about what we hold in the collection that may not be found on the main website pages. As well as a number of Facebook and Twitter posts we have also created a small number of vlogs and videos on YouTube and podcasts and oral history clips on SoundCloud. 

These include

YouTube         

  • The Hidden History of a Million Wartime Women         
  • A history of Uniform        
  • Three Heritage Bulletin Blogs         
  • Two 80th Anniversary Films

SoundCloud         

  • Coloured Thread         
  • Archives and Motives         
  • Women in Green on the Silver Screen        
  • Clothing Store (Oral History)         
  • The Gift of Time         
  • Bromham Hospital Fire (Oral History)

ArchiveOnline

Once you’ve been through our extensive collection of secondry sources and finding aids you may want to look at some primary material. ArchiveOnline is a fully searchable catalogue contains listings, many with preview images of a selection of historical material housed in our Archive & Heritage Collection. It is also the gateway to our digital, downloadable version of all 419 issues of the WVS/WRVS Bulletin from 1939-1974, over 60 Oral Histories and the 84,000 pages of the WVS Narrative Reports 1938-1945.

There is also a guide available to help you use our extensive catalogue; Guide to searching the Archive Online.

Why not have a go at running a search and see what you can find! We searched for New Year there were 497 results including this 1963 New Year message from Lady Reading.

Enquiry Service and visiting

Of course if you are in need of help or can’t find what you are looking for you can contact us through our enquiry service. Also if you are a researcher and are interested in visiting the Archive & Heritage Collection the collection is open by appointment only the first Tuesday and Wednesday of each month, 10:00-16:00 (closed for lunch between 13:00-14:00). To ensure we can provide a high standard of service, access is by appointment only and we ask that these are made at least a month in advance. You can find more information here about this service.

We hope this brief outline of what we can offer has given you food for thought and some New Year’s research solutions.

Happy New Year from all of us at the Royal Voluntary Service Archive & Heritage Collection.        

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 31 December 2018.

Labels: Fact sheets, Collections, Archive, Catalogue, research, social media

A Wartime Christmas in Rickmansworth

The Second World War started (in Europe) on 1st September 1939 nearly 80 years ago. WVS had been established just over a year; not long after the start of the war it was Christmas. As I was thinking about writing this blog to go out the week before Christmas Eve I wondered what the WVS were up to at this time of year. I could have chosen anywhere but one of the first documents to jump out at me was a programme of Christmas activities from Rickmansworth WVS 1939. Looking at the Narrative Reports from the area for December 1939 to 1944 you can clearly see that just because it was Christmas WVS work didn’t stop. These are just a few examples of activities in Rickmansworth, taken from the Narrative Reports.

WVS Rickmansworth, like all other WVS centres in Evacuation zones, during the war organised various entertainments for children and adults who were a long way from home just after being evacuated in September 1939. Activities included film showings, dancing, gymnastics, games, singing and parties. Over the years activities changed, in 1941 the Evacuee Club held an exhibition of needlework including clothing such as frocks, dressing gown and children’s clothes. In 1942 the WVS held two parties for under-fives which was considered a great success as you can see in the extract below from December that Year.


Of course the WVS didn’t just spend December running children’s parties they also had other duties to perform. Activities included salvage in 1941 they campaigned to collect paper from houses driving around using the loudspeaker on the WVS Van. Knitting also continued during the season of good will in 1941 47 pull overs were knitted for the Merchant Navy and members began knitting gum boot stockings for Russia. In 1942 they received an urgent request for sweaters and socks for Malta; 114lb was distributed to knitters for the job. Work with the Red Cross also continued in 1941 they had the Russian Red Cross sale for Mrs Churchill’s Fund and the WVS were able to raise £210 (c£8262.74 in today’s money). In 1942 a WVS party made soft toys and raised £59.16.8d (c£2,354.23 in today’s money) for the local Red Cross group. As you can see many activities were business as usual for WVS of Rickmansworth.

Supporting the Armed Services based in Hertfordshire was a large part of WVS Rickmansworth’s work in 1941 and 1942 with a variety of activities in December of Both Years. In December 1941 The Troops Hut was completed with electricity and lino installed. It also had a radio gram and ping pong table. The WVS opened the Hut on Christmas day for 200 men who spent the evening playing games. In Both years WVS held a concert for the RAF Benevolent Fund in 1942 they raised £18.10.0d (c£727.91 in today’s money) for the fund. Looking after the services didn’t just include the Army and RAF there was also the Home Guard to support. In Both years the Home Guard were on exercises and WVS served tea to them from a mobile canteen. Another Service provided by the WVS all year round was camouflage nets. WVS’s role garnishing camouflage nets began in the early years of the war but the scheme wasn’t official until June 1943. Rickmansworth WVS were already working on this before it became official and included other work for the services in this role as you can see from this Narrative Report Extract, December 1942.

This week’s blog has focused on WVS Rickmansworth’s work during the Decembers of 1939, 1941 and 1942. Unfortunately in our Headquarters collection of Narrative Reports there are not many for this area in Hertfordshire and we haven’t been able to look into the Christmases of 1943 and 1944. It is more than likely that these missing reports were written and one of the quadruplet copies arrived at Headquarters. However in 1970s Region 4 was heavily weeded as all regions had different rules for what was kept at that time we have less information about local offices in the Home Counties and East Anglia areas. Although this is the case for Rickmansworth you can see from just a few reports how much was going on during the Second World War and how much time the women of Rickmansworth were giving to help people keep up moral at this time of year.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 17 December 2018.

Labels: Narrative Reports, WVS, Second World War, Services Welfare, Evacuation, Rickmansworth

Finding Identity in Archives

Reading a number of articles, social media posts and calls for papers once again archivists seem to be obsessed with the idea of  identity. The Oxford English Dictionary gives two definitions “The fact of being who or what a person or thing is.” And “A close similarity or affinity”; synonyms include: character, originality and specification. Previously in this blog we have explored what archives are, what is an archivist and how that has changed in 20th century. There are many topics which could be explored surrounding archives and identity; Archives themselves are the keepers of identity for particular communities, groups or organisations. In this week’s blog through the Royal Voluntary Service Archive & Heritage collection we’ll explore how a charity’s identity can be projected by its archive.

In Charity Archives in the 21st Century Matthew our Archivist described Charity Archives as holding “the collective memory of this vitally important part of our history” in reference to philanthropy and charitable work in previous centuries when volunteering started to develop in the form it takes today. So what do charity archives tell us about identity in terms of the charity, the nation and in case of RVS in particular the character of volunteering.

The Charity


Of course this isn’t the place for an in-depth discussion on identity so these are just some examples of identity in archives; the whole blog is a refection of parts of Royal Voluntary Services identity and many more can be found in the archives and the work it does today. The development of WVS to Royal Voluntary Service can be traced through its documents but also the items of clothing it holds. Since the rise of the teenager in the 1950s part of people’s identity has been their clothing, their unique style. Looking through our extensive collection of uniform and how it has changed over the years you can see why WVS was referred to as the ‘women in green’. Over the years styles changed but not the colours showing how recognisable the WVS and later WRVS wanted to make itself through a physical identity and that it was an organisation that moved with the times. Along with other organisations in the 1980s and 1990s it moved towards more casual wear. In 2004 WRVS changed its brand identity completely losing the red and green and going for orange and purple; a physical representation of the twelve year transition from crown service to charity. However during 75th anniversary celebrations WRVS became Royal Voluntary Service and went back to red and green identifying with its roots and heritage. While the archive represents the identity of the charity it also epitomizes the identity of a nation.

The Nation

Our archives do not just signify the identity of the charity; it represents the story of welfare for a nation. WVS was founded at a time when the nation was preparing for war but also at a time when ideas about how to care for society’s most vulnerable were changing. The poor houses and work houses were disappearing but there wasn’t yet the provision of the welfare state and the NHS but they were on their way. The Records of the Royal Voluntary Service’s Archives show how WVS bridged the gap through 1939-1945 with clubs, feeding, clothing exchanges, welfare foods and many others. Posters, Photographs, Narrative Reports and documents on policy all demonstrate the identity of Great Britain as a philanthropic nation with many people wanting to give their time to help those in need.  Today Royal Voluntary Service still enables people across Great Britain to give their time to help others.

A prime example is work in hospitals particularly Trolley Shops, this year some hospitals are celebrating 70 years of having a trolley run by our volunteers. WVS covered a whole range of hospital services during the Second World War including supply depots, food, fundraising and domestic work. When staff started to return at the end of the war WVS were asked not to overlap but to still support hospital services. WVS developed a range of services for the benefit of patients’ physical and mental wellbeing as well as supporting the hospitals’ needs. While developing the NHS, the Ministry of Health asked Lady Reading for support where hospitals would not meet patients’ needs. Lady Reading of course agreed; while personal shopping services had existed since 1946 Trolley Shops were one of the first WVS services to appear within the NHS in 1948 by 1949 there were 183 trolley shops across the country. For members then and volunteers today trolley shops were/are all about providing a service to make patients feel special, to give them independence and connections with the world outside and supporting the NHS. A pivotal part of our national identity and in the archives this identity can be found in photographs, publications and central registry files which help us give local services a clear identity and heritage. The Archive represents many identities and another of these is the character of the volunteer.  

The Character of the Volunteer

Founder Chairman Lady Reading was one of the first women to sit in the House of Lords, in 1958 she had a coat of arms designed for her title Baroness Swanbrough. She wanted it to epitomise WVS and the motto was “Not why we can’t but how we can”.  Lady Reading had many strong views on the subject of volunteering which have informed people’s own beliefs today about giving their time for RVS services, in an interview in 1960 she said:  

Voluntary service, to my mind, is the proud expression of responsibility undertaken by an individual as an accepted duty”  

The shelves of our archives are full of examples of that proud expression, many selfless acts of volunteering and what it means to be a volunteer. Oral histories and reports written by centre organisers on a monthly basis provide us with first-hand accounts and memories of service beyond self over 80 years of history. I know of many examples which would show you the character of volunteering but I have chosen the following:

Narrative Report, members of Sheffield WVS after an air raid 12th-15th December 1940

Oral History Barbara Statham, rebuilding the Hospital Canteen at Bromham, Bedfordshire (1990s)

To me these examples show how volunteers will try and help where ever they can and shows how we can use archives to find the identity of the concept of volunteering and use it influence us today.

Conclusion

Having a strong identity helps us to make decisions and being able to identify it from their archives can allow charities to learn about their past and look in to their future. The Royal Voluntary Service represents three identities that of the charity itself, the nation and the character of volunteering. All of these identities of course represent a charity which has been part of the fabric of the nation for 80 years. This blog has given just a few examples of the records and objects which can represent these identities; there are many more to be discovered on the Archive Online and Our History pages of the website.

The Gift of Time

In this week's Blog we share with you our Archivist Matthew McMurray's speech given at the OXO Tower Launch on 31st October. Although we can't recreate the electric atmosphere of that event I would encourage you to listen to get the true message of what photographic archives are all about.

Recently I have been doing a lot of interviews.   

Usually I am asked questions like:  

What did the WVS do during the War?  

or even; What is your favourite picture in the exhibition?   

The first is an easy list of over 40 different services from garnishing camouflage nets to knitting comforts for troops and of course the provision of food and hot drinks from mobile canteens.  The list goes on but I have been told I only have 10 minutes!     

The latter is harder, and I am not sure I could really pick any.  There are so many beautiful and iconic images here, but perhaps these aren’t truly representative of our organisation and the work of our members and volunteers over the past 80 years.   

Displayed here are Just 35 of about 30,000 images we have in our archive.  Despite our surroundings here at the OXO tower the work of our volunteers has never been glamorous, in fact our founder Stella Reading said to an audience in 1960 

“In these days we are not living in the atmosphere of drama, we are no longer being called out at night for Evacuation or the Blitz.  We are working on day to day work which has perhaps no glamour at all, and yet which is much more worthwhile, because in-fact it can only be appraised in terms of human happiness”.  

For every one of these beautiful atmospheric images there are hundreds more, 

less beautiful and less perfect,  

less posed.  

More than a few are slightly blurry candid shots of volunteers going about their everyday work making a difference to ordinary peoples’ lives through their selfless gift of their time and there energy.  But a photograph on its own can only tell you so much, and with history context is everything.    

Behind these 35 archive images and the thousands more we have are millions of pieces of paper which give that context, they are the stories behind these pictures which I, my colleagues and my volunteers protect on behalf of all past, present and future volunteers and for the nation as a whole.  Our archive is recognised by UNESCO as one of the most important sources for Women’s history in the 20th century in Britain, and it is only through truly understanding where we have been that we can truly know where we are going.  

Some of you will be thinking, ‘he hasn’t answered the question yet’ but I promise that I am getting to my point.  

Anyone who has read a good novel will understand exactly what I mean.  

For me photographs, like anything else, infrequently tell the whole truth.  

For me, the pictures I paint in my mind from the first-hand accounts of our volunteers held in our archive are the most real, the most honest and the most vivid.  

Whether that is the description of a damp, filthy basement flat occupied by an old man in late 1940s London, or the hard, unchanging and endless struggle faced by centre organisers over the years to recruit volunteers to help them make a difference.   

These are my favourite pictures.  

Going back to the questions though:  I always like a slightly more challenging one, it keeps me on my toes, and the other day a lady asked me a good question.  “Why is Royal Voluntary Service celebrating its 80th Anniversary?” the tone of her voice said a million things the question itself did not.  

That was a very good question in the way she meant it and in the probably less than three seconds before I opened my mouth with my mind doing a million miles an hour, which seemed like a panicked eternity, a very simple answer came.   

Why would you not celebrate the contribution of over 2 million women and men to British society over 80 years?  A recent estimate I did, suggests that between them they have given 14 million years of service.  Placed end to end that quickly covers off the whole of human history, passing beyond the origins of Rome, ancient Egypt and way back into geological time when the first apes started to emerge in Africa. 

To be honest I find that a little difficult to properly comprehend; that so many people have given so much of themselves to help others.  

Looking across the river to the City of London reminds me that ultimately the strength of a nation is not measured by its banking operations nor by its financial transactions, it is measured by something much more important, the character of the men and women who are that nation.  

The contribution of the men and women of the WVS/WRVS and now Royal Voluntary Service is woven into the very fabric of this nation.  Lady Reading called Voluntary Service a coloured thread which runs through that fabric, and without it the fabric is neither as strong nor as beautiful.  

These pictures then and the eight new ones by Nicky which will join those 30,000 others I already look after, are like the light shining through the crack under a door, they tempt our innate curiosity to open that door, to look inside and to discover something new.

Posted by Matthew McMurray, Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 19 November 2018.

Labels: Photographs, History, Heritage, exhibition, Archives, OXO

Sweet and Savoury for British Pudding Day

Apparently Friday (9th November) is British Pudding day so for this week’s blog I thought I would share some pudding recipes from the WVS Bulletin and WRVS Magazine.



The WVS Bulletin March 1942



The WVS Bulletin January 1950



The WVS Bulletin May 1963






The WRVS Magazine September 1972

This is just a selection of recipes from the WVS Bulletin and WRVS Magazine, if you want to find more you can search on Archive Online.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 05 November 2018.

Labels: Pudding, WVS, WRVS, Bulletin, Magazine

A Brief History of Lunch Clubs

Originally known as Luncheon Clubs, Lunch Clubs were a place where ‘older people, not housebound or in need of Meals on Wheels, may get a good nourishing meal on several days each week, find friendship and help whenever they ask for it, and where they can enjoy a hot meal in the company of others, always a stimulus to those living alone.’[1]

During the Second World War WVS provided meals for older people in British Restaurants. In the immediate post-war period meals were provided through Meals on Wheels services to some Darby and Joan Clubs.[2]

The first mention, in the Archives, of a dedicated Luncheon Club is the Malvern Luncheon Club in 1949 it had 220 members and met once a month. Other Luncheon Clubs appeared through the 1950s in different areas including St Marylebone, Bakewell Rural and Mablethorpe.[3]

However it was not until 1962 when the scheme really took off and WVS realised the need to increase the number of clubs providing midday meals.[4] Clubs provided tea, coffee, a two or three course meal and in some clubs activities such as Bingo, a quiz or a raffle.

Every Luncheon Club had a club leader, cook(s), pot-washers, and servers, all of whom were volunteers though in some cases the local authority paid for permanent cooks. In some clubs members who came for a meal would help volunteers with the washing-up. However in some areas the meals were cooked in kitchens outside the clubs, such as Guys Marsh Open Borstal for the Parish Centre luncheon club in 1974.[5]

WRVS continued to provide Luncheon Clubs all over Britain for older people to enjoy a hot mid-day meal into the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. Today Royal Voluntary Service volunteers still run Lunch Clubs and there is now a Cooking for a Crowd cookbook, a collection of favorite Royal Voluntary Service Lunch Club recipes.


[1] RVS A&HC, Luncheon Clubs, 812, 1967 [2] RVS A&HC, Report on 25 Years Work 1938-1963, 1963, Report of Ten Years Work for the Nation 1938-1948 [3] RVS A&HC, Bulletin, WRVS/HQ/PUB/BUL/BUL-1949-04, April 1949, pp10-11, Bulletin, WRVS/HQ/PUB/BUL/BUL-1953-01, p15, Bulletin, WRVS/HQ/PUB/BUL/BUL-1954-06, June 1954 p14, Narrative Report, WRVS/HQ/NR/R3/1958-LINC/MTP, Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire, May 1958 [4] RVS A&HC, 807, Work for Old People, 1962 [5] RVS A&HC, WRVSA&HC/WRVS/HQ/PUB/BUL/BUL-1974-09, Sept 1974 p11

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 00:00 Monday, 15 October 2018.

Labels: Luncheon, Lunch, Clubs, WVS, WRVS, Royal Voluntary Service

Movement and music

Today we all know the importance of keeping fit and moving around at any age. As usually Royal Voluntary Service have a history of pioneering activities for older people before they become popular. In the 1970s WRVS was pioneering Music and Movement classes in local communities One WRVS volunteer who helped with this was Elizabeth Kay. In 2014 I interviewed her for the oral history project Voices of Volunteering. Elizabeth had first joined WVS in the late 1960s to be a speaker giving talks about Drugs, volunteering helped her develop this skill and she gave talks on many other topics which also led to  training as a keep fit instructor skills she used to help WRVS set up local Music and Movement classes in Hounslow. This is Elizabeth’s story in her own words:

“I gave a talk on history of nursery rhymes, and most people didn’t know how nursery rhymes started and why. Oh, and I’d talk about tortoises because my son had a tortoise which I was looking after, again people didn’t know about tortoises and how they were creatures of veneration. When I was in China I went to see this enormous marble tortoise which was a symbol of longevity. So yes as, I did find giving those talks were very interesting and because my husband had died I had to make an income from somewhere and so that’s what I did.

It [WRVS] gave me more that, it gave me more than just, mm, learning to do the drug talks, it gave me a feeling that people liked to listen. … While I was in the WRVS I decided because I was a keep fit teacher, I thought these old people sitting all day in chairs not talking to anybody, long before local authority had started, which they do now, and movement classes.

I went to our local care home and asked the matron there if she’d like me to go in and, and do some musical movement. And so, and I used all the old songs that they knew. Some of them I had to learn, I didn’t know there was a song called He Played His Ukulele As The Ship Went Down,  and I got the songs from these old, I say ‘old people’, I mean heavens some of them are younger than I am now. But, but they were and they sat all day and they did nothing, and so I felt that this was a really good idea. And so I, I went and we used these songs that they knew and we did actions to the songs. Now it’s done, local authorities are doing this all over, but at that time it was quite revolutionary and nobody had done that.

 …

I always wore my uniform and as you can see one or two of them are actually lifting their arms but they used to like singing the songs as well.

That was actually breaking new ground because it hadn’t been done until then. I had a woman who played the piano for me and I went to all kinds of old people’s clubs and she played the piano and I did the movements, mm, and it was, that was then sponsored by the local authority.  

One of them [the Matrons in one of the homes] apologised to me because I used to go in to this particularly [home], if they sit in their living room, the social room, in chairs all around because I used to say ‘Don’t put them in rows, I like them all round me’ because I work to every single one, which I do. And every week when I used to go in one woman used to get up from her chair, look at me and say ‘Stupid cow’ and walk out. And matron said ‘I’m so sorry’. I said ‘Look, if that’s the only exercise she gets all week it’s exercise, don’t worry, she’s moved’.

It was, it was so satisfying because I felt that the, they just loved having somebody to be with them and do these and think about how it used to be when they were young, the songs that they could sing. And we used some wartime songs as well. And before, as I say, I never knew there was a song entitled Three Pots a Shilling which is about a gypsy selling honey from door to door. And I learnt these, I actually looked them up.  I went to Charing Cross Road to the, the archive shop there and looked up all these songs and bought the music so that my pianist could play them for me. And it was great. And then sadly Greta, who was much older, was not able to do the playing anymore and so another, another lady took over and she didn’t need music at all, and it was lovely because she used to play for my keep fit classes.” 

Elizabeth Kay WVS/WRVS Volunteer July 2016
Stories from volunteers really helps to tell the story of Royal Voluntary Service and how volunteering has benefited society in many ways. If you would like to hear Elizabeth’s story or those of many other volunteers in full you can visit Archive Online and search our Voices of Volunteering oral history collection.

You can also listen to the story above on SoundCloud


The second image in this week's blog is taken from WRVS Magazine No.371 December 1970

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 27 August 2018.

Labels: Keep Fit, Music, Movement, older people, WRVS, WVS

“Data, data, data” I can’t digitise without catalogue data

It’s another of those famous lines from a Sherlock Holmes story “Data! data! data!" he cried impatiently. "I can't make bricks without clay.” (The Adventure of the Copper Beeches) but it can be applied to many areas including archival practice particularly digitisation. Archives @PAMA recently covered the topic of digitisation in their blog Why Don’t Archivists Digitise Everything? Part of their argument covered Meta Data and how important it was to give archives context before digitisation. This has inspired us, in this week’s blog I would like to look more at the importance of cataloguing records before digitising them in relation to the Royal Voluntary Service Archive and Heritage Collection.


What is cataloguing?

Cataloguing is the process of creating a formal description of records held within an archival collection. This is based on a hierarchical structure showing where Items, files and series best fit within a collection and describes details such as the content, context, admin and custodial history, date and access details. Cataloguing records can help to make collections more accessible with details and keywords which help researchers find what they are looking for and link different records together on the same topics. If you would like to know more about Archival description why not read  Organising Archive material HeritageBulletin Volume 6.

Why is it important for digitisation?

Cataloguing is important to digitisation because it turns a single item on its own which may not tell us much about the activities of an organisation into a record which has context, a history of its own and links it to the rest of the collection. For example when cataloguing photographs, publications or posters if there are similar items or a series relating to each other we record their references in the Related Material Field. This helps lead researchers in looking at all the material available on a chosen topic. Recording this data before digitising records also gives the archivists the opportunity to assess the preservation needs of the material and repackage it into archival standard folders, boxes, papers etc.. It also allows of consultation on the need to digitise material and if digitised material could be published online depending on condition, content and copyright. This work can be very important in terms of preservation and access.

Our Collections and how cataloguing has helped make them more accessible

Cataloguing different parts of the Archive & Heritage Collection has allowed us to publish the catalogue records online for people to search for themselves. This work has given the team a greater knowledge of what materials are held in the collection and led in some case to digitisation.

Photographs and Posters

The Archive has been focusing on cataloguing and digitising records since 2010 and started with a collection of publicity photographs. Creating detailed descriptions of photographs allows researchers to find photographs easily and quickly by searching key words. Cataloguing also allows the Charity to record useful data about copyright holders and to distinguish which images can be used in promoting its rich history and heritage in many of the services it provides today. The Poster collection was catalogued and digitised in 2012 which has provided the same advantages as the photographs.

WVS/WRVS Bulletin/Magazine and WRVSAssociation

Newsletters Over the years Royal Voluntary Service has produced a number of publications including magazines containing news stories and information about its activities and that of the Association (1971-2013). Using the description field on our catalogue to its advantage and OCR software we were able to record all the information in each WVS/WRVS Bulletin/Magazine and WRVS Association Newsletters and make it searchable. Being able to do such a specific search can save time in trying to find articles covering particular services or activities. Recording months and dates also allows us to pin point key dates such as the first Trolley shop or mobile canteen.


Narrative Reports

Between March 2012 and March 2014 we catalogued all the Narrative Reports held in the collection which were written between 1938 and 1965. The information recorded included the areas the reports were from and this work enabled the archive to develop the Kickstarter Project Hidden histories of a million wartime women. The £27,724 raised via the crowdfunding site meant we could digitise all the reports written between 1938 and 1945 and publish them online. This allows more people access to these hugely important documents and it all started with a cataloguing project.

In General

The items mentioned above are also very fragile and cataloguing means we can pinpoint the exact records we are looking for without rifling through a number of documents before finding the correct information. Digitisation which leads on from this  helps us further in preserving fragile items as digital images are used as preservation copies for research meaning we reduce handling the original. Cataloguing also assist with the creation of finding aids such as the Guide to Archive Online; using data and description fields from the catalogue means we can assist researchers in their search for more knowledge about WVS/WRVS.

I have not included Voice of Volunteering Oral Histories in this week’s Blog as they are born digital records and in a future blog we’ll look at the difference between digitisation and born digital.


Conclusion

Cataloguing is the process of creating a formal description of records held within an archival collection. It is important to create these records before digitising to provide context and allow archivists to assess the need for the material to be digitised. Working on a project to both catalogue and digitise material can also help with preservation and digitisation which are very important activities in archives. Since 2010 Royal Voluntary Service has been working to catalogue its collection which as a result has led to some interesting digitisation projects including photographs, Narrative Reports and publications. However without the first stage of creating information about the these records this work could not have been carried out.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 13 August 2018.

Labels: Archives, Cataloguing , Digitisation, Records, Access, Preservation

Services for the older people of the UK

 After its creation in 1938, the Women’s Voluntary Service’s main focus was the war effort, recruiting women to assist civilians during and after air raids. After the war, however, the aim of the organisation shifted, and more attention was focussed on the older generation. Since then, the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) has worked closely with older people, hoping to improve their lives in every way possible. Today we will look at the achievements of the Royal Voluntary Service and how its efforts have changed over time.



Origins
After realising the ever increasing population in the older generation, the WVS set out to assist them in a number of ways, many of which are exist in some form today. These included Darby and Joan clubs, residential clubs and the Meals on Wheels. Special clubs were set up for old people in a few places during the war, but after seeing its success, the number increased rapidly after 1945. By 1962, there were over 2,000 Darby and Joan clubs, with membership exceeding 150,000. In this friendly atmosphere, the old people enjoyed spending time with each other, dancing and going on regular holidays throughout the year. Mary Curtis, a former club leader who spent 45 years with the WVS, talked about her time spent on holidays with members in 2015 in an interview with Jennifer Hunt. She said that she went in a variety of places across the UK, starting from 1970 – with the last holiday taking place in 2008. These included Morecambe, Llandudno, Newquay, Ayr and Bournemouth. But these places did not come without excitement. “On one occasion our coach skidded off the road and went into a ditch” she quotes, when speaking of a foggy morning in the Isle of Wight. “Nobody panicked” she says and “it was a lovely holiday”.
Residential Clubs were also established, where members would assist permanent staff in homes for the pensioners. By 1963, 23 homes were established by the WVS. As purpose-built flats and bungalows were being provided by the government, the WVS also helped with re-housing the retirees. Some would lay carpets, whilst others would hang curtains, making life easier for people who were moving house.






The changing role of RVS
In 1960, it was estimated that around 12.5% of the country’s population was of a pensionable age. This has since increased to 18%, an increase of over 5 million people. As a result, through the 1970s WRVS established many other services; transport schemes (Country Cars 1974/1975) have also been put in place whereby volunteers undertook thousands of journeys each year and still do, taking people to and from hospital, trips into town or shopping trips, adding to the pleasure of day to day lives and allowing people to be closer to their local community. Other opportunities include the Good Neighbours Scheme (1974), which started as a visiting scheme but has now developed to offer help, whether it’s walking the dog, changing a lightbulb or collecting a pension. Helping an older person in small ways can make life much easier for them. Home library services started in the 1960s but took off in the 1970s. Today, volunteers still bring a range of books, as well as DVDs and CDs to older people who wouldn’t normally be able to get out of the house. In 1992 WRVS became a charity and as a result became more focused on the welfare of older people. The Charity works today to meet the very different needs of older people, including more community focused schemes such as Cafes, Lunch clubs and social events, encouraging people to get out and about and meet new people. In every way we are working to support changing lifestyles and tackle loneliness later in life.



Conclusion

Over the years WVS and WRVS has worked to improve the lives of older people with a range of services including the home library service and befriending. The RVS has adapted to provide for the ever increasing population in the older generation. By introducing and continuing schemes such as the Good Neighbour scheme and Lunch Clubs, the RVS has encouraged people to socialise with one and other, an essential part in anyone’s life that boosts morale and mental wellbeing. The RVS has continued to support the elderly and the Archive holds lots of records about the welfare of older people from 1938 to the present day. This demonstrates our success in providing needs for older people, from 80 years ago and for many more years in the future.


Credit First photograph, R44353/80 - "Old People Dancing" taken by CH Wood, published by the kind permission of Museums and Galleries, Bradford MDC

Posted by Rory Fielding, volunteer at 09:00 Monday, 30 July 2018.

Labels: RVS, Meals on Wheels, Clubs, WRVS, WVS, older people

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