Heritage Bulletin blog
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It has been over a year since I last posted and so much has happened since then that I thought I would write an update and tell you all about it.
Last time I posted I was working on cataloguing the 400 files for Ipswich, which I have now completed. I am no longer grappling with what seemed like thousands of staples and pins, but instead taking the time to repackage and re-box the files, improving their condition. As our enquiry service has now opened, I have been helping to answer some of the questions asked which gives me a great opportunity to delve in and use the collection!
The main event however, was the 75th Anniversary, which gave me the chance to help with preparations. I created display boards detailing the history of the organisation and helped write the descriptions for the 75 objects timeline. The greatest opportunity however, came during the Anniversary Service at St Pauls where I was given the task of carrying the Roll of Honour down the aisle. I felt so proud to be given such a responsibility and so privileged to be allowed to be a part of such an important occasion in the organisation’s history. It was an unforgettable experience and one I will always treasure.
Since my last post I have also been accepted on to the Archive and Records Management masters course at the University of Dundee and have just completed my first year of study. It was due to my voluntary experience that I secured a place, and now as I study, I receive continued support and guidance from the archivist, Matthew, who is so generous with his time, helping me with any difficulties I face. Volunteering at the archive has allowed me to put theory into practice, giving me an invaluable understanding of the role and responsibilities of an archivist in their mission to preserve and make available their collections.
I have gained so much from volunteering and have been made to feel appreciated and that the work I do genuinely makes a difference to the future of the collection. I am so glad that I applied for the opportunity and so grateful for all that has been done to help me on my way to securing a career. I never know what challenges and projects I will be involved with next and that is what is so exciting… I look forward to keeping you all updated!
Posted by Hannah Tinkler at 00:00
Friday, 27 September 2013.
Back in 2007, very shortly after I started working for WRVS (as it was then called) I was asked to compile a timeline, to celebrate our 70th anniversary. That took me over 6 months to compile (as the collection was at that stage largely uncatalogued) but it allowed me to really begin to delve into and understand the history of what is one of the most important organisations in modern British History.
For our 75th anniversary, now armed with another 5 years of knowledge and experience as well as a much better catalogued collection, we decided to embark on the creation of a new timeline, but one with a twist. 75 items later and 11,000 words of text (before it was edited), this is what we came up with.
Inspired by the brilliant BBC History of the World in 100 Objects, we digitised 75 items from our collection which vividly illustrate and tell our story covering every decade of our history.
These range from the letter sent from Sir Samuel Hoare to Lady Reading authorising her to form the WVS on 20th May 1938, through one of our nationally Important Narrative reports, telling of the difficulties encountered in Bristol during the Blitz.
Beyond our wartime origins you can find out about our development of Meals on Wheels, residential homes for the elderly, and our work for women prisoners or read a leaflet on the need for more homes for business women on small incomes.
We have also managed to find some video and audio, so you can listed to one of our volunteers in the 1980’s describing her favourite cup of tea, or watch a wonderfully dated 1997 promotional video.
I hope you find it as fun an interesting reading it as I did creating it.
See the timeline
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 00:00
Tuesday, 10 September 2013.
I’ve been working here at the archive in Devizes almost since we started four years ago, in that time I’ve done all sorts of jobs from sorting uniform to accessioning new material and now I am putting some old skills to use and cataloguing the library of books we have here.
All of them are related to WVS or WRVS in one way or another, albeit some very tenuously. There are coffee table picture books, history books, instruction manuals, memoirs and poetry amongst others. There are books signed by Lady Reading and other WRVS worthies, authors and other famous people. Some of the books are proof versions of WVS guides, with corrections and comments written in, others are gift copies from authors which have used the archives or reproduced some of our pictures.
To enable me to catalogue them properly I inevitably have to read them all, or at least scan through them. The tales that I have read can be funny or sometimes very sad. I do particularly like the memoirs and poems, getting lost in the stories of evacuees or wartime WVS ladies doing their bit for Blighty. My favourite so far has to be Nella Last and her wonderful diary, a testament to her aspiration to become a writer and her commitment to the WVS both during and after the War. Sometimes she wrote 1,000 words every evening. Her work feeding airmen in her services canteen and working in the centre at Barrow in Furness should be an inspiration to all.
I am about half way through my seemingly never ending task, having catalogued 95 books, with plenty more to go and more fascinating stories to uncover.
First I think I should apologise for not posting anything in January. It has though been rather a busy month for us, with the inevitable last minute preparations for the launch of the Archive online and the opening of the enquiry service on the 14 January. We have had a minor flood of enquiries come in on subjects ranging from the classic “My grandmother was in the WVS, what can you tell me about her?” to a rather more difficult request from a postgraduate student on very specific aspects of WVS post war Civil Defence work. This has given the volunteers and myself a whole new purpose and we are really enjoying the varied nature of the research and the opportunity to learn more about the many aspects of WRVS’ history.
So over the next couple of months we will be concentrating on continuing to answer enquiries (do please keep them coming) and helping people prepare for the 75th anniversary celebrations which kick off in May.
I thought I would finish off with a little bit about one of five WVS members who received the George medal for Bravery during WWII, something I came across while doing an enquiry the other day. Some of you may already know Grace Rattenbury’s story, but others may not.
Grace was a member of Bermondsey WVS and with little regard for her own safety assisted in the evacuation of women and children from the Surrey commercial docks in Rotherhithe at the beginning of the London Blitz in September 1940. The docks were alight and the fire threatened to cut people off from the mainland. There was only one singles span bridge left, and the road was extremely dangerous because of the growing fire, bomb damage and delayed action bombs. In spite of all this Grace using a WVS van maintained a shuttle service between the docks and the first line Rest and feeding centres, until every woman and child had been evacuated. She not only managed to rescue fleeing families, but also firemen who had been injured fighting the flames. The van on her return was full of steel helmets, blood-soaked bandages and a fireman’s axe, and other marks of a very heavy nights work.