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Cataloguing photographs - a volunteer's story

Hello its Pete here, it has been just over two years since I last posted a blog about volunteering here at the Royal Voluntary Service Archive & Heritage Collection; this is what I have achieved in the past two years.

Maybe I am being too self-critical, but it doesn’t seem to be very much.  I am still involved with the collection of photographs I had started sorting two years ago.  I have managed to appraise around 3000 and saved those which tell the fascinating story of the Charity in the 1990s and early 2000s, give them reference numbers, find descriptions from WRVS publications, and scan them into the computer.  This last year I’ve been writing descriptions of all the photographs – I’m about half way through.

Got to tell you this, though, being a volunteer here is sometimes like being a history detective, piecing the evidence together. I was going through the photographs and I came across two pictures of RAF Tornado aircraft making Meals on Wheels deliveries.  At first I assumed they were separate events as they featured different aircrew, different WRVS volunteers, and different locations.  Further research revealed it was the same aircraft and crew on the same mission, one picture taken just before take-off, with the pilot and leaving party, and the second picture on arrival, with the navigator and different arrival party.  I mentally popped a champagne cork for that one!

Right I’m off to do some more cataloguing and investigating hopefully next time I blog you’ll be able to read my descriptions on the online catalogue.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 01 August 2016.

Labels: Archives, Cataloguing, History, Detective, Photographs, Charity

Royal Voluntary Service at the British Academy

This week on the HB blog a slight departure from the usual fare. I thought you might like a story about what we're doing at the archive, or rather, how Royal Voluntary Service and the Archive are helping the wider charity and archive sector.

On Friday (5 June) I was honoured to co-present a workshop session at the British Academy for their research project, ‘Digitising the Mixed Economy of Welfare in Britain’. The project aims to identify and encourage those voluntary organisations with records relating to the formation of the modern welfare state after 1945, to digitise them and make them available to the widest possible audience.

This was the first of many events in this project aimed at getting those involved together and enabling us all to start a dialogue about how charities, academics and others might work together.

My session, which I presented with Rob Baker of Blind Veterans UK, was all about the ways in which large charities like ours use our Heritage especially how it is used in helping to promote and give context to the work our charities do now. With our Grandest Festival only a week away, this offered the perfect opportunity to show how the archive has relevance to modern campaigns.

Our Grandmakers will be running sessions on ‘Heritage Skills’ something which the Royal Voluntary Service has excelled in ever since its creation. This is not just limited to the jam making, toy making or sewing (the subject of three heritage display panels at the event), but women (and later men) using their skills and knowledge for the creation of service which have come to underpin our whole society.

WVS was one of the key players in the development of the welfare state we now take for granted, especially for the older people. As part of our work at the end of and directly after the war, we helped to create a workable system of home care which became the model for the entire country and also created the model for the modern old people’s home, which was enshrined in the 1948 Assistance Act. Also don’t forget the widespread adoption of Darby & Joan clubs!

Sharing our knowledge is something Royal Voluntary Service has always done throughout our history, and allowing us to help lead the sector and assist others in similar circumstances is the very essence of voluntary service.

If you live in London and can make it to Hoxton Square on Saturday 13 June, do go along; and if you do why not buy one of our new archive tea towels, or coasters, or apron, or postcards…

Thanks for the photo to CHARM

Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 10:00 Monday, 08 June 2015.

Labels: Grandfest, Home Helps , darby and Joan , Old peoples homes, Assistance act , tea towel, British Academy, Charity, Welfare

Stella Reading Forever!

Yesterday was International Women’s day which included an equality march in London by hundreds of Women, including the Great-Granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst the leader of the Suffragette movement of the early 20th century. It seems incredible to me that almost one hundred years on from the pioneering work of these Edwardian women that gender equality has still not truly arrived.

Along with the coverage on the news, I also watched Amanda Vickery’s new programme, Suffragettes forever! I have been a fan of Amanda Vickery’s work for some time, ever since I read her book a Gentleman’s Daughter over 15 years ago while at University. In the first programme she explores the role of women in politics from the 18th Century, noting that there were no women in the House of Lords until 1958. You may be thinking where is he going with this, but, I am about to get to my point. That woman, the first to sit in the House of Lords, was the founder of the WVS, Lady Reading.

There were 4 women sworn in that day, but she was chosen to be the very first, a testament to her contribution and achievements. She is probably one of the ten most important women in the 20th century, along with such well-known names as Emmeline Pankhurst , Marie Curie, Eleanor Roosevelt or Rosa Parks, but very few people have ever heard of her.

There is not time in this short blog to List Stella Reading’s achievements and sadly no biography has ever been written about her, but through the WVS/WRVS and her other work she changed the way in which women were perceived. During WWII she created the largest women’s organisation in history with over one million members and spawned copycat organisations all over the world. Her idea changed the perception of Charity, from something which was dispensed by the rich to being an everyday action of helping your friends or loved ones. Volunteering became an activity for all and an opportunity to show in a society, where they were still marginalised, what they were capable of. I do not think it is an understatement that without the WVS and the vision of Lady Reading, much like it was in Germany, the war on the Home Front would have been lost.

The role women played in the Second World war can be argued as one very pivotal step in the slow narrowing of the gender gap and the WVS had impact far beyond the end of the war, with hundreds of thousands of women giving their time up to help their communities, whether that be assisting women prisoners in Holloway Gaol or providing flatlets in cities across Britain for young professional women in the 1950s and 60s.

Lady Reading, despite being a larger than life character was always the first to shy away from claiming any accolade or applause for her achievement. Unlike many of the greatest leaders in history she would never take the honours for herself, always crediting her ‘ladies’ with the triumph.

Posted by Matthew McMurray at 00:00 Monday, 09 March 2015.

Labels: International Women's day, Stella Reading , WVS, WRVS, RVS, Amanda Vickery, Suffragettes, House of Lords, Life Peer, WWII, Holloway prison, Charity