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The recent past

I pride myself on the fact that I have an excellent memory; and especially so when it comes to the achievements, triumphs and tribulations of our charity. It is my job after all, and I think (though I try not to claim it too loudly) that I probably know more about it than anyone else alive! Well it is my job!

I have been the Archivist at the Royal Voluntary Service now for nine years this month. Sometimes it seems a long time, until I realise that the first Archivist, Mrs Doreen Harris, did the job for 24 years, and when she took up the post had already given WVS twenty years service.

In 2008 I had the unenviable task of creating timeline of the organisation’s history. No one had done this before and I spent almost a year on and off, reading through archive material and compiling lists of notable achievements and events. To say that whittling down the items to include from 70 years of history was hard would be a crashing understatement! This very long and painful process produced one of the best little booklets we have ever done a concertina timeline which became so popular we had to reprint it at least five times.

It is now seven years since we produced that and I got a call the other day asking if we could revive it. While thankfully we could re-use most of the previous one, the last seven years have to be included and while the distant past of the organisation is like an old friend to me, the recent past can sometimes seem like a foreign country! While this is the past of Royal Voluntary Service I have lived myself, it sometimes seems less real that the activities of Lady Reading, Averill Russell and those other pioneers at Headquarters in the 1930s and 40s.

Thankfully the much missed Action magazine was there to help jog my memory and below you can see a small selection of the items I chose to represent the charities achievements over the last seven years. Do you agree with me? I am sure you will let me know if you don’t!

2008 - WRVS published its first independent social impact report, which showed that 73% of the people we helped felt less isolated.

2009 - 45 WRVS rural transport schemes gave 60,000 lifts to those in need and WRVS launched its ‘Give us a lift’ campaign.

2010 - Margaret Miller celebrated her 100th Birthday and also 70 years of volunteering for WRVS.

2011 - £1.4 million was gifted by WRVS to NHS Greater Glasgow, The largest amount ever gifted in one go!

2012 - WRVS set up 67 Hubs (local offices) across the country to bring the organisation of Voluntary Service back into the community.

2013 - After 75 years, the WRVS dropped the ‘W’ from its name and becomes the Royal Voluntary Service.

2014 - Royal Voluntary Service opened its first Men’s Shed in Northumberland, giving older men a chance to make things and make friends.

2015 - Royal Voluntary Service launched the first Grandfest, a festival, celebrating the skills of older people and offering them a chance to pass those on to the next generation.

Posted by Matthew McMurray at 00:00 Monday, 12 October 2015.

Labels: Margaret Miller, Rural Transport, Timeline, NHS Greater Glasgow, Hubs, Social Impact Report, Men's Shed, Grandfest, Lady Reading, Foreign Country, memory

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