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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
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.
Did you know that the Archive
& Heritage Collection runs an enquiry service? Do you wonder what people
In May we received a very
interesting enquiry asking what information we held in our Archives about Queen
Mary’s Carpet and how its sale in 1950-1951 was coordinated by WVS.
to this question is a simple but important one we hold two files one in our Central Registry
collection discussing the how the carpets journey from the Victoria and Albert
Museum to America, its tour around the USA and Canada and how it raised money
for the united Kingdom after the War. The other is a file of miscellaneous
memoranda containing leaflets, postcards, souvenir booklets and letters - the
story these records tell is fascinating.
In 1950 Queen Mary gave the
nation a carpet that she had been embroidering between 1941 and 1946 and
measures 10ft 2inches by 6ft 9.5inches has a unique floral design and signed
Mary R, the boarder was made by the Royal School of Needle Work. Her Majesty
decided to give the nation the carpet to help ‘bridge the dollar gap’, created
by the war, money raised would go to the National Exchequer as she thought that
everyone should contribute something to the country in its time of need. The
Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (IODE) were responsible for raising the
much needed dollars while WVS were responsible for the carpets tour of US and
Canadian public institutions. Lady Reading was made acting chief of staff of
The Carpet was first displayed in
the Victoria and Albert Museum before traveling to North America on the Queen Mary.
The Carpet arrived in New York on 20th March and was exhibited there
for 5 days before traveling around 15 other main cities in America and Canada including
Ottawa (Ontario), Washington DC, Los Angeles (California), Seattle (Washington), Vancouver (British Columbia),
Toronto (Ontario) and Montreal (Quebec). On its
tour the carpet was accompanied by a WVS volunteer who commented that it was the most exciting three months of her life and at in that time she and the carpet traveled 14,000 miles and was seen by 400,000 people.
After its tour the IODE purchased
the carpet and toured it across Canada, raising at least another $100,000 for
the British Exchequer. The carpet was presented to the National Gallery of Canada
at the end of its tour. It is now kept in the gallery’s collections.
If you have a question about the
Archive’s or the History of Royal Voluntary Service why not contact our enquiryservice today,
we look forward to hearing from you.