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Archives and exploring peoples motives



This week the Heritage Bulletin Blog comes to you in the form of our second podcast. As it’s Explore Your Archive Week we thought we would treat you to a clip from one of our oral histories. We're exploring the ideas behind why people volunteer and Mary Gibbons a volunteer in South Wales told the project why girls taking part in volunteering for Duke of Edinburgh got involved and the impact that had.

Hopefully you will then be inspired to visit Archive Online and explore the Voices of Volunteering collection for yourself. Clips and resources based on oral histories are also available on the Voices of Volunteering School Resources page.




For those who can't listen to the podcast, which I whole heartedly recommend, the transcript is below.

The Duke of Edinburgh Award. There was a school in, in Swansea, a girl’s school, and one of the Masters at the girl’s school had always been interested in Duke of Edinburgh Award, and he persuaded the Head Mistress there to let him use some of his pupils for Duke of Edinburgh. Now he was using girls who were challenged. They seldom went to school, they had got very little home support, they really were not bright. And he had said to them would they like to do this, you see, because in Duke of Edinburgh you have to do a certain amount of service. And so the service was our service, helping out at WRVS Luncheon Clubs for the elderly, which the girls thought was wonderful. So he sort of said to us ‘Will you do the rest of it’? Because they obviously had to know all about WRVS and they had to do a certain amount of, of work with it, so we had said ‘Yes’, and the girls were good. But the girl, he said to the girls ‘You only go to the Luncheon Club if you go to school’.

Now truancy was the thing.  So in fact, for the year that we were doing it there, or for the two years, they went to school every day because they wanted to go to the Luncheon Club. And we used to go and we would do lessons with them, but we knew that they couldn't really take things down because possibly they couldn't write, they couldn't read and it was just very unfortunate for them. But we, even when it came to the test or, or sort of making sure they'd got it all, we had an oral rather than a written. Now for other schools we would do written things whereas with them it was… And we didn't do the testing at the end, but other people did, and that was quite amazing because they all got through.

And I can see it now, we had the Head Mistress was there the last, they, they had to have the certificates given to them and the badges. And they had got, he had organised a very special coffee morning. All the girls had been in the day before to help make cakes and things. And their parents had been invited. And it, she had sort of introduced the girls, and how superb they had been, and the WRVS had been doing this and that, and then I had to say something about them because I was Emergency Services, I had to say something about what we’d done with them. And then, you know, sort of say, we had given them their things and praise and everything else.

And afterwards I was going round talking to the parents who were there. And I can remember going up to this dad and his daughter was there as proud as punch, and I said to him ‘Well, what did you think’? He said ‘Oh’, he said ‘how I didn't cry’, he said, ‘I had to take time off work because I never ever thought she would get anything’. And I thought that was lovely. He’d, he was so chuffed that she’d got something, you know. you know. Out of all of this, so different, so different. So it did do very well, and actually he [the Duke of Edinburgh] came to Swansea on one occasion and we were there, there were two of us, somebody, Julie, another girl, and the two of us were there with some of our, with some of us, the school girls. And, and he had talked to them, which was, he thought, they thought was wonderful. But, no, that was good.  

Mary Gibbons Volunteer

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 20 November 2017.

Labels: oral history, Voices of Volunteering, WRVS, volunteers, Luncheon Club, podcast

A Coloured Thread



This week the Heritage Bulletin Blog comes to you in the form of our first podcast.  Have a listen to Matthew McMurray talking about his inspiration for the archive's upcoming (2018) museum exhibition and journey to get there.



For those who can't listen to the podcast, which I modestly recommend, the transcript is below.

This last week I have been putting together my first ever museum exhibition plan and it’s fascinating how the approach of museums differs from that of archives. I had merrily sat down with the idea that I was going to come up with a story, nice and ordered and linear and then write some beautiful text and add some nice pictures; What my colleague rather inelegantly called the ‘book on the wall’ approach. This though, to misquote Mr Punch is ‘not the way to do it’!

Some research later and some sage advice from those with more experience than my none in museum exhibition design and I was trepidatiously ready to begin.

The key, apparently, with any museum exhibition is to start from the objects, let them tell your story. Hmmm I thought to myself as I visualised the towers of several million pieces of paper in our strong rooms and rather fewer objects and felt despondent.

While as an archivist I love nothing more than reading reams of text (preferably with footnotes) apparently not everyone else does, Horror I thought.

Visual impact is unsurprisingly the order of the day, with interactive displays for different levels of understanding from children to adults, short and sweet descriptions (in 25-30 words) and constant repetition. As a lover of detail, as someone who prefers to use ten words when one will do, and also someone who makes every effort to use the English language in all its glory, how was I going to inculcate my audience to the amazing work of the Royal Voluntary Service with so few words.

The answer was a single thread. Most great enterprises come from a small idea, and as a colleague said rather poetically in an e-mail today, quoting the 14th century proverb ‘Great oaks from little acorns grow’.

Much like a tin of Ronseal paint, Royal Voluntary Service has always done what it says on the tin, provided ‘Voluntary Service’. Our founder Lady Reading, whose portrait stares down and scrutinises my every action here in the archive, was the epitome of that ideal which she championed all her life with a zeal most could never hope to match. I have read volumes of her speeches, letters and writing and I find myself repeating her grand eloquent style frequently, in-fact this podcast is becoming a good example. But my point here is that a single bright thread came into my mind and I pulled at it.

In her 1970 treatise entitled simply ‘Voluntary Service’ she said

“Voluntary Service is a coloured thread in the fabric of a Nation and without that thread the fabric is neither as beautiful nor as strong as it should be”


That single coloured thread is literally going to run through my exhibition joining disparate activities and ideas into a story of voluntary service over 80 years; joining objects from wartime uniforms to models of Atlantic longboats and medals denoting a thousand years of service beyond self.

That single thread now has a lot to answer for and the ideas are coming thick and fast.


Posted by Matthew McMurray - Royal Voluntary Service Archivst at 09:00 Monday, 16 October 2017.

Labels: Royal Voluntary Service, Podcast, Museum, Heritage Bulletin Blog, Coloured thread