The importance of starting an archive

The Archive & Heritage collection was formed in 1958, the year before WVS’s 21st Anniversary as the Archives and Central Records Department. The members of this department’s first purpose was to search through files for important original reports, letters, etc. to find those of historical interest and importance. I truly sympathise with having to assess twenty years’ worth of material and having to take key decisions which would affect future generations understanding of the WVS.

The department started out with a number of part-time works all with different tasks to complete and a Head of Department to oversee them. It is funny how very little changes in 60 years, although a little different with a full time Deputy Archivist and Archives Assistant (working on the Hidden History of a Million Women Project), there is still an Archivist and a team of volunteers who help out with the collection anywhere from two hours to a whole day every week.

We don’t know very much about the thoughts of the women first involved in bringing this invaluable collection together, even though they knew there was ‘a real need for such a department’ in 1958, apart from what is written in the Annual Reports. However occasionally when sorting through the collection something catches your eye; though it wasn’t shinny and it didn’t look particularly interesting while repackaging the collection of General Publications on Friday afternoon I came across WVS/WRVS Archives Notes for Guidance 1973 (there are also copies for 1975 and 1981).

This small booklet with a Green front cover shows how over 15 years the thinking in the Archive was developing and they were getting to grips with the records they held. They were there to collate a complete library of papers concerning policy, operational works and records of WVS/WRVS from 1938 onwards. At the end of the booklet they list all the documents being kept in the Archive including Annual Reports, Bulletin/Magazine, Miscellaneous Memoranda and Narrative Reports which with many more documents, photographs, publications and objects still reside in the collection today. What interested me most about this booklet was what it said about Narrative Reports:

“A complete set of Narrative Reports form all Regions is held in WRVS Headquarters Archives.

No Narrative Reports should be destroyed without consultation, as arrangements for keeping them vary from Region to Region”

This might explain why the number of reports in today’s collection varies so much from region to region.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 00:00 Monday, 07 November 2016.

Labels: Archive, Archivist, WVS, WRVS, Narrative Reports

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