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All good things come to an end

Mary Howard-Jones attending the EventHere at the Archive we know how to celebrate in style and last weeks End of Project Event for Voices of Volunteering was no exception. This event hailed two years since the Voices of Volunteering project started in March 2014.

Royal Voluntary Service Volunteers and employees attended our event at the Assembly Rooms in Devizes on 15 March. There we had two exhibitions one which told the history of the charity through photographs of material held in the Archive and the other featured five of the volunteers who had been interviewed during the project.

This was also an opportunity to look back at what had been achieved by volunteers, Royal Voluntary Service and the project. Here we were able to show how, with the help of Heritage Champions, the project has made our history less ‘hidden’ and less ‘silent’. It was also a chance to share some very interesting stories including: a dog using the transport scheme in the 1970s, a game of Mr & Mrs on a Silver Threads Club holiday and how volunteers first became involved with WVS and WRVS.

At the event we also introduced our new school resources which aim to inspire a new generation of volunteers using stories from the oral history collection. To do this they look at debates surrounding volunteering such as what impact it has on people’s lives and local communities as part of one hour lesson plans. The lesson plans also encourage children to be more active citizens, helping older members of their families or fundraising for charity. Why not have a look for yourself on the Voices of Volunteering website.

Overall the event showed that the project has been a roller-coaster ride, a journey of discovery and emotion which has led to the collection of over 100 oral histories from women and men who between them have given over 75 years of Citizenship and Service since 1938. They are now available for you to listen to on our online catalogue.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, project archivist oral history at 09:00 Monday, 21 March 2016.

Reports from Everywhere - March 1956

ACCRINGTON
Provided the North Western Gas Board with a list of old people known to be living alone so that their gas appliances might be tested, and arranged for an official to visit the Old Folks Club to explain the scheme. This had its sequel when the same official rang up to say they had started on the scheme and that one of their inspectors had been to a house and found three bottles of milk on the doorstep and an old lady in bed upstairs. Could we do anything? We could and did. One of our members went to the house the same day and saw the old lady and her neighbours, but found that the old lady was not neglected in any way nor was her house; her family and her neighbours were looking after her. Why there were three bottles of milk on the doorstep was not explained.

BIRKENHEAD
Occupational therapy is now regarded as an essential factor in the recovery to complete usefulness, in the shortest possible time, of post operation cases. Patients in St. Catherine’s Hospital take lessons, under our care, in weaving, knitting, embroidery, small leatherwork, making and dressing soft dolls and making plastic bracelets and necklets.

EAST GRINSTEAD
A young woman, sent to us by the National Assistance Board with a request for furniture, was visited just before Christmas with some toys for the children. The only furniture in the house was the two beds and the two chairs we had given her. Shortly afterwards a man called at the office, asking, as executor, whether we would receive the residue of the contents of a house for anyone who was in need. The deceased owner had been a member of the Old People’s Welfare Club, and we felt we should help the club first, so one or two oddments were given for the members, but we were able to provide the young woman with four chairs and an armchair, a kitchen cupboard, two tables, a double bed, two mattresses, pillows, bolster, blankets, dressing table, floor rugs, curtains, china, spoons, forks, kitchen ware, brushes, fire-irons, bread crock, baking tins, dishes, etc. When we told the Housing Manager what we had been able to do she said it was the best Christmas present she had ever had, as she was at her wits’ end to know how to help this woman, who was a really deserving case.

HASTINGS
The office was just being closed when an old lady was brought in, having arrived by coach from London and not knowing where she was going. She had no address with her except where she came from in London. The stranger who brought her to us said “ Find W.V.S.—they will be the ones to help ! ” We finally took her to the Police, who promised to find her somewhere for the night. She was collected soon afterwards. The Holiday Home where she had been expected had contacted the Police.

Posted by Matthew McMurray - Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00 Sunday, 13 March 2016.

Labels: Reports from everywhere, WVS , Accrington, Birkenhead, East Grinstead, Hastings, Gas Board, Occupational Therapy, embroidery, weaving, furniture, holiday

Archives into the future

Two weeks with no blog is a very bad show on my part but there is no rest for the wicked and I have been out of the office a lot in the past two weeks, so finding the time to write this has been hard. Last Monday, while sadly no young ladies proposed to me (being a leap year and the 29 February), I was hard at work, presenting at the ‘Archives into the Future’ conference at the British Library in London.

The event was organised by The University of Hull Antislavery Useable Past project and sought to bring together academics, researchers and practitioners to discuss charity archives. I was invited to speak on a panel in the afternoon entitled, ‘Experiences from the archives’. I shared the platform with representatives from the Bishopsgate Institute, Salvation Army International Heritage Centre, Together Trust and Prof. Pat Thane from the Institute for Contemporary British History. All of whom work hard to curate and share archives of ‘voluntary action’. It was a very good panel (if I do say so myself).

What I always find so interesting about attending and being able to contribute to this sort of event is that idea of different approaches we discover to shared problems and experience; the chance to see how other care for maintain and make accessible their collections and the opportunity to discuss issues in depth with my peers.

This is especially relevant to Royal Voluntary Service as we enter our 78th Year, and the 58th year since the foundation of the Archive, back in 1958. In May we are going to embark on a significant development project for the archive. This will provide a blueprint for a new permanent home and also work out how we can make our collections more accessible to everyone; at the same time as making it sustainable in a world of ever tighter budgets and demands on the resources of charities like ourselves.

At Royal Voluntary Service we are immensely proud of our archive and the stories it tells of the contribution by millions of women to British society and we hope by September 2017 we will have worked out solutions to many of our challenges.

As our project progresses hopefully I can give you more updates in the future.

Picture: University of Hull