Heritage Bulletin blog

Keep up to date with the latest news and happenings at the Archive and Heritage Collection. Send us your email address to receive notifications of new posts to your inbox, or follow us on twitter.com/RVSarchives

Showing 11-20 results

What’s that sound? Oral History and Archives

Between 2014 and 2016 Royal Voluntary Service worked on its Voices of Volunteering project. Its aim was to collect up to 80 oral histories, which capture the memories and recollections of people who have volunteered and worked for the Royal Voluntary Service and make them accessible in a number of ways and introduce new volunteers known as heritage champions to Royal Voluntary Service and oral history. Throughout the project I don’t think we ever explained on the Heritage Bulletin Blog what oral history was and how it shapes archives and archivists.

What is Oral history?

The basic definition of oral history is that it is the collection of memories and personal commentaries of historical significance through recorded interviews. However this includes many elements including preparation of interview questions, building an interviewer and interviewee relationship, recording the interview, archiving it, cataloguing, writing transcriptions, making it accessible and interpreting the information for other to use. In essence there is a whole project behind the words oral history.

How is an archive based oral history project run?

Talking from experience oral history projects based in archives is not just the collection and archiving of the interviews it is much more than that. Voices of Volunteering: 75 years of citizenship and service was a pioneering oral history project bringing the voices of WVS, WRVS and Royal Voluntary Service volunteers to life. Generously funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, over two years Royal Voluntary Service professionally gathered 80 oral histories from past and present volunteers from every part of Great Britain; stories told in their own voices and own words, of their contribution to the largest voluntary organisation in British history. Run by the Project Archivist this also involved training and collection of oral histories by volunteers called heritage champions, cataloguing and preserving oral histories, creating school resources and holding an end of project event in Devizes. You can find out more about the project here.

Archivists and oral history

In the past oral history would have been the preserve of the historian choosing who to interview for a specific research project and later depositing those interviews in an archive somewhere where they might be catalogued in the future. Today with the growing trend of archivists expanding their role in the heritage and information world many archives are taking on their own projects. Many of these archives seem to represent those whose histories are usually hidden or underrepresented in the public domain or to fill in gaps in the history of an organisation or to save current knowledge before it disappears forever.


While Jenkinson said that archives were not “collected” but “came together and reached their final arrangement by a natural process”. Schellenberg argued that the modern archivist “had a definite need to redefine archives in a manner more suited to his own requirements”. Schellenburg emphasised the historical relevance of keeping records, perhaps after the time of these two pioneers archivists have moved on to develop this aspect. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for archives in increasing access to archives and providing innovative outreach projects to take on the role of a historian or work on a project with one to create archives for their repository. It’s all part of the merge of the many roles in the heritage and history industry.

Oral history is just one of the many projects where archivists roles are expanded and their skill sets changed. This isn’t just in the collection of oral history and learning interview skills but also back in the more traditional role as preserver. Over the years sound has been recorded in many formats; archivists used to focus on preserving a physical format such as vinyl or cassette tape but now along with more “traditional” born digital archives oral history has moved on to the digital plying field and archivists must learn to preserve, migrate and make accessible these formats such as WAV and MP3. It’s an ever changing world which archivists must stay ahead of and oral history has had an effect on.

Conclusions
Oral history is not just a recorded interview it is a recorded interview with an entire project behind it archiving, making accessible and interpreting that recording. The project is run with many elements including heritage, community, education and preservation. They are planned out and celebrated as well as being funded either internally or externally. No longer just the preserve of historians they have developed into a trustworthy and reliable source of expanding our knowledge of historical events. Oral history is never simple it’s a complex and has many layers to it which is helping to develop the role of an archivist in the modern world.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 00:00 Monday, 02 July 2018.

Labels: Archives, Oral History, Voices of Volunteering, Theory, sound

The history of WRVS/Royal Voluntary Service in Post-modern Britain

In the study of historical periods historians don’t just look at a time period of 100 years when looking at centuries in the modern era. There are some historians who define eras with the end of regimes or with dramatic events which change the course of history. In some cases the 20th century is defined as the short twentieth century as 1914 to 1989 an era of extremist regimes and conflict. With the end of the cold war as discussed in last week’s blog historians have defined the period after this as the postmodern era. In the 1990s WRVS was still active but going through many changes to become the charity it is today. In this week’s blog I thought I’d tell this story through some objects and uniform held in the archive collection.

WRVS officially become a charity in 1992 and appointed its first Chief executive. It was starting its journey to become Royal Voluntary Service.  In 1997 it was decided that over a ten year period the Government would decrease and finally stop a grant given to WRVS to carry out its services. In 1997 the charity began fundraising having never done so before for itself.

WRVS Collecting pot with cords. Green plastic collecting tin, white sticker WRVS 1994-2004 logo green text "WOMEN'S ROYAL VOLUNTARY SERVICE", "Help Make Someone's Day", "WRVS Head Office: Milton Hill Training Centre, Milton Hill, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX13 6AF", "Women's Royal Voluntary Service is a Registered Charity". Three orange plastic collecting tins with chain Stickers: one WRVS 2004-2013 logo with Strapline 'make it count' [2004-2008] and Head Office contact details, registered charity number. One WRVS 2004-2013 logo with strapline "it's your money make it count" purple banner white text "one million older people feel trapped in their homes" purple text "WRVS home visit volunteers provide a lifeline" orange text "www.wrvs.org.uk" Head Office details and registered charity number on the side. One WRVS 2004-2013 logo with strapline "it's your money make it count" purple banner white text "Emergencies devastate thousands of lives each year" purple text "help equip us to respond to disasters 24 hours a day, every day of the year" orange text "www.wrvs.org.uk" Head Office details and registered charity number on the side.


Like many organisations/charities in the 1990s, in 1998, the uniform was relinquished altogether in favour of casual work wear on the basis that 'smart but casual clothing was more appropriate for a dynamic and modern volunteering organisation – appealing to a new generation of members and increasing number of male volunteers – both needed to keep WRVS vibrant and right up to date. WRVS commissioned well-known Scottish designer Betty Davis to develop a new collection of branded clothing, which launched in the Winter 2000 edition of Action Magazine.

Gilet, Khaki, polyester, WRVS, Label Betty Davies Edinburgh sewn and Betty Davies white polo shirt, 1994-2004 embroidered logo on left breast, signature label.

In 2004, WRVS finalised its transformation from an organisation which did just about anything to one whose primary purpose was the care of older people. To coincide with this, WRVS changed its name and image, with the aim to modernise and re-invigorate.

WRVS Make it count flag standard, White synthetic fabric flag standard, oblong, with orange fringing around three sides, WRVS 2004-2013 logo with 'Make it count TM' strap line in purple. Brown wood pole with brass fittings, orange rope with tassels.

WRVS changed its name to Royal Voluntary Service during its 75th anniversary year, 2013. This was to help encourage more men to join the organisation. While it kept the casual look instead of returning to uniform it did return to its roots of red and green in its logo.


Tee Shirt, White, Screen Printed, Royal Voluntary Service, White Tee shirt, Screen printed to front with "Sing your Heart out for vulnerable older people" with "Royal Voluntary Service together for older people" logo below.

In 2018 Royal Voluntary Service is celebrating 80 years of volunteering. Compassion in Crisis looks at how the roles of volunteers in times of crisis have changed over those 80 years. This exhibition is full of objects, uniform and information about the charity's history.

These items from the collection may represent more aesthetic changes to the organisation rather than the changes to its role in society. It transformed from a charity which did everything and anything to one which adapted to find the places where it was needed in postmodern society including older people’s welfare, health and hospitals and Services Welfare they are still important in showing modern day changes. Altering its Identity in certain years can represent when these changes took place.

Remember you still have a week to see the Compassion in Crisis Exhibition at Wiltshire Museum (closes on 24th June).


Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 18 June 2018.

Labels: Object, Uniform, Archives, Twentith Century, Twenty First Century, Post modern

The women in green, ready for any eventuality

The Second World War ended on 2 September 1945 following the defeat of Japan in August. It concluded in August when America dropped two nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki causing the Japanese to surrender. However with the end of one war came the threat of another completely different type of war and one which played out on several different battlefields but didn’t result as some feared in nuclear armageddon but the fall of a political ideology and superpower. This was the Cold War which spanned four decades from 1947-1991. Of course in the unfortunate event that nuclear war would play out between east and west there was a volunteer army at the ready and well prepared to assist civilians; obviously it was the WVS.

At the end of the Second World War it seemed that the post-war years would be a time of peace and in Britain the Civil Defence Services were disbanded. However by 1949 the government and the people had come to realise that with large world powers making nuclear weapons the Civil Defence Corps needed to be brought back into action. This took the form of a voluntary organisation which incorporated the WVS into a special welfare section. In 1951 Home Secretary David Maxwell Fyfe declared the function of WVS in Civil Defence would be to:

Roles included

• Training

• Running rest centres

• Helping in peacetime national disasters

• Providing meals for Firemen, police, members of the Civil Defence Corps and Cadet Camps

Emergency Feeding and feeding at large scale events as part of training (also part of the Food Flying Squads)

• Home Nursing

• First Aid

• Liaison with Civil Defence in other countries WVS members trained women from Holland, America, Lebanon and Luxemburg to name a few.

• One in Five talks which aimed to talk to 3 million women about the dangers of nuclear attack and basic survival.

In the mid to late 1960s the Cold War between Russia and Britain had started to thaw and it was thought there was no longer a need for the Civil Defence Corps. The corps were disbanded in 1968, however the ever practical Lady Reading and WRVS members (by then Royal had been added to the title) saw a need for the welfare services they had been providing since 1949 as part of Civil Defence. In the early 1970s they started the Emergency Services Department. This new department continued in the following roles:

• Running rest centres

• Helping in peacetime national disasters

• Providing meals for Firemen, police

• Emergency Feeding and feeding at large scale events

One in Five, although part of WRVS’s Civil Defence work, had been established as a separate department and so work continued to train one fifth of women about the dangers of nuclear attack and basic survival. This service continued into the 1980s and as hostilities relaxed and the Soviet Union collapsed (1989-1991) the department faded away.

Even though parts of WRVS’s role in preparing the nation for a large national crisis ended with the fall of the Berlin wall and collapse of the Soviet Union some vital services were still needed. Volunteers continued to assist in emergencies and reassuring the nation in times of need in our next blog we will look at how WRVS provided compassion in crisis in a new era were the ideals of society and community were changing drastically.

You can find out more about the role of WVS/WRVS during the Cold War on our factsheet page or if you are in or near to Devizes before 24th June you can visit the Compassion in Crisis Exhibition at Wiltshire Museum.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 00:00 Monday, 04 June 2018.

Labels: WVS, WRVS, Cold War, Civil Defence, Emergency, Nuclear

Archives and Museums: the merging of Heritage roles?

Once upon a time the role of an archivist was very clear, to preserve records for future generations to access. However more recently as I stated in the blog who are we?

“There appear[s] to be a move away from the traditional archivist protector of records and preserver of history with a set of core skills which stood them apart from the museum curator. In their place stands the postmodern archivist who is all things to all men, a heritage professional, throwing open the doors of the archive, engaging with the community and letting go of their control.”

With access becoming more important archivists have to find different ways to show off their collections. In the past this may have been allowing museum professionals to take part of the collection and display them. However it appears that in some cases the archivist must take on the role of the curator and interpret information form their collections making them user friendly and telling a story to the public. I am sure Jenkinson is turning in his grave but as I have said before it is now time for us to move away from the traditional theory and look to a new way of thinking.

One way of providing access to different audiences is to create an exhibition on a particular theme. Currently Royal Voluntary Service’s Compassion in Crisis exhibition is running at Wiltshire Museum until 24th June. The exhibition has taken the theme of WVS/WRVS/Royal Voluntary Services role in times of crisis using objects, photographs, documents, uniform, posters, cartoons and text. The story starts in 1938 and finishes in the modern day. Even though the exhibition tells you a story there are still hallmarks of the traditional archivist as this exhibit doesn’t always interpret the archival information allowing you to come up with your own view on the title Compassion in Crisis. If you would like to know more about the theme you can listen to Coloured Thread on SoundCloud.

Thus while Royal Voluntary Services Archive & Heritage team have strayed into the world of Museums and the world of the post-modern archivist there is still an element of the traditional archivist in their which demonstrates the two roles of archivists and museum professional are still separate and have different elements to them which make them unique. However don’t take my word for it why not interprets this for yourself by visiting Compassion in Crisis.

The Exhibition at Wiltshire Museum will run till 24th June, we hope you will take the opportunity to get a rare glimpse at some of the objects, uniform and records preserved by the Royal Voluntary Service Archive & Heritage Collection. If you have children we also have an exciting trail to follow round the exhibit and the chance to build a model emergency cooker.

If you would like to know more about the history of Royal Voluntary Service or WVS in Devizes during World War II there are lectures from Matthew McMurray and David Dawson on 6th and 20th June.


Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 00:00 Monday, 21 May 2018.

Labels: Museum, Archive , Compassion in crisis, Heritage

Compassion in Crisis – A museum exhibition about 80 years of voluntary service

It may surprise you to learn that for three days last week the Archivist, Deputy Archivist and Archives Business Manager were setting up a new exhibition at Wiltshire Museum in Devizes. The Archive team have been planning this since the middle of last year writing content, selecting objects and preparing resources. Finally it is already in place ready to be seen by the public, this is a taste of what to expect from Compassion in Crisis.

 In 1938 Lady Reading started to mobilise an army of women who would be essential in winning the Second World War. By 1941 this was over 1,000,000 who were often referred to as ‘the women in green’ because of their uniform and they were known for offering tea and comfort to all who needed it in a time of crisis. At the end of the war dangers to civilians didn’t just fade away and a new threat of nuclear war was ever on people’s minds.

The exhibition looks at the emerging role of WVS inemergencies during the war and how this developed in the post-war world. Part of the exhibition explores the One-in-Five scheme which aimed to educate one in every five women on what to do in the event of a nuclear attack. Women also joined the Food Flying Squads part of the Civil Defence Welfare Section. These women didn’t just have training exercises they also provided relief to those affected by floods in 1953. There were also other skills and services providedby WVS during the war which did not become obsolete in the post war era.

Dutch and Belgium refugees as well as evacuees had been helped by WVS; with the war, revolution and natural disaster in other nations fresh waves of refugees arrived in Britain in 1950s to 1980s. WVS or WRVS by the time Vietnamese, Ugandan Asian and Kosovan refugees arrived were always ready to comfort those in need and give them a safe place to stay. Compassion in Crisis looks at how WVS/WRVS showed compassion to refugees and gave them comfort intheir time of crisis. It also reflects on how voluntary service and what itmeans to be a volunteer has changed as we have moved into the twenty first century.

The Exhibition at Wiltshire Museum will run from the 7th May to 24th June, we hope you will take the opportunity to get a rare glimpse at some of the objects, uniform and records preserved by the Royal Voluntary Service Archive & Heritage Collection. If you have children we also have an exciting trail to follow round the exhibit and the chance to build a model emergency cooker. 

If you would like to know more about the history of Royal Voluntary Service or WVS in Devizes during World War II there are lectures from Matthew McMurray and David Dawson on 6th and 20th June.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 07 May 2018.

Labels: WVS, WRVS , Royal Voluntary Service, Museum, Archive, Heritage

#Archive30

This month we have been taking part in #Archive30 along with many other Archives on Twitter. Each day has had a different theme and I thought those of you not on Twitter or who haven’t seen what we’ve been sharing might be interested in learning something new and finding out about the different things we hold. This is just a selection and some may surprise you.


Day 2 – Favourite Item

My favourite item from the archive has to be knitted doll Stella who kept me company while collecting #oralhistory and is now part of the collection #archive30


Day 5 – Something Small

#Archive30 day 5 something small which is difficult to choose because we have quite a lot of small items including all the items in this #ARP First Aid Box which forms a Model Rest Centre #WW2 #postwar #emergency includes a green model toilet.


Day 9 – Animal

#Archive30 day 9 #animal - during #WW2 WVS members collected dog hair to make wool for jumpers. This week's Heritage Bulletin #blog looks at some of the other clothing related work done by WVS and WRVS members in the 20th century http://www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/hbblog


Day 13 – Journey to work

Day 13 - #archive30 day 13 Journey to work, some WVS members would travel to work in vans here is a model version from our collection. Green painted wooden WVS Model Van BUG 44T, metal wheels painted front and side windows, W.V.S. painted in red on side, back doors function. 1940-1960.


Day 18 – Friendship

Day 18 #Archive30 #friendship during our Voices of Volunteering #oralhistory project many #volunteers spoke of the camaraderie between themselves and other volunteers: https://www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/about-us/our-history/archive-online/voices-of-volunteering …. #photo: Emergency Feeding Exercise, Velmore Camp (food Flying Squad) 1955


Day 20 – Something Fun

#Archive30 There are so many #fun things to choose from! Members of the WRVS Books on Wheels service enjoyed delivering books to those who had requested them. #volunteering #reading

A large green mocked up book with pages, titled 'WRVS BOOKS ON WHEELS' on the front cover and spine, mounted spine up on four wheels, the hubs of which contain the WRVS monogram in black on gold. Used for advertising the Books on Wheels service.


#Archive30 continues until the end of April why not see what else we are posting about by visiting @RVSarchives. Today’s theme is self-portrait.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 23 April 2018.

Labels: Archive, WVS, Social Media, Twitter, History, Heritage

Clothing Stores

The WVS Clothing Department was established in 1939 to run Regional Clothing Depots which provided garments, shoes and boots for children. Clothing was donated, sent from overseas by the Canadian and American Red Cross, and handmade in working parties. Volunteers would run regional and sub-depots; sorting, and distributing clothing as part of WVS’s Civil Defence role.

Clothing was also supplied to adult evacuees and the homeless from 1941 resulting in six and a half million garments being distributed between 1940 and 1943. The WVS also opened Clothing Exchanges from 1943 allowed parents to swap clothes for their growing children without using valuable coupons. As a result millions more garments were given out during 1944, 1945.

Although Depots began to close in 1946 many people still needed assistance and WVS carried on its vital role in clothing setting up County, Centre and County Borough Clothing Depots. It was also a huge part of WVS Civil Defence work providing clothing to flood victims in 1947 and 1953.

Clothing Depots were for people who had no other way of clothing themselves and they had to be recommended by certain bodies or organisations. This included the NSPCC, Ministry of Pensions, Hospital Almoners and Prohibition Officers, Doctors and Social Services.

Over the years clothing was also distributed to refugees from Hungary in 1956 and then Ugandan Asians in 1972. The demand for clothing continued to be high and by 1976 1.5 million garments were given out each year. In the late 1980s they were renamed Clothing Stores and distributed around 2 million garments a year. At that time stores could be found in Area, County, Scottish Regional, Metropolitan, District, Local and London Borough Offices.

As part of the Voices of Volunteering project 2014-2016 over 80 volunteers shared their experiences including for some clothing stores. Barbara Sparks a volunteer in Somerset was one of those volunteers.


"Then I started to work in the clothing store and thoroughly enjoyed it, absolutely
thoroughly enjoyed.
[Interviewer] Who would come into the clothing store?
[BS]: It, they were sent by Social Services, they had to have a need. And they
would be supplied with up to three changes of clothing twice a year so they
could come in the summer for summer clothes and then in the winter for their
winter stuff. And everything was logged down in a book and, if they came back
in between time and tried to swing the lead that they needed more because
they hadn't got any, the ladies would go and produce the book and say ‘Look, is
that your signature? Because on the such and such a date you were given this,
this, this, this, this and this, what have you done with it’? ‘Ah, I, well it wore out’
or well, and that was fair enough, that was fair comment. But if it was just that
they'd sold it because they thought they'd get a couple
of pennies for it, well no, they didn't get anything else. The ladies were quite strict like that, but you
needed to be. And it was quite, quite sad to see some of the people that came
in some days because one lady came in, no names obviously, but she’d, she’d
been pregnant and she's got a maternity grant and she’d blown the lot on a pink
baby dress because it was something she’d never had when she was a child,
and she just loved this dress, and she blew the entire maternity grant and then
she had a red headed boy. And poor lady, she came in and she said ‘What am I
going to do’? And they said ‘Don't worry, don't worry, we’ll sort you out’. And
they gave a complete layette, so she had everything from nappies right the way
through to vests and booties and, and, and little rompers, everything that the
baby needed for a little boy. And it was so tragic to think that she’d, she’d been
so much in need when she was a child that all she wanted was this dress for
her child. Really, really sad. And yes, I used to go in
there on a regular basis, well three times a week.
Some people you, you thought ‘Well, why did you do it’? One of my relatives
was quite high up in Social Services elsewhere and he said he loved WRVS,
absolutely loved WRVS clothing stores because their s
taff were being asked for
money and they knew it wasn't being spent on what it was being asked for
whereas they could give them a letter for our clothing store and we would make
sure that they actually got what they are supposed to need. And that they could
use it that way. He, he couldn't sing their praises high enough. So it was a much
needed facility at the time."

  You can find more oral histories and information about clothing stores by serching Archive Online.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 09 April 2018.

Labels: Clothing, Volunteering , WVS, WRVS, School Resources, Social Services

Talking Narrative Reports

As of March 2018, our Archives Assistant Jacob has finished digitising our Narrative Reports from 1938-1945. After digitising almost 74,000 pages, Jacob has agreed to answer some questions about his experiences working on the Kickstarter project.
Tell me what have you have been working on since October 2016? Since October 2016, I have been working on the ‘Hidden Histories of a Million Wartime Women’ project. This project was crowdfunded through Kickstarter and managed to raise £27,724 to fund the digitisation of our Memory of the World inscribed monthly Narrative Reports. I was fortunate enough to have been chosen to carry out this enormous task.

What is the most memorable story or report you have seen while digitising the Narrative Reports? The most memorable story I have come across is a 1943 report from a bombing in Goole. It gives a detailed chronological account of a plane collision that scattered into the town and caused several serious fires. 
Why is this the most memorable story/report? Considering how quickly the WVS responded to the incident regardless of the fact that it was 1 o clock in the morning illustrated how integral they were to British life on the Home Front. I found it quite remarkable how they were able to set up Cooking Centres and provide hot drinks to all 100 of the members of the Home Guard that were on duty. Members of the WVS Housewives’ Service also assisted with the evacuation from dangerous areas. Overall, this report perfectly summarised the many acts of unwavering kindness from the Women in Green.
What has been the most enjoyable part of your role as Archives Assistant? I think the most enjoyable part of my role has been engaging with this wonderful collection.
Why was it enjoyable? It has been enjoyable to know that despite the enormity of the project, people can now read these beautiful documents in the comforts of their own home. The digitisation project has shed new light on some of the most important documents in British history. Being involved with something as significant as this has been very worthwhile indeed.
Give me your top three tips for digitising? I thought you may ask something like this.
Firstly, never fall into the trap that the digital copy is now the more significant document because it can be readily accessed. If the original document is lost or damaged it may never be recovered. However, if the digitised version is corrupted, it can be recopied from the original in the archive.
Secondly, remember to check every single document before it is digitised to ensure it is in the right place. If one item is incorrect, everything else will be put out sync.
Lastly, appreciate the value of the material that you are digitising. If it feels like you are contributing to something much bigger than yourself, it will become a lot easier to sit in a room and take 74,000 photographs…
How can people access these records? They can be accessed through Archive Online on our website. Type in the town/city that you are interested in finding out about and find the link to that year’s Narrative Reports. 1938-1942 have already been uploaded and 1943-1945 are due to be posted in the near future.

Posted by Jacob Bullus at 09:00 Monday, 26 March 2018.

Labels: Digitisation, Access, A Million Women, Review, Blog

Time for Reflection

After beginning digitising the WVS Narrative Reports in October 2016, the size and scale of the project felt almost insurmountable. However, as we slowly move towards slightly warmer weathers, the end of the project has now arrived. We have now managed to digitise the early wartime reports from 1938-1945 and after some extensive totalling, our digital archive now contains over 73,000 pages. Due to this achievement, I felt that it would be necessary to offer an insight into how the project has been accomplished.

Each individual Narrative Report that has been digitised is part of a structure that formed the basis of the WVS. To form this structure, the WVS split up the nation into twelve regions as it allowed them to have a highly effective chain of command. Each region included several counties. For example, Region 5 contained Kent, Surrey, East & West Sussex and the County Boroughs. Within each county, centres were formed in their local areas to encourage women to volunteer and give ‘service beyond self’. These centres provided the organisation with around 2000 monthly reports that represent some of the most important documents in British history.

To retain the quality of our original documents, we have shot the images in RAW and edited them through Adobe Photoshop Lightroom using the tethered capture setting. After taking the photograph, each report has had to be individually cropped to ensure that it is perfectly aligned. Upon completing a series of reports within a centre, the photographs are exported from Lightroom to our digital archive and saved in the archival standard format, TIFF. After each year of reports has been digitised, I have had to watermark each image and convert them into JPEG files. We have chosen this format because it has enabled us to reduce the file size whilst remaining a high degree of image quality. Once all of the files have been converted into JPEG’s, each centre is turned into a PDF/A ready to be attached to the catalogue and uploaded onto Archive Online. On average, it has taken about three months to completely finish one years’ worth of Narrative Reports.

Overall, the project has been a resounding success. For the first time in our 80 year history, we are able to bring these hidden histories into the light that they wholeheartedly deserve. It has been a painstakingly enormous task, but one that feels very worthwhile indeed.

Posted by Jacob Bullus at 09:00 Monday, 05 March 2018.

Labels: Digitisation, Preservation, Access, WVS, Narrative Report, Kickstarter, Project

The Garden Gifts Scheme

The garden Gift Scheme was established in April 1946 to collect seeds, plants and shrubs for the owners of blitzed gardens and those who had been rehoused in prefabs.[1]

As with many WVS post-war activities the scheme was very popular and encouraged those who had been rehomed to plant gardens with gifts collected by WVS from established gardeners and abroad. The scheme asked for flowers; vegetable seedlings; shrubs; trees and hedging plants. If you got in touch with your local WVS they would collect your plants; distribute them to prefab owners in London and other blitzed cities and pay for postage or transit.[2] This was a real moral boosting exercise which resulted in Queen Mary awarding a challenge cup in 1947 for the best prefab garden. The scheme continued into the 1950s although the need for WVS to help gardeners changed.

Due to flooding in 1953 around 30,000 private gardens on the east coast were destroyed. WVS was involved from start to finish, cleansing and fertilising the soil ready for planting. Volunteers then distributed ten tons of Italian grass seed given to England by the Government of Northern Ireland and seeds given by America.[3] They also provided advice including “Don’t apply farmyard manure until all the salt has gone” and “don’t give up hope”.[4] 

It would take a while for the gardens to be ready to take plants, shrubs and seeds but WVS were always ready. They kept the plants at “Transit Nurseries” until gardeners were ready for them.[5] The scheme continued until the late 1950s but WRVS and Royal Voluntary Service maintained their links with gardening and community work in to the twenty first century. This includes befrienders helping with gardens of the people they visit and running men in sheds groups.


[1] RVS Archive & Heritage Collection, WRVSA&HC/WRVS/HQ/PUB/PUB/G-63-002, Report on 25 Years Work 1938-1963, 1963, p.77 [2] RVS Archive & Heritage Collection, WRVSA&HC/WRVS/HQ/PUB/PUB/GG-47-001, 1947 [3] RVS Archive & Heritage Collection, WRVSA&HC/WRVS/HQ/PUB/PUB/G-63-002, Report on 25 Years Work 1938-1963, 1963, p.77 [4] RVS Archive & Heritage Collection, WRVSA&HC/WRVS/HQ/PUB/PUB/GG-53-004, ADVICE TO GARDEN OWNERS IN FLOODED AREAS, 1953 [5] RVS Archive & Heritage Collection, WRVSA&HC/WRVS/HQ/PUB/PUB/G-63-002, Report on 25 Years Work 1938-1963, 1963, p.77

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 19 February 2018.

Labels: Garden Gifts, WVS, Flowers, Queen Mary, Blitz, East Coast Floods