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The simplest ways to make the best of Royal Voluntary Service’s Heritage Collection

Welcome to this month’s heritage bulletin blog, it’s a little bit later than usual but it is holiday season and we have been working on some exciting projects; more on that in future blogs. This month we thought we would discuss the best ways that you our readers can use the Heritage Collection. We will explore what resources we have, what help we can offer and give examples of how our heritage has been used in the past.


ArchiveOnline is a fully searchable catalogue contains listings, many with preview images of a selection of historical material housed in our Archive & Heritage Collection. It is also the gateway to our digital, downloadable version of all 419 issues of the WVS/WRVS Bulletin from 1939-1974, over 60 Oral Histories and the 84,000 pages of the WVS Narrative Reports 1938-1945.
There is also a guide available to help you use our extensive catalogue; Guide to searching the Archive Online.
Why not have a go at running a search and see what you can find!

Read our fact sheets and tell us if you think there is topics we should include

From an in-depth analysis to a short overview of the history and origins of some of the charities most enquired about services.
More detailed fact sheets can be found on the Royal Voluntary Service website and include among others:
• Hidden Histories of a Million Wartime Women - kickstarter updates
• Welfare work in hospitals 1938 - 2013
• Origins of WVS
• WVS Housewives' Service
• One in Five

On our school resources pages Voices of Volunteering you’ll also find brief overviews of many services including among others: ·
• Books on Wheels
• Clothing Depots
• Good Neighbours
• Lunch Clubs
• Services Welfare

While we have an extensive rage of factsheets if you’re looking for information on a particular topic please let us know.

Read past blogs and follow us on social media

As you are already doing you can keep up to date with the Archive and find out about the history of the Charity in this blog. An archive of these blogs is also available on the right of the page.

Also we are very active each week on Twitter and Facebook, why not follow us to keep up to date.

Ask us a question

We are here to help and answer all your questions about our history and our Heritage Collection. If you have a burning question for us then get in touch and email us archive@royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk.

Visit us

If you have many many questions needing an answer or researching a particular topic in depth then why not come and visit us, the collection is open by appointment only the first Tuesday and Wednesday of each month, 10:00-16:00 (closed for lunch between 13:00-14:00). To ensure we can provide a high standard of service, access is by appointment only and we ask that these are made at least a month in advance. You can find more information here about this service.


Of course we all assume the traditional archive audience is academics, historians (of different disciplines depending on your archive) and genealogists. Archival audiences are also those who have traditionally been represented by them. I could in site the usual pale, male and stale but I know from personal experience this simply isn’t true. In 2015/16 we used our oral histories, publications, photographs and documents to create the Voices of Volunteering School Resources. These resources are for teachers to use with students age 14+ studying Citizenship, PHSE, English language and History or who are involved in extracurricular activities such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award. Titled Citizenship and Service, the activities and oral histories illustrate to students the significance of volunteering through the volunteers’ own eyes and how volunteering has adapted to the changing needs in society. The resources are available free for all. Visit Voices of Volunteering: 75 Years of Citizenship and Service.

There you have it six of the simplest ways to make the best of Royal Voluntary Service’s Heritage Collection. Hopefully you’ll try some of them if not all of them out in the near future. Of course there are other ways you can use the Heritage collection and perhaps you will let us know how you have been using it.

Posted by Jennifer HUnt, Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 08 July 2019.

Labels: Archive Online, School Resources, Social Media, Visit, Enquiry, Blog

Navigating through the Narrative Reports

As already discussed in a previous blog, Updating the online catalogue, we have just released the digitised copies of the diaries (1938-1942) from the Hidden Histories of a Million Wartime Women project collectively known as the Narrative Reports. To ensure that everybody has the opportunity to read them, this trusty guide should hopefully help you navigate your way through the thousands of diaries that are available to read online. Before discovering this endless historical source, I advise topping up the midnight oil!

The first stage is to go to the Archive Online page. I would then suggest clicking on Advanced Search as this will help you find your area of interest a lot easier. Due to the geographical nature of the collection, the easiest way to find a diary that will interest you is to search for a town, city or county. Enter your chosen area into the keyword(s) section, (Bath, for example) and then select Narrative Report from the drop down menu in the category section. After clicking search at the bottom of the page your choice of centre should hopefully appear.



If your centre of choice does appear in the search result, it will be listed chronologically. It is important to remember that not all centres were established in 1938, so some places may not have records from the earliest years. Nevertheless, click on your chosen year of preference (I am sure you will end up reading every year anyway) and scroll down to the section named Media Download.

This is where you will find the wonderful stories of the WVS. Simply click on the PDF link and a document containing all the reports for that year will be available to read as many times as you like. Each report has been individually photographed and cropped using our editing software to ensure that you get the best reading experience. I hope that this guide will help you navigate through the abundant memories of the WVS. If you are experiencing any problems or you are have difficulty accessing the Narrative Reports, please contact our enquiry service. We are only too happy to help you read though this unique collection of stories and volunteer experiences.

To help encourage you to start perusing the wealth of the Narrative Reports, here is an interesting little snippet describing the instructions for air raid precautions from a local Housewives’ Section meeting that took place in the city of Bath on 13th July 1942.



Posted by Jacob Bullus. Archives Assistant at 09:00 Monday, 31 July 2017.

Labels: Narrative Report, Bath, WVS, Archive Online