Heritage Bulletin blog
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the start of a New Year and perhaps for some the start of some New Year’s
resolutions. If one of those is researching a new project or discovering
something new we can help. In this week’s blog we provide a guide to using our
online resources to research the history of Royal Voluntary Service.
From an in-depth
analysis to a short overview of the history and origins of some of the charities most enquired about services.
fact sheets can be found on the Royal Voluntary Service website and include
- Hidden Histories of a Million Wartime Women - kickstarter updates
- Welfare work in
hospitals 1938 - 2013
- Origins of WVS
- WVS Housewives'
- One in Five
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
mentioned above we have the Voices of Volunteering 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 is a
very handy list of some of the collections held in our Archives which you can
find on the Archive & Heritage Collections page.
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. There is also access to the six volumes of the Heritage Bulletin printed between 2010 and 2012 which provide a variety of stories about
WVS and WRVS.
or not Social Media can be a fantastic resource for research and finding out
about what we hold in the collection that may not be found on the main website
pages. As well as a number of Facebook and Twitter posts we have also created a
small number of vlogs and videos on YouTube and podcasts and oral history clips
- The Hidden History of a Million Wartime Women
- A history of Uniform
- Three Heritage Bulletin Blogs
- Two 80th Anniversary Films
- Coloured Thread
- Archives and Motives
- Women in Green on the Silver Screen
- Clothing Store (Oral History)
- The Gift of Time
- Bromham Hospital Fire (Oral History)
been through our extensive collection of secondry sources and finding aids you
may want to look at some primary material. 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.
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! We searched for New Year
there were 497 results including this 1963 New Year message from Lady Reading.
Enquiry Service and visiting
Of course if you are in need of help or can’t find what you are
looking for you can contact us through our enquiry service. Also if you are a
researcher and are interested in visiting the Archive & Heritage Collection
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.
We hope this brief
outline of what we can offer has given you food for thought and some New Year’s
Year from all of us at the Royal Voluntary Service Archive & Heritage
Learning to structure a catalogue for an accession at the Royal Voluntary Service
In my last blog
I wrote about my first experience of the accession process, for the
Royal Voluntary Service Archives & Heritage Collection, as I unpacked the
extensive records of the Ebley Silver Threads over 60s Club, that had been collated
by Mary Curtis the leader of the Gloucestershire Club from 1966 to 2008. In
this month’s blog however I turn my attention to my first encounter of structuring
and cataloguing, which began after the receipt of a signed gift agreement from
the collection custodian to transfer the documents to the archive.
The first step
was to design a suitable structure, so that the collection could be
incorporated into the searchable archive, based on the initial review of the
contents. It would have been a daunting task were it not for the helpful
beginners guide to hierarchical archive structures, included in volume 6 of the WRVS Heritage Bulletin, and the comprehensively mapped out catalogue
structure helpfully pinned to the archive storeroom wall. In the course of
reviewing the documents it had become apparent that despite the inclusion of
the personal records of Mary Curtis, detailing her association with the WRVS over
46 years, it should be classified as the records of a local office as it
covered the activities of the Stroud and Gloucestershire group over an
This meant that
the collection Fonds (WRVS) and Sub Fonds (LO) levels of the catalogue structure
were quickly in place, and the Series based on the location of the activity
could be determined. As Ebley is situated in the Stroud region of
Gloucestershire the question was therefore only whether the village was in the
rural or urban area. Surprisingly however, this was not a straightforward
answer as it appeared to be referenced both ways, but ultimately it was decided
that it was most often classified as being in the Stroud Urban District and so
the Series abbreviation was settled upon (STD UD). An abbreviation of Ebley
Silver Threads over 60s Club could then be slotted easily into the Sub Series
catalogue structure only needed to be developed into Files, Sub Files and if
appropriate Items. To aid this construction process a large sheet of paper was
found and an outline of what the collection should look like was mapped out
from the notes taken during the preliminary review.
As the bulk of
the collection was made up of the photographic records of the week long Club
holidays around the United Kingdom, which many members of the Club participated
in between 1970 and 2007, this became the first File (HOL) with the individual
locations as Sub-Files. This meant that the Sub File abbreviations could adopt
an existing structure used elsewhere in the archive. Other Files were also
incorporated for the Club Activities (ACTV) which were not associated with the
holidays, such as Easter Bonnet making or the more frequent activities such as
Christmas parties and day trips. For Member linked activity (MEMB) such as
gatherings for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and departures another File
As a WRVS Local
Office there were also circular notices (CN) and regional publications (PUB) to
include (which would have a wider relevance within the archive) as well as the
Club records such as meeting minutes (MIN), general administration (ADMIN),
finance (FIN), publicity (PBY). All of these were references which had been
created previously in other catalogued projects and consequently the
utilisation of them for this collection helped maintain consistency across the
also needed to be space to incorporate the personal records of Mary Curtis
(CURM). This File included Sub-Files for all the letters and correspondence
(CORR), newspaper cuttings (NEWS), ideas and reminders (NOTES) she accumulated
in her role as Club Leader, as well as the recognition (AWARD) she received
over the course of her work with the older citizens of Ebley from 1962 to 2008,
as a dedicated member of the WRVS.
structure was complete the processing could begin with items carefully gathered
together and referenced in accordance with the entry into the archive catalogue
(CALM). Throughout this process the original order of the collection was
maintained in the physical files. Whilst the majority of the documents received
were incorporated into the catalogue, with only those not connected to the WRVS
Club or which were available in other archives excluded, only a selection of
the photographs from each of the holidays were included. No restrictions were
placed on how many photographs could be included in the final catalogued
collection but images were selected based on content or if annotations had been
added. Overall the selected photographs for cataloguing were those which it was
felt could visually record, describe and place the activities of the Club.
I have now
finished processing this accession (phew!) and the catalogue records will be
online next time we update the Archive Online pages. Until then I will be
applying my new skills to the Aylesbury Local Office Collection!
It’s been a while since we updated the online catalogue but never fear the archive team have been working hard to tackle the backlog and bring you more interesting and exciting records.
Cataloguing is one of my favourite activities as the Deputy Archivist I have been able to work on a few different projects over the past twelve months. The first was cataloguing the Central Registry files relating to the Good Neighbours scheme. The files contain information about how the scheme was set up in each region of WRVS in the 1970s and policy for the service. You can find them be searching Good Companions in the Keyword field (the schemes original name) and Central Registry in the category field of the advanced search.
Another series which I catalogued in six weeks (one day per week) and thanks to funding from Leeds Beckett University was the Circular Notices. This is a series of letters/memorandum circulated to regional administrators, county and county borough offices and all members from 1938-1974. They cover a wide range of topics from the ARP Animals Committee, Assistance for evacuees & Homeless Persons, WRVS Information Desks-Wimbledon and the Books On Wheels Film. In fact most of the services you associate with WVS/WRVS plus a few more can be found in these files. Search Circular Notice in the category field of the advanced search.
Our Archivist spends most of his time working hard to promote and develop the archive however during those rare quite periods he does get the opportunity to catalogue. This time he has chosen the ominous Miscellaneous Memoranda collection (yes I know a naughty word in archives). This series is made up of documents detailing wartime and post war work of WVS including the Personal Parcels Scheme, The Volunteer Car Pool and Rationing - Notes Compiled for Mrs Roosevelt. Search Miscellaneous Memoranda in the category field of the advanced search.
I can’t believe it’s been over 3 years since I was working on the project to catalogue all the reports written between 1938 and 1965. Now because of the wonderful support of 705 Kickstarter backers the reports written between 1938 and 1942 our Archives Assistant has now digitised and published the reports with their catalogue records. They can be downloaded by clicking on the red PDF icon where available. More Narrative Reports will be added to the catalogue by April 2018. You can access digital copies of the narrative Reports through our online catalogue searching your local area or county.
In March we brought you the blog What the does the Deputy Archivist get up to on Wednesdays? This discussed the work that went into cataloguing our large and varied collection of publications. Over the course of nearly 80 years Royal Voluntary Service has been producing publications to advertise their services and appeal for volunteers. The catalogue records for over 1000 leaflets, booklets, posters, cards, bookmarks and certificates are now available to search online. Using the advanced search look for services in the keywords field or the different types of publication in the category field.
The Archive team including our dedicated volunteers will continue to catalogue more material including photographs and local office material, so watch this space. If you have any quires about material in the collection please contact our enquiry service.
Nettles and broken gramophone records, just a couple of the things we don’t search for very often in the collection however this month both cropped up in our Twitter and Facebook accounts. Both were collected by WVS during the war, nettles for medicinal purposes as much needed herbs and gramophone records for recycling; at the time they would have called this salvage. Inspired by our social media posts and some comments from our followers I decided to embark on some research in the collection. I wanted to find out about Royal Voluntary Service’s relationship with nettles and gramophone records. This is what I found
If you type in the word nettle or nettles into the catalogue you will find 3 mentions in the Bulletin between 1943 and 1969.
In 1942 WVS started to collect much needed herbs for medicinal purposes to assist with the war effort. In that year, nationally, they collected 60 tons of the herbaceous perennial flowering plant. Along with dandelion leaves, burdock leaves/roots and elder flowers to name a few it was considered to be of secondary purpose but I’m sure they were collected with just as much enthusiasm as rose hips or valerian root. Nettles along with some other herbs don’t really get a mention after the war however they are referred to in the Bulletin in August 1960.
The article A London Herb Garden written by a Bon Viveur describes in detail the plans for a garden at a decrepit Georgian house in Blackheath. Part of the article discusses what the herbs they grow will be used for. This includes Cumberland and Westmoreland herb puddings a recipe which includes bistort and “nettles of course!” Today, I don’t think we always associate nettles as being useful or something we would consume and of course they can always feature in a well told story like MUM’S STAND-IN from March 1969.
[I] hoped that the recipients would tolerate my inexperience and help me out, which of course they did and if they felt any surprise that their regular helper wasn't there they never expressed it and perhaps enjoyed initiating a young stranger in the rituals of delivering Meals on Wheels. First problem-to find the right door-at No. 5 . . . Place. The slippery brick path lies between nettles on one side and rows of dustbins on the other side and the latch of the gate round the bend to the left is held by string, but the peeling kitchen door is ajar and the matches actually are behind the Ajax, and Mrs. D. seems really pleased to see the steaming steak and kidney pie going into the oven and the fruit and custard on a plate on the table. … But it is very hard to get away quickly from the flats for Mrs. F. is giving the baker's roundsman a cup of tea and she hurries to find another cup for me, but eventually reconciles herself merely to pressing two peppermints into my hand to help me on the way. Bang goes my diet!
This segment from an Oxford Narrative Report mentions broken gramophone records being collected for salvage. According to other sources this was for recycling into new records. However a quick search for gramophone records in the collection shows the WVS didn’t just collect broken ones for salvage. Those in Good condition were obtained for troop canteens, book depots and a Gramophone lending library at Scottish Headquarters.
You can read the rest of the Article from the Bulletin September 1944 online.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this odd assortment of stories about two completely unrelated topics and perhaps you’ll be inspired to conduct your own search of the online catalogue. Happy hunting!
In archives there is always a crew of Archivists and volunteers working below decks to bring you buried treasure. Here at the Royal Voluntary Service Archive & Heritage collection it is no different and recently we dug up some more of our archives and hoisted them on to our online catalogue for you landlubbers, why not take a look through the telescope at:
The stories of volunteers from 1938-2015 in their own words, find out what it was like to be a WVS/WRVS volunteer by listening to:
Judith Kenna chat about clothing stores in Cheshire and Leicestershire
Maureen Hall discuss taking the members of a Darby and Joan Club on holiday
Ann Greeves harks back to tea bars at Royal Sussex Hospital
Kathleen Ashburner tell the story of the autumn club she ran for 45 years
Jenny Hincks reminisce about Meals-on-Wheels rounds
Alison Findlay talk about the Perth Floods of 1993
There are now another 388 photos from our collection dating from c1990 to 2013 these include:
Delivering a meal by helicopter to St. Michael's Mount, Cornwall. Taken on 06/10/1999
An event for National Meals on Wheels Day volunteers delivered Meals by helecopter. The phot was published in Action Magazine in 1999.
Aye the ship’s crew has more to add so keep a look out.
WRVS Association News
Take a gander copies of the WRVS Association News from 1975-2013, they reveal all the activities of the WRVS Association an organisation for retired members of WRVS formed in 1973. In November 1975 they reported that:
Members may like to know that at WRVS Headquarters in the Archives Department there are now many items of historical interest, as well as reports and letters of importance. The members of the Department would be delighted to show them to any members of the Association who would care to see them. It is possible that some Association members may hold letters or reports of their own which are of lasting interest, and WVS/WRVS Association would be very glad to have then if they can be spared.
Local Office Material
Over the last few years our crew have been busy cataloguing records from local offices in different areas of Great Britain. Now you can search the material we hold on Ipswich WVS/WRVS on our online catalogue including theEmergency Services Suitcase from the 1980s pictured here which would have contained paperwork, tabards and many other things ready for any emergency in the area.
Next time we reveal more of our gold we hope to make our local office material for the North East of England available to search.
You can search our treasure trove at catalogue.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/calmview