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Behind the Scenes – The hidden histories of a million wartime women

You’ve enjoyed the stories, you’ve seen the images and you have read all the publicity but how did we get to the stage where we are ready to digitise the diaries telling the story of WVS volunteers during the Second World War? 

Originally the diaries sent to the Archives from the 1950s were stored on folders like those in the photograph.

All the stories of our wartime women were carefully repackaged and catalogued by a team of volunteers with the help of a cataloguing co-ordinator between 2010 and 2014. While repackaging volunteers often enjoy sharing the stories of a million wartime women such as this one from Alton Urban & Rural, Hampshire, February 1943:

A Wedding

‘Last week a wedding by special license took place in one of the villages and in the absence of the Bride’s father and the illness of her mother she specifically asked if she could have a member of WVS in uniform to give her away!!! Is there any vacancy we cannot fill!!!’

The diaries now live in Acid Free Folders and Boxes in our Archive and you can research which areas have surviving diaries by searching our online catalogue.

What’s next?

Our next step is digitisation, the process of capturing objects, paper documents, analogue material and traditional archives in a digital format, such as WAV, PDF or TIFF depending on the item being digitised.

We will be creating high resolution digital images of the documents containing the stories we’ve shared with you and many others using a digital camera. Each document will be captured individually and prepared for online use and research.

Once the collection of 28,000 fragile pieces of paper has been digitised it will be made available for everyone to view on the Royal Voluntary Service website.  This will help to preserve the originals and spread stories like this one around the world:

Hastings, Sussex, May 1944

WVS Clothing Exchange 1st Report. We opened on January 25th, 1944 with an attendance of 5 and with a staff of three helpers. The exchange of clothing from infancy to 16 years covers a wide range. Rapidly increasing numbers necessitated more staff and we are very fortunate in securing keen and enthusiastic helpers.

Great care is taken to see that all clothing brought for exchange is absolutely clean and in good repair.

The total number of names on our register on June 1st is 313 and our clients are so satisfied that they come again and bring their friends.

To find out more about how these records will be made publically available watch our Kickstarter video where Archivist Matthew McMurray explains all.

Thank you

Just over £24,000 has now been pledged thank you to all those who have supported us already and spread the word through social media but we still need help to reach £25,000. If you would like to help us achieve our goal please pledge at Kickstarter Hidden histories of a million wartime women or spread the word and support our Thunderclap.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 30 May 2016.

Labels: Kickstarter, million women, Hampshire, Sussex, diaries, digitisation