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Movement and music

Today we all know the importance of keeping fit and moving around at any age. As usually Royal Voluntary Service have a history of pioneering activities for older people before they become popular. In the 1970s WRVS was pioneering Music and Movement classes in local communities One WRVS volunteer who helped with this was Elizabeth Kay. In 2014 I interviewed her for the oral history project Voices of Volunteering. Elizabeth had first joined WVS in the late 1960s to be a speaker giving talks about Drugs, volunteering helped her develop this skill and she gave talks on many other topics which also led to  training as a keep fit instructor skills she used to help WRVS set up local Music and Movement classes in Hounslow. This is Elizabeth’s story in her own words:

“I gave a talk on history of nursery rhymes, and most people didn’t know how nursery rhymes started and why. Oh, and I’d talk about tortoises because my son had a tortoise which I was looking after, again people didn’t know about tortoises and how they were creatures of veneration. When I was in China I went to see this enormous marble tortoise which was a symbol of longevity. So yes as, I did find giving those talks were very interesting and because my husband had died I had to make an income from somewhere and so that’s what I did.

It [WRVS] gave me more that, it gave me more than just, mm, learning to do the drug talks, it gave me a feeling that people liked to listen. … While I was in the WRVS I decided because I was a keep fit teacher, I thought these old people sitting all day in chairs not talking to anybody, long before local authority had started, which they do now, and movement classes.

I went to our local care home and asked the matron there if she’d like me to go in and, and do some musical movement. And so, and I used all the old songs that they knew. Some of them I had to learn, I didn’t know there was a song called He Played His Ukulele As The Ship Went Down,  and I got the songs from these old, I say ‘old people’, I mean heavens some of them are younger than I am now. But, but they were and they sat all day and they did nothing, and so I felt that this was a really good idea. And so I, I went and we used these songs that they knew and we did actions to the songs. Now it’s done, local authorities are doing this all over, but at that time it was quite revolutionary and nobody had done that.

 …

I always wore my uniform and as you can see one or two of them are actually lifting their arms but they used to like singing the songs as well.

That was actually breaking new ground because it hadn’t been done until then. I had a woman who played the piano for me and I went to all kinds of old people’s clubs and she played the piano and I did the movements, mm, and it was, that was then sponsored by the local authority.  

One of them [the Matrons in one of the homes] apologised to me because I used to go in to this particularly [home], if they sit in their living room, the social room, in chairs all around because I used to say ‘Don’t put them in rows, I like them all round me’ because I work to every single one, which I do. And every week when I used to go in one woman used to get up from her chair, look at me and say ‘Stupid cow’ and walk out. And matron said ‘I’m so sorry’. I said ‘Look, if that’s the only exercise she gets all week it’s exercise, don’t worry, she’s moved’.

It was, it was so satisfying because I felt that the, they just loved having somebody to be with them and do these and think about how it used to be when they were young, the songs that they could sing. And we used some wartime songs as well. And before, as I say, I never knew there was a song entitled Three Pots a Shilling which is about a gypsy selling honey from door to door. And I learnt these, I actually looked them up.  I went to Charing Cross Road to the, the archive shop there and looked up all these songs and bought the music so that my pianist could play them for me. And it was great. And then sadly Greta, who was much older, was not able to do the playing anymore and so another, another lady took over and she didn’t need music at all, and it was lovely because she used to play for my keep fit classes.” 

Elizabeth Kay WVS/WRVS Volunteer July 2016
Stories from volunteers really helps to tell the story of Royal Voluntary Service and how volunteering has benefited society in many ways. If you would like to hear Elizabeth’s story or those of many other volunteers in full you can visit Archive Online and search our Voices of Volunteering oral history collection.

You can also listen to the story above on SoundCloud


The second image in this week's blog is taken from WRVS Magazine No.371 December 1970

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 27 August 2018.

Labels: Keep Fit, Music, Movement, older people, WRVS, WVS

Services for the older people of the UK

 After its creation in 1938, the Women’s Voluntary Service’s main focus was the war effort, recruiting women to assist civilians during and after air raids. After the war, however, the aim of the organisation shifted, and more attention was focussed on the older generation. Since then, the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) has worked closely with older people, hoping to improve their lives in every way possible. Today we will look at the achievements of the Royal Voluntary Service and how its efforts have changed over time.



Origins
After realising the ever increasing population in the older generation, the WVS set out to assist them in a number of ways, many of which are exist in some form today. These included Darby and Joan clubs, residential clubs and the Meals on Wheels. Special clubs were set up for old people in a few places during the war, but after seeing its success, the number increased rapidly after 1945. By 1962, there were over 2,000 Darby and Joan clubs, with membership exceeding 150,000. In this friendly atmosphere, the old people enjoyed spending time with each other, dancing and going on regular holidays throughout the year. Mary Curtis, a former club leader who spent 45 years with the WVS, talked about her time spent on holidays with members in 2015 in an interview with Jennifer Hunt. She said that she went in a variety of places across the UK, starting from 1970 – with the last holiday taking place in 2008. These included Morecambe, Llandudno, Newquay, Ayr and Bournemouth. But these places did not come without excitement. “On one occasion our coach skidded off the road and went into a ditch” she quotes, when speaking of a foggy morning in the Isle of Wight. “Nobody panicked” she says and “it was a lovely holiday”.
Residential Clubs were also established, where members would assist permanent staff in homes for the pensioners. By 1963, 23 homes were established by the WVS. As purpose-built flats and bungalows were being provided by the government, the WVS also helped with re-housing the retirees. Some would lay carpets, whilst others would hang curtains, making life easier for people who were moving house.






The changing role of RVS
In 1960, it was estimated that around 12.5% of the country’s population was of a pensionable age. This has since increased to 18%, an increase of over 5 million people. As a result, through the 1970s WRVS established many other services; transport schemes (Country Cars 1974/1975) have also been put in place whereby volunteers undertook thousands of journeys each year and still do, taking people to and from hospital, trips into town or shopping trips, adding to the pleasure of day to day lives and allowing people to be closer to their local community. Other opportunities include the Good Neighbours Scheme (1974), which started as a visiting scheme but has now developed to offer help, whether it’s walking the dog, changing a lightbulb or collecting a pension. Helping an older person in small ways can make life much easier for them. Home library services started in the 1960s but took off in the 1970s. Today, volunteers still bring a range of books, as well as DVDs and CDs to older people who wouldn’t normally be able to get out of the house. In 1992 WRVS became a charity and as a result became more focused on the welfare of older people. The Charity works today to meet the very different needs of older people, including more community focused schemes such as Cafes, Lunch clubs and social events, encouraging people to get out and about and meet new people. In every way we are working to support changing lifestyles and tackle loneliness later in life.



Conclusion

Over the years WVS and WRVS has worked to improve the lives of older people with a range of services including the home library service and befriending. The RVS has adapted to provide for the ever increasing population in the older generation. By introducing and continuing schemes such as the Good Neighbour scheme and Lunch Clubs, the RVS has encouraged people to socialise with one and other, an essential part in anyone’s life that boosts morale and mental wellbeing. The RVS has continued to support the elderly and the Archive holds lots of records about the welfare of older people from 1938 to the present day. This demonstrates our success in providing needs for older people, from 80 years ago and for many more years in the future.


Credit First photograph, R44353/80 - "Old People Dancing" taken by CH Wood, published by the kind permission of Museums and Galleries, Bradford MDC

Posted by Rory Fielding, volunteer at 09:00 Monday, 30 July 2018.

Labels: RVS, Meals on Wheels, Clubs, WRVS, WVS, older people

Welfare for the disabled

Work in the field of welfare for the disabled was part of WVS from the beginning through Health and Hospitals, Meals on Wheels, Clothing, Children’s Holidays and Old People’s Welfare, among other services. In the late 1960s WRVS set up the Welfare for the Disabled Department. This was a reflection on growing public awareness, the requirements of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act (1970) and advances in medical science. WRVS provided many services through the department including clubs, handicrafts, holidays and diversional therapy. In this week’s blog we’ll explore the work of WRVS providing these services.

After the war the welfare state became a prime focus for the nation including social care for those in need of it. As usual WVS was at the forefront of any developments. In 1956 the Government produced the Piercy Report, it considered the rehabilitation of disabled people and accounted for what they could expect from the welfare state. Local Authorities responsibilities included catering “for the social need of the disabled in employment” and meeting “social and occupational needs of other disabled persons”. In some places WVS was already running clubs or helping Local Authorities with their own clubs. WVS also aimed to help people become as self-reliant as possible in their own communities and complete any medical care which would allow them to go home from hospital.

When WVS established Evening Centres in the 1960s to encourage younger people to join the organisation one of the tasks they gave them was to run clubs for the disabled. In London in 1962 the Bermondsey Evening Centre ran a club. Also in the 1960s the WVS Winged Fellowship Holiday Scheme this allowed anyone with a disability to go on holiday. WVS also provided services such as transport to clubs, activities and appointments for example in 1964 WVS in Golborne (Greater Manchester) took a lady who had suffered from polio on a walk (c.1.5 hours one way) and shopping trip to Leigh. Over the years Royal Voluntary Service hasn’t just provided services it has also promoted the latest research into the areas it focuses on. In 1968 WRVS raised awareness about a project at Edinburgh University into access for the disabled.

By the late 1960s WRVs had expanded its role in creating the Welfare for the Disabled Department which included the diversional therapy, reading, letter writing, mobile libraries, visiting, holiday centres and providing flats as part of WRVS’s Housing Schemes. Nationally in the 1970s there was a movement towards care in the community rather than keeping people in institutions, hospitals and psychiatric hospitals. WRVS provided many services which would help people being discharged from these places or moving out as they were closed.  Many of these services listed above were already in place in many departments of WRVS. This included clothing, the department produced a number of publications. The organisation also ran sessions to discuss the clothing needs of people with disabilities.  (WRVS Magazine 1971 p.14)

Through the Children’s Holiday Department WRVS Scotland provided holidays for blind and death children in the Glasgow and Helensburg area. They also informed the world on volunteering work and in 1974 told Japanese visitors, connected with welfare work in Japan, on a visit to HQ about care for older and disabled people in Britain. In the 1980s/1990s WRVS continued with all the services it had gradually been developing for 50 years. This also included arranging riding lessons for children with disabilities as Riding for the Disabled began to establish centres in the 1980s.  In 1992 WRVS established its charity status, with the need to fundraise and changing focus to Hospitals, older people’s welfare and emergencies the Welfare for disabled people’s department faded away. However many of the services it provided for example home libraries, talking books, wheelchair escorts in hospitals and clubs were continued and integrated into the areas it chose to focus on to support the welfare of all and the welfare state as Royal Voluntary Service continues to do today.

Of course in a fortnightly blog there isn’t enough time to discuss the huge amount of work done by Royal Voluntary Service in a single area. This whistle stop tour is here to give you an idea of the work the charity has been doing for society from a time of war to peace and beyond. You can find more detailed information about services we’ve provided on ArchiveOnline, Schools resources and Factsheets page.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 00:00 Monday, 16 July 2018.

Labels: Disabled, WVS, WRVS, Royal Voluntary Service, Welfare, Social care

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

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

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

Scrapbooks the Pinterest of the twentieth Century

Or even the fifteenth century if you count the commonplace book which emerged as a way to compile information such as sketches, poems, documents, recipes, etc. sound familiar?

Pinterest is a web and mobile app, founded in 2009, to enable people to find and collect ideas on various topics. Royal Voluntary Service has its own boards including preserve and bread making and you can find and pin many posts about WVS or WRVS on the site. However this blog isn’t about our history or records on Pinterest; it’s once again time to think what did we do before the internet. How did we collect memories, images and news stories to inspire others and create a record of our own interests? We created scrapbooks of course. 

Scrapbooking is a method for preserving, presenting and arranging personal and family history in the form of a book. Typical memorabilia includes photographs, printed media, and artwork. In the twentieth century WVS/WRVS centres and services made scrapbooks to record their work in a more personal and less official way than the Narrative Report they produced monthly. Of course some of these have made their way to the Archive shelves included in local office collections or as personal donations to the collection. Like any other traditional archive item they need to be preserved but also made accessible here are some of the issues faced by archivists when caring for scrapbooks.

One of the major issues we face is how to preserve scrapbooks which have usually been created using the enemies of the archivists; glue, sellotape and paper full of acid I could go on but there isn’t enough time.  The major issue when preserving a scrapbook is its condition. When it has just arrived in your collection you look inside and some things have come loose. You have to think about how you put it back/mark where it originally belonged; perhaps some corn starch glue of a paper clip but it must be reversible. The book itself may also be fragile and you should handle it carefully proper storage can help with this acid free paper, folders and boxes can be a good start. The condition of scrapbooks may also deteriorate where it contains materials which can cause damage in the future, there are conservation treatments available however in terms of preservation we must constantly monitor the condition of our archives. We do a very good job here at Royal Voluntary Service the memories of service users and volunteers carefully preserved. Today being an archivist appears to be like standing in the middle of a seesaw and trying to balance it perfectly on one side sits preservation, on the other access.

Scrapbooks are a unique way for showing current and future generations the ideas and activities of people in the past while Pinterest boards and digital scrapbooks are easily accessible (for the moment) archived physical scrapbooks often sit on shelves and access means visiting the archive. You may ask why don’t we just catalogue and digitise these collections however there is a major issue here, copyright.

Scrapbooks are often compiled using many different sources of course the creator but then they may have used newspaper articles, publications and other documents whose copyright belongs to someone else so before they can be made publically accessible in a digital format we’d need to gain permission from several different people. Here many of our scrapbooks contents will still be in copyright because are collection is a very modern one (in terms of history). This isn’t the only barrier there is also the question of how this would be hosted and maintained as some digital formats become obsolete but of course were archivists I’m sure we could find a solution. Perhaps a national project called save our scrapbooks (inspired by save our sounds of course) a campaign to preserve these unique insights into history and make them more accessible.

Obviously all traditional archives have similar issues which we have to apply expertise to. As archivists we preserve scrapbooks in our collection and find ways to allow the public access to them. However In the twenty-first century we must also ask how we do this and do we need to start focusing digital equivalents such as Pinterest or even people’s own artwork on their home computers? But this is a blog for another day.

Posted by jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 05 February 2018.

Labels: Scrapbook, Pinterest, WVS, WRVS, Preservation, Access

WVS during the Second World War: Care of the Homeless

It’s been a while since we last looked at the early roles of WVS, so this week I thought we would explore the services provided for the homeless. Due to enemy attack and bombing raids during the Second World War many people were made homeless. The WVS had many solutions to help ease the situation and supplied food, clothing and accommodation to those in need from 1939-1945. There was also assistance provided in the immediate post-war period a WVS began to reshape itself and society. Volunteers were vital in keeping up people’s moral particularly when they were victims of air raids; most of this work took place in rest centres.

In September 1939 WVS was called upon to take a new role care of the homeless, alongside evacuation of children, mothers and under-fives and other vulnerable people. Homes and building were earmarked as rest centres. This was the first place to go for help if you had lost your home before being billeted or rehoused. The phony war did not bring as much evacuation and rest centre work as expected or feared however once heavy bombing started in 1940 WVS swung into action.

Rest centres were mainly established in cities and in some coastal towns with 180,000 volunteers ready to help when needed. In many cases WVS ran the rest centres and maintained them when they were not in use. Services run from the centres included: food, gift from overseas, rations, clothing, bedding and information desks/Citizens Advice Bureaux. This was also an area where WVS showed its innovative and forward thinking side with the development of new schemes to ease the pressure on rest centres in times of crisis this encompassed the following:

“EMERGENCY HOSPITALITY.

The unpleasant possibility of being suddenly made homeless in the night threatens all of us with varying degrees of imminence. The Emergency Shelters, which in many places are staffed and organised by W.V.S. volunteers, have done much to relieve the sufferings of bombed- out victims of air raids, but any scheme which lessens the pressure upon these shelters would obviously be welcomed both by their staffs and those who are forced to seek refuge in them. In one city the workers in the Emergency Shelters have canvassed the householders, suggesting that each household should pair off with friends living not less than half a mile away, so that, if one house is struck, the other affords shelter to both families. The exchange of a small reserve of clothing also spreads the risk of losing the entire family wardrobe. The W.V.S. Housewives' Service has helped to organise this short-term emergency hospitality in several places, and they have been so successful that, in some cases, it has not been necessary to open the Emergency Shelters even after serious incidents.”
– WVS Bulletin April 1941 p.4

A war is won on the success, support and effort provided by the Home Front without vital assistance those who suffered may have lost hope and this would have had negative impact on the battle fields. WVS was fundamental to keeping up moral and continued to provide help to those who lost their homes throughout the war especially during emergencies and bombings in London. The service also included helping to reunite people, families and friends, who had been separated during a raid. Towards the end of the war WVS also saw the need to help those who had lost everything and help them return to some kind of normality. 

Towards the end and after the war there were many people who needed to be rehoused who had nothing to furnish their homes with or plant in their gardens. WVS ran two schemes to help them one of these was the Re-homing Gift Scheme which involved centres in areas which had not suffered serious collecting gifts of furnishings to send to London Boroughs for distribution. WVS helped 100,000 families distributing 8,000 tons of furniture, crockery and hardware. The second activity was the Garden Gift Scheme, established in April 1945 to collect help the owners of blitzed gardens and those who had been rehoused in prefabs. 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.

Care of the homeless was very important to WVS and involved many of aspects of its wartime services and a few post-war. As we have seen this included rest centres, feeding, clothing, Citizens Advice Bureaux, rehoming and gardening. WVS was vital to the war effort, without it who knows how the development of wartime and immediate post-war British society would have been effected.  

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 22 January 2018.

Labels: Second World War, WVS, Homeless, Bombing, Evacuation, rest centre