Volunteering for Archive and Archaeology Services
Volunteer Case Studies
Worcestershire County Council's Archive and Archaeology Service has welcomed volunteers for a number of years, and has benefited greatly from their skills, their experience and their time.
In Archives and Archaeology volunteers assist with:
- Community events
- Indexing of archives, including wills, electoral registers etc
- Washing and marking finds from archaeological excavations
- Scanning photographs and documents for the Historic Environment Record
- Research projects
- Fieldwork projects
The projects undertaken add significant value to the service that we are able to provide.
Volunteers offer their time for a wide-range of reasons, from pre-career experience to the opportunity to pursue an interest following retirement.
What volunteers do
David Pitt works with the service regularly and is involved in all aspects of finds processing, including washing, marking and storing of artefacts. He has also experienced sieving environmental samples.
"I have had a long-standing interest in local archaeology, and I am a member of the South Worcestershire Archaeological Group.
"I became involved in practical archaeology when I took part in the Hanley Castle Community Dig, which led to my working as a finds volunteer with Worcestershire Archaeology. I am hoping that as a volunteer I can gain wider experience in archaeology, including more fieldwork.
"I get satisfaction from making a contribution to local archaeology, adding to the knowledge of sites in the county. I have realised that an archaeological project has a lot of infrastructure, and I am pleased to be able to make a contribution to this.
"For me the attraction of archaeology is of gaining one experience after another, while always seeking to learn.'
Paul, for example, said that he was looking for a project to keep his mind active following retirement. He said:
"Having had an interest in archaeology, but not had the time to pursue it, I decided to become a volunteer."
Others are looking for experience prior to starting a career in the heritage sector. For Paul, volunteering with the team is 'a great experience.
"Staff are willing to impart their knowledge and experience in a friendly manner. This has given me the confidence to get involved in community projects in addition to continuing my volunteering work in The Hive."
Pete White has volunteered with the service since 2007 and, as he has strong research and IT skills, mostly works on enhancing information to go into the Historic Environment Record (HER). This has included:
- Checking and updating the parks and gardens data in the HER
- Scanned hundreds of black and white photographs of Redditch
- Research projects, the results of which are transferred into the HER
Pete says that he volunteers for two reasons:
"Firstly I want to give something to the community and something back to the local authority which has given much to me as a citizen over the years. Secondly, I feel that I can make a difference as I can do work which needs doing but for which there is no funding.
"Volunteering gives me the opportunity to rub shoulders with highly knowledgeable and skilled individuals from whom I can learn much. They a great bunch of people. This in turn provides me with mental stimulation and keeps the grey matter active - activity essential now I am retired. And what is more they make excellent coffee!"
Ann Peach has volunteered with Archive and Archaeology for a number of years and is currently assisting our Conservator to ensure that the records we look after today are available for researchers well into the future. With 12 miles of archives to care for and no on-site conservator for nearly 30 years there's no shortage of work!
Ann is helping to make 'bespoke' boxes for large volumes that are currently wrapped in acidic brown paper that is potentially damaging for the items inside. Volumes are rarely of the same size, so careful measuring and cutting is required to ensure a good fit.
Ann enjoys this work because 'It is a chance to help preserve the memories of the past and as I have always had an interest in history, volunteering at the local archives seemed an ideal way of using my retirement with something practical and hopefully useful.'
Ruth Jeffries is also undertaking conservation work, this time cleaning Quarter Sessions Documents, in advance of their being listed and re-boxed. Soft brushes and a 'smoke sponge' are used to remove years of accumulated dirt, making the documents more enjoyable to use. Cleaning also contributes to the longevity of the documents as the dirt contains compounds that can potentially damage the documents – not a very glamorous task, but one that is very important and often overlooked with many competing conservation demands.
Ruth Jefferies volunteered to help clean up old documents because she loves to handle links with the past. Ruth says that she hope someone in the future will enjoy finding bits of information about their ancestors from papers she has helped to preserve
Paul Hudson, learning and outreach manager:
"We really appreciate the help volunteers provide and we enjoy seeing them every week."
Lisa Snook, user services manager:
"I am really thrilled with the volunteers and what they do for us is incredible."
Become a Volunteer
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer with the archive service and want more information about what to do next please contact Dr Lisa Snook on LSnook@worcestershire.gov.uk or 01905 844926 or visit our Archive Volunteers webpage.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer with the archaeology service and want more information about what to do next please email WorcestershireArchaeology@worcestershire.gov.uk or telephone 01905 765908.
Friends of Worcestershire Archives
'To find out more about the work of the Friends of Worcestershire Archives and for information on joining, please see their website http://www.fwarchives.org.uk/.