Hull History Centre wins national archive volunteering award

11 September 2013

The judges said: ‘The volunteers have transformed access to and awareness of the hidden history of Second World War Hull and the project has completely changed the way Hull History Centre works with volunteers’.

A project to make publicly available Hull’s Second World War records by using the time and talents of 80 volunteers, has won Hull History Centre the prestigious national Archive Volunteering Award of 2013.

The award will be presented at Hull History Centre on 11 September.

The national award, from the Archives and Records Association (UK & Ireland) and sector partners, recognises work involving volunteers within an institutional archive service. The judges were unanimous in choosing Hull History Centre as the 2013 winner.

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With 93% of houses damaged or destroyed, the Second World War affected virtually every family in the Hull area. The extensive records of the City Council’s departments provide a compelling insight into how the City coped; but these unique and historically rich records were not catalogued and therefore not easily accessible.

With a grant from the National Cataloguing Awards, Hull History Centre staff were able to employ a project archivist to lead the work to catalogue the collection and volunteers were recruited to sort and input more than 70,000 index cards from the Warden Service. A new volunteering process was set up across the Council to develop new processes, policies and procedures to recruit, guide and retain volunteers. The new volunteering approach was piloted through the Second World War project.

After a massive response to the call for volunteers, Hull History Centre offered placements to 80 volunteers on a rolling programme of work. Under supervision, the volunteers cleaned documents, numbered Warden Cards or inputted data. Eight volunteers were also identified to work with children on a new memories project with a local school.

In all, the project benefited from more than 1400 volunteer hours in a single year. Carol Tanner, Access & Collections Manager, who led the project from Hull History Centre: When we secured a cataloguing grant from The National Archives to catalogue Hull’s Second World War records, we had no idea just how successful the project would be. Not only has it enabled us to make accessible records which are arguably some of the most important in the city’s history, but also gave us an opportunity to engage with the community and develop a volunteer programme which has transformed the way we now approach volunteering, not just at the History Centre but across the city council.

The work of Victoria Oxberry, Project Archivist and the dedication and hard work of the volunteers has ensured that the people of Hull who worked so tirelessly to keep the city running during The Second World War will not be forgotten and the records, previously inaccessible, are now available for all to consult.

‘I feel privileged to be involved’ said one volunteer. ‘I would recommend [volunteering] to anybody who wishes to acquire new skills, meet people, or simply get involved with a worthwhile cause’.

The judges were unanimous in awarding the annual volunteering prize to Hull History Centre, praising the sustainability of the new volunteering processes and practices, the impressive outcomes of the project and the very positive impact on the volunteers, who gained skills and confidence.