Volunteering at Gloucestershire Archives
A Short Guide
Volunteers are recruited in a variety of ways; through social media campaigns, through opportunities uploaded to the “Engage in Gloucester” website (part of the national Volunteer Makers scheme), through word of mouth, through our own web pages and from people coming forward and contacting us direct to offer their time.
After making contact, each volunteer has an informal interview with the Community Heritage Development Manager, and another member of staff – this could be the Archives Development Manager or the member of staff who will be supervising them.
At any one time we can have between 150-200 volunteers, although not all of them may be active at the same time, and some dip in and out of volunteering. Some will have volunteered on time limited tasks, and move from project to project, according to priorities identified by Gloucestershire Archives’ staff. Some (for example those who work full time) may only be available during holidays or on Saturdays. And a very small number volunteer for us remotely. Some volunteers leave after completing the specific project they were recruited for, or some simply take a break between projects.
For every volunteer task there is a written Volunteer Role Description, and we have about 15 of these. Volunteer Role Descriptions will expand as more volunteer tasks are identified.
Volunteers engaged in various tasks
Volunteer roles include: transcribing, specific project work, cataloguing, conservation (such as cleaning documents), gardening, inputting data on to excel spreadsheets, acting as a search-room buddy to new users, indexing, events assistant and a range of other such roles.
Occasionally we have to turn prospective volunteers away (usually asking them to contact us again in 6 months), and this is because all of our volunteer opportunities are fully subscribed. Although we don’t like doing this, we can usually suggest alternative heritage organisations in Gloucester that a prospective volunteer could approach if they so wish.
Volunteers are entitled to claim reasonable volunteer travel expenses, although this is for public transport or mileage only, rather than for taxis. And most volunteers tend to come in once a week, for half a day or a whole day, depending on preferences. We have a large car park where volunteers can park for free.
Each volunteer has a named supervisor, usually a member of staff. And each volunteer is given a welcome pack which includes a Volunteer Agreement form which is signed by the volunteer and his/her supervisor, or the Community Heritage Development Manager. The Volunteer Agreement is taken from the Volunteer Handbook, available to read online at www.gloucestershire.co.uk/archives, or on request.
Gloucestershire Archives has a Volunteering Policy in place, and this is also available online or on request. It is reviewed and/or amended at least every 3 years.
Some basic induction training in how to complete their task is given to volunteers, as well as being shown around the site. Sometimes, volunteers work as a small group so that they can easily support each other. Occasionally, volunteers will be offered a place on one of our in-house training sessions (e.g. on palaeography, the ability to read old handwriting) so that they can learn more about how to undertake their allocated task.
Volunteers generally work in the research room, or the Hockaday Room (one of the project rooms). Volunteers become a customer of the archives, and are provided with an ARA card, to show they are a member (photo ID and proof of address should be given in order to qualify for the ARA card). Lockers and coat racks are provided, for bags and coats, as these are not allowed into the search room and project rooms.
The Hockaday Room and the Search room
We have some laptops and desk top PCs for volunteers to use, although we do ask some of our volunteers to bring in their own laptops if they have one.
Occasionally we arrange a volunteer survey, and this is your opportunity to tell us what you think about volunteering for us. You may have suggestions to make or criticisms, and we always like to find out what benefits you feel you get from volunteering.
We could not do as much as we do without the generous and consistent support of all of our volunteers. For this reason, we have annual thank you event, either at the end of the summer or at Christmas, such as an afternoon tea, to thank everyone who gives us their time, and all volunteers are invited.
Volunteers tea party held in the Dunrossil Centre
In 2019 we won the national ARA (Archives & Records Association’s) Volunteering Award.
The award trophy and certificate and some of the volunteers who attended the award ceremony at Llanthony Secunda Priory, Gloucester
We also like to monitor the number of hours given to us each year by volunteers, and if we had to put a figure on this we believe our volunteers donate the equivalent of over £200,000 each year in terms of the monetary value of their work.
The general principles in this document also apply to those who come to us as interns, or for work experience.
All volunteers, interns and those on work experience are covered by our employer’s liability insurance, and risk assessments are carried out where required (e.g. for school students under the age of 18 years).
Volunteers are a valuable and very much appreciated resource, and they contribute in a variety of ways to making Gloucestershire Archives more welcoming and accessible to our users.
Sally Middleton – Community Heritage Development Manager