North East Volunteer Debate
The North East Group met on 29th of October (only taken me a month to write this up!), to discuss the volunteer theme set out by the North West group.
We found fairly similar themes occurring. Some variations of these were that group members would not have gone on to become archivists if they hadn’t gained volunteering experience. As with the North West group it was recognised that taking time out of education or full time employment to volunteer is difficult. However, we did note that it’s a valuable way of discovering what you are interested in within the sector. It was found that Archive and Records Management courses can affect why people take time out to do volunteer work. For example, one of our participants worked in records management but was told they weren’t eligible for the course because of their lack of experience in archives. They then had to take time out to fulfil this requirement through volunteering.
There were a lot of opinions about work with volunteers, and the different types of volunteers that get involved in archive work, such as social volunteers, as discussed by the North West, volunteers with specific subject interests, those gaining new skills for their CVs, volunteer groups like NADFAS, and retired archivists! This led us to chat about how they all bring different skills and expertise that can enhance our work, but also the other side to this that they may be a hindrance to an archivist trying to get specific work completed. We talked about how volunteers are managed within institutions and the difficulty of offering training to everyone and being available to help and be hands on all the time.
We also discussed the “devaluing” of the profession and came to similar conclusions to the North West.
Another interesting side was the role of Community Archives and the volunteers that run them. We discussed how these archives are enriching and can benefit from professional guidance. Specifically, we talked about the West Yorkshire Archive Project http://nowthen.org/ and how they reach out to these communities to offer advice, while these are run purely through volunteer involvement. This discussion extended to the issues of Community Archives and their sustainability because most are created and led by volunteers.