Special Volunteer edition of the Staffordshire Archives & Heritage Update

Staffordshire Archives and Heritage
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Welcome to the special edition of the Staffordshire Archives and Heritage newsletter to celebrate National Volunteer Week 2019 and the work of volunteers across the Archives and Heritage Service.  


Celebrating our Volunteers

Volunteers support the Archive and Heritage Service on a huge range of projects and tasks across all our sites. Over the last year we have achieved a lot together and we are, as ever, really grateful to our volunteers for their time, efforts and enthusiasm.  To celebrate National Volunteers' Week 2019 we want to highlight some of the many things our volunteers do. Read on to discover more about the different projects taking place and the experiences of one of our younger volunteers.

At the William Salt Library NADFAS have completed their indexing work on the Staffs Advertiser up to 1955 which is quite a massive achievement. Work has taken place on the WSL journal holdings in preparation for the relocation of the collection. Over half of the Library collection is not catalogued so this is a really important and significant contribution to the work of the Library.

Archive Volunteer

Archive volunteer Cerys working on a Quarter Session Roll

At Stoke there are two volunteer groups. The 16th/5th Lancers have spent the year enhancing the Lancers catalogue which will go live in the near future and Michelin whose work has focused on name indexing and summarising the house magazine Bibendum, constructing name indexes, working on photographs and on the other publications of the company.

A number of individual volunteers are working on a wide range of projects. These include indexing the Poor Law Guardians Minutes, researching the location and history of images from the Bert Bentley Archive and uploading them to Pasttrack, auditing and cataloguing the local studies maps received from Newcastle Library and work on the Foxfield Railway Archive.

Museum Volunteer

Museum volunteer Judy making padded coathangers for the historic dress collection

The Museum volunteers are helping the team with inventorying the collections after the move from Shugborough to Beacon Business Park in 2018. Work on exhibition research, collections care and supporting the moves of our new touring exhibitions across the county is all greatly appreciated.

Work has continued to research and digitise postcards and photographs, including the content for the Jake Whitehouse website. These projects have been really successful, with over 500 resources added to the Staffordshire Pasttrack website over the last 12 months, raising the profile of these important collections and making them available to more people.

Volunteers Bob and John working on digitisation projects with the Museum Team

Volunteers Bob and John working on digitisation projects with the Museum Team

At Stafford our Tuesday groups are still going strong. Quarter Session rolls listing continues to progress together with the prosecution briefs, which have been catalogued up to 1915, almost 700 cases. This project shows real dedication. Good progress has been made by the Parish Rights of Way surveys project. The indexing of the Littleton Letters continues and the indexing of building plans for Leek Rural District has been completed. Work continues on the Gothard Diaries.

The digitisation volunteers have completed the CP65 photograph collection and have now made a start on the first two volumes of motor vehicle registration indexes. Amongst many other things volunteers have been working on indexing references to parents of illegitimate children found in the poor law collections with nearly 11,000 entries so far, and putting catalogues on to CALM such as the Hilton Hall Estate papers, the Neville, Jennings and Clifford, solicitors papers and Blagg, Son and Masefield of Cheadle, a large solicitors’ collection.

The preservation volunteers have completed repackaging the Bagnalls Locomotive collection and the Electoral Registers, which they were continuing from last year. They have also repackaged the records of the Philips family and have recently started working on the Glebe Terriers, which require cleaning, putting into date order, numbering and packaging.

Archive Volunteers

Archive volunteers Lesley and Diana

We have a number of projects working in partnership with Universities. Our Flood and Drought Project has now come to an end. Helen (Flood) had two volunteers reading mill leases from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, in total looking at over 200 documents, and transcribing accounts for clay, corn and malt mills in Burton-on-Trent in the early eighteenth century. Alice’s (Drought) volunteers worked through diaries, farm reports, memoranda book and boxes of letters.

On Friday mornings we have been working with Prof. Alannah Tomkins, supported by Dr. Pete Collinge, on the Pauper vouchers in our parish collections. This pilot led to funding for a larger project across the country whilst here in Staffordshire the project has gone from strength to strength, enhancing our catalogues and providing some really interesting stories coming out on the project blog.

The Victoria County History Group has been working with Dr. Andrew Sargent of the VCH and Keele University. The volunteers have been working their way through the volumes of Collections for a History of Staffordshire, pulling out references to the townships and parishes of the Uttoxeter region. 

Work on the Bradford papers continues. Work has been completed on the correspondence of Lord Torrington and has moved on to the early 18th century papers of Judith Bridgeman. Volunteers are researching the 19th century personal papers of members of the Bridgeman family and their predecessors, providing information to improve the catalogue and help researchers. The Wills project has moved on to the period 1600-1609 and the wills index will soon be increased by a further 20 years and a new volunteer project looking at the records of children in care is now underway. 

The Museum Team: Young Volunteers 

A-level student Lucy talks about why she volunteers with the Museum Team. 

"I started volunteering in January after encouragement from my school to seek a work placement around a subject that I love and a profession I could see myself going into in the future.

I am a self-professed history enthusiast and knew instantly that I wanted to work in a museum. However, I was initially a little lost on what to do as I struggled to find a placement that would work around my school hours. When I heard about an opportunity to assist at the Archives and Heritage department at the council I was instantly interested. I have loved working there, thus far, and am so relieved that they were happy to accommodate my hours.

Learning about what actually goes into creating exhibitions and discovering all of the artefacts has been a fascinating and rewarding experience and has only fuelled my passion further, which is why I am now hoping to study History at University. Furthermore, the staff here are genuinely ardent about their jobs and history in general, and it has been a pleasure to get to know them and learn about what goes into planning the projects they do and the amazing impact they have on the local community. They are so welcoming and friendly and have already helped me so much, whether it be teaching me about accessioning or about how the Victorians would make hard boiled sweets!

Furthermore, my connection with the department has led to me being able to borrow equipment for school projects and allowed me to teach other students about what I have learnt here. You may not initially expect a 17-year-old to be volunteering at a museum and yet here I am, and it is one of the best experiences I have had in my life. I would encourage all people of any age to get involved as the opportunities and life skills you gain, like communication and teamwork, are endless and will help you no matter what stage you are in your life."

Volunteer Lucy Dover accessioning new collection items with the museum team

Museum volunteer Lucy accessioning new collection items

Volunteering at the History Access Point in St Mary’s, Lichfield

Settling in to our new home in the HAP, we find volunteers at the heart of our work here in Lichfield. We now have a group of 10 Local Studies Library Volunteers who are working in partnership with the Archive Service to support visitors to the HAP.

Not only have they been a friendly face for anyone visiting, but they have also helped to list the 900 plus books which are housed here. It is hoped that this will help to make the book collection more accessible to both users and staff. Looking to the future, some volunteers have undertaken Family History Training, provided by Rebecca Jackson of the Archive Service, so that they can support users researching their family trees and others have started to explore their research interests, which they hope to share in a variety of ways in the future.

Our team of 10 Staffordshire Place-Name Project volunteers, who began their work at Lichfield Record Office, have also settled in to their new surroundings and are continuing to make great progress with extracting names from the glebe terriers, which cover the 17th to 19th centuries. These volunteers have been collecting historical spellings of place-names that will form the basis of the English Place-Name Society Survey of English Place-Names in Staffordshire. The project runs in partnership with the Institute for Name Studies and the English Place-Name Society.

If you are interested in joining our group of Local Studies Volunteers contact the Library’s Ian Burley - ian.burley@staffordshire.gov.uk - for further details.

Place Name Volunteers at Lichfield

Place Name Volunteers at the History Access Point, Lichfield

Call for new volunteers!

We are looking for volunteers to help us with two new projects. 

Bawdy Courts Project 
Do you have some experience of 16th and 17th century handwriting and would you like to try your hand at transcribing witness statements about scandalous goings on in the community? In slander and matrimonial cases the witnesses at the church court reported in fascinating detail about the dispute. As their testimony was taken down verbatim we get an amazing and unique insight into the way ordinary people led their lives and how they talked. A new volunteer group is starting at the HAP in Lichfield on Tuesday afternoons. Email: jennifer.lewis@staffordshire.gov.uk to find out more. There will be further opportunities coming up to work on this project at Stafford and at Keele as the project progresses.

Staffordshire Asylums Project
The Asylums were huge institutions with the power to shape the lives of the patients that entered their doors. We know a lot about the Asylums and now through this project we want to tell the stories of patients themselves. Do you have an interest in mental health and have you got family history research skills (19th century)? We are looking for volunteers to work with our Asylums project team to research patient biographies for our project blog. The group will meet on Thursday mornings at Staffordshire Record Office, but there is the opportunity to carry out research at home as well. Email stephen.cunniffe@staffordshire.gov.uk.

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