ARA Volunteer Award

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Where would we be without our volunteers?

Volunteering in Archives has grown so much over the last ten years and has in many cases become an invaluable asset for many archive services.

I know that where I work our volunteers are certainly appreciated and much additional work is done that could never even have been contemplated without their valuable contribution and dedication.

One of the ways that we can celebrate our volunteers is through the ARA Volunteering Award.

The idea of the award grew out of the recommendations from the 2009 report, Volunteering in Archives: A Report for the National Council on Archives which is supported by CyMAL: Museums Archives and Libraries Wales, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, and the Scottish Council on Archives.

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The award was designed as a way to encourage national recognition of volunteer’s contribution to archives, and to promote good practice in volunteering and going by the feedback received from past winners it has certainly achieved its objectives and more besides.

Over the past five years the nominations have always been extremely varied. From archives relating to Dance Companies and Rugby Clubs to Universities, Charities and of course Local Government archives. The projects too are innovative and inspiring. In 2010 The Black Cultural Archives put forward their project, The Heart of the Race: Oral Histories of the Black Women’s Movement project. A project whose aim was to collect testimony from a range of Black women involved in the movement for the rights of Black women in the UK, including activism, organising, campaigning and lobbying at a grassroots, national or international level. Last year’s winner the University of St Mark and St John, Plymouth, had a stand out piece of work. Their ‘Connected Catalogue’ provided an opportunity for people with disabilities to engage with archives and heritage activities by a programme of volunteer led displays and exhibitions based on the archives collections.

Anecdotally the two biggest impacts of the award are, perhaps not unsurprisingly, a way to formally recognise volunteers work but also as a tool to promote archive services to parent bodies and the broader public.

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What is remarkable though and what continues to inspire is the pride and joy that volunteers take in contributing to the success of archives and the impact that the award can have on volunteers esteem.

It is also reassuring that the Award is having an impact as evidence for future funding opportunities or promotion of service both internally and externally.

…it was a very useful advocacy tool within my organisation – the award raised the profile of the service, the role of volunteers and the Chinese Archive. It was also a great reward for the volunteers themselves. Manchester Archives and Local Studies winner 2010

I think it helps enormously that Volunteer Managers throughout the Council are using a process and guidance that has been recognised by ARA.  The number of volunteers throughout the Council continues to increase and we are confident that there is a consistent approach to managing volunteers, which makes them feel valued and recognises the support they give.  This approach will be used for Hull’s City of Culture 2017 volunteers.

Maxine Hunter, Partnership Officer, Hull City Council

Winner 2013

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Feedback from the volunteers themselves has also been positive. One volunteer from last year’s wining project who did not complete his education in the 1960s said: ‘I’ve finally got something to be proud of to put on my CV’.

Having attended several of the award celebrations it is safe to say that all the volunteers involved are extremely proud of their achievements and their contributions, however small, to the continued success and profile of the archive they represent.

The award is open to archives across the United Kingdom and Ireland and more information on the award and former winners can be found on the ARA website

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