Tag Archives: volunteer

Volunteers’ Week

Volunteers’ Week is a national celebration of the contribution millions of people make every year through volunteering.

At Westminster Archives we are lucky to have a wonderful team of volunteers, who have helped with a whole range of projects on our collections including research, indexing, cataloguing, education projects, and running events. There are also a large number of volunteers who have assisted our Conservator, Georgia, in our conservation studio.

This year some of our conservation volunteers have shared their motivations for volunteering and experiences with us.

We are so grateful for their time and look forward to welcoming them back to the archives in the future.

conservation volunteers4

Volunteers cleaning a map in the studio

Following retirement, I wanted to do something a million miles away from what I had been doing before (medicine). The opportunity came to volunteer in the conservation department of Westminster City Archive and without any previous experience I walked up to the fourth floor soaked and windblown from a sudden shower to meet the team. Nearly five years later, I still look forward to meeting Georgia and friends on Thursdays to clean, sew and repair the variety of documents that await our attention. Each time, I come away with another little piece of Westminster history in my head and a spring in my step. Thank you Georgia.

Mary Clarke

 

I started volunteering every Thursday at the archives last year. I didn’t really know what to expect and thought volunteers might just be dogsbodies while “real” staff did all the interesting work! That’s not the case at all. I was thrilled to find that Georgia encourages all the volunteers to be hands-on in learning how to clean and repair documents, some of which haven’t been seen for many many years. A few of them, like Victorian vestry letters, are frankly dull, but others like a collection of postcards sent to a young soldier on the Western front from a variety of different girlfriends, are touching and eye-opening. There is always something new and interesting to find out, which makes my volunteering experience really rewarding. I have always been interested in history, and at the archives history comes alive through the papers we work on. This voluntary work even inspired me to sign up for a paper conservation and bookbinding course.

Rachel Simhon

conservation volunteers3

Volunteers cleaning volumes in the studio

 

I enjoy volunteering in the conservation studio of Westminster Archives because of the variety of preservation programmes and for getting involved in preparing community engagement projects. So many of them during my time with Georgia. On Thursdays along with a big group of other volunteers, we are making joyful noises chatting and giggling, while we are working on the collections. It is a rewarding experience giving me a sense of life satisfaction by offering to the community.

Gloria Frankel

 

As a Friend of the WCA and having attended many events held by the Archives, I decided that I would like to volunteer with them in the conservation department. Georgia and the team are wonderful to work with and the atmosphere is very calm and educational. Georgia has taught me how to conserve documents and I started work on a collection of theatre programmes and magazines from the 1950’s. It was like stepping back in time and reliving part of my childhood, seeing photographs of the younger Bruce Forsyth and reading an article on an up and coming stage designer; Barbara Hepworth no less. I’ve watch as much older books and documents are lovingly preserved and then made available for the general public to view. Working in the department has given me new skills and knowledge in a very friendly and welcoming environment.

Johanne Enright

conservation volunteers5

Volunteers and public on the conservation roadshow which toured round our libraries

I have enjoyed being a paper conservation volunteer for a long time. Georgia’s regular volunteers are a friendly and inclusive group with a love of London and an interest in its history. We enjoy not only the work, but also in meeting new people, especially the international students who spend part of their UK study time learning paper conservation skills from Georgia who also holds a training refresher day each year for us to ensure we maintain standards and don’t get into bad habits. This past year we have worked on some fascinating material held by Westminster Archives, in particular the Parish records of St Margaret’s including the workhouse records. We cleaned and repaired the apprentice bonds, learning at the same time about the diverse trades the workhouse youth were sent to be trained in, for example I was surprised at the number of apprentice fishermen needed in Wandsworth. We also found that London children were sent as far away as Yorkshire to work in the mills, but were not forgotten as agents of the workhouse were instructed to interview the children on their own to find out truthfully how they were being treated. I’m looking forward to being able to return to volunteering and also attending again the interesting visits and tours organised by Georgia.

Sue Gardner

 

My volunteering in the conservation studio of Westminster Archives has been a positive experience. After my retirement, I have started volunteering as I love history and I wanted to give something back to the community; the experience has been truly rewarding! Georgia placed me in a suitable group with like-minded people, and since then, I have learned new skills through appropriate training, I have improved my English and made new friends. The environment is friendly, yet professional and I am happy to go back every week, to help preserve Westminster’s history! I love the social events and visits organised for volunteers. Many thanks Georgia!

Keiko Shiraishi

conservation volunteers8

Volunteers working on the theatre collection in the studio

My first experience at Westminster Archives was in a professional capacity as a practising architect researching the architectural drawings held by the archives. It was a natural progression when I became semi-retired to volunteer to assist with the collection especially as I am a resident of Westminster. I found as a volunteer that I was joining a team that was very inclusive, enthusiastic and managed by a dedicated team of professionals. I have worked on cleaning Westminster’s Theatreland as well as Parish records. The level of professionalism of the staff is of the highest order, with a deep interest in the collections they manage. Georgia looks after us with enthusiasm and patience when we have the inevitable query. She also organises stimulating visits which have included the Weiner Library and the Banqueting House. In conclusion volunteering at Westminster Archives has been fulfilling and interesting and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in Westminster’s history.

Bryan Guttridge MA MSt (Cantab) Dipl.Arch. RIBA

 

I started volunteering at Westminster Archives a couple of years ago. Right from the beginning Georgia made me feel very welcome and wanted and we have become friends. I thoroughly enjoy my days at the archives Conservation Department and have learned a great deal from Georgia who is an extremely knowledgeable, enthusiastic mentor and teacher. It’s been a pleasure helping and I hope to continue for many years to come.

Mike Lofty

 

Thank you again to our wonderful volunteers!

 

The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

By David Evans, Westminster Archives volunteer

David during a taste test

David Evans testing the food

Towards the end of 2012 the Westminster Archives Local Studies Librarian, Judith , asked me to transcribe a fascinating document that we called “The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies” as it was an anonymous hand-written cookery book with recipes from what we took to be the 1760s and others from the first decades of the nineteenth century.

The 1760s date was taken from an entry on one of the covers but we quickly realised that the handwriting, and more especially the spelling, was more like that of the Queen Anne period or even a few years earlier and that the recipes added after these, because of their “modern” spelling and lack of long essses, were much like other known recipes of the early nineteenth century Regency period and were, indeed, from that era.

As for the book’s origins, we took it to be something written up by the cook working in a large household of the times as the amounts shown for many of the dishes, cakes and pastries were prodigious with requirement for a dozen eggs, pounds of butter and pints of cream on occasions.

Later, it was decided to use the cookbook as the basis for a “Cooking Up History” blog which ran from 2013 until 2014. The idea was to recreate some of the recipes in the Archives kitchen and to ask readers for their comments on these and on their own attempts to copy our efforts. It attracted a fair number of followers which we took as a sign of its success.

On a personal basis, my favourite re-creation was our making early eighteenth century Christmas mincemeat using traditional ingredients of the era – including real meat! It was not to everyone’s taste but it was to mine especially as it had given me the chance of experiencing the flavour of something from the reign of Queen Anne.

Cooking

The eighteenth century recipe for Christmas mincemeat included cured ox tongue, a fruity mix of apples, currants, raisins and sweetmeats (dried apricots, dried cranberries and candied peel and ginger)

All in all, this was one of the most enjoyable projects with which I was involved during my time as a volunteer in Westminster Archives but, regretfully, the “unknown ladies” remain unknown…

If you wish to re-visit this project to read the blog and see more photographs of the Cooking Up History project then please visit the blog.

Volunteer with us this summer

Looking for something to do this summer? We are looking for volunteers to help deliver the Summer Reading Challenge in our libraries. Young people (14 to 25 year olds) are especially welcome to apply to volunteer.

The Summer Reading Challenge is a national reading initiative which encourages children to read for fun over the summer holidays.

The combination of fun, freedom, and creativity impacts significantly on children’s reading levels and confidence. Taking part in the challenge helps prevent the ‘summer reading dip’ which can occur when children are at home over the long summer break and, without reading opportunities, lose confidence in their reading.

 

We’ve had some fantastic volunteers, who’ve really helped make a difference and had some fun too. Here’s what a couple of them had to say –

If I had to sum up my volunteering as a Summer Reading Challenge Mentor, I would say the experience definitely made my summer! During the holidays, there’s a lot of time but not much to do. So what did I do? I took on the opportunity to be a Mentor and I loved it so much I volunteered at the same library again for 2 summers! Being a Reading Challenge Mentor is huge fun – you get to interact with young kids and really get a understanding of what books they enjoy. From science fiction to books about jam sandwiches (yes, there’s a book on that!), reading can be extremely exciting if you find the right book! I had a truly great time meeting with  young readers but also working alongside the friendliest staff around! The library staff are so welcoming and I truly enjoyed my volunteering . If you love reading and want to make a difference – this is the opportunity for you!

I had the pleasure of spending two summers in libraries around West London supporting the summer reading challenge. I loved interacting with all of the children and helping them to explore new genres and authors. Assisting with the planning and facilitation of arts and crafts sessions was definitely a highlight of mine. I also enjoyed helping to create in library displays to showcase the children’s work. I have always been passionate about helping children and young people. My work with the challenge inspired me to pursue a career within the education and charity sectors.  I would encourage anybody to take part in this programme, it was an amazing experience and has been an asset to my CV.

You can download a profile and apply to voulnteer on our website.

Nick, Tri-borough Libraries Children’s Services Manager

Learning and working together

As always, it’s been a busy few months for Westminster Libraries’ Bengali Service! Here’s a snapshot of what we’ve been up to:

Mental Health Facilitators / Ayurvedic Indian Head Massage training

Community Celebration Day at Church Street Library, December 2016Community Celebration Day at Church Street Library, December 2016

This is a joint project in Church Street, in partnership with the Mosaic Community Trust, to train local residents – particularly those with English as a second language – to become mental health facilitators and massage therapists through a qualified training programme. In turn they are able to act as champions for their respective communities.

As part of the programme a ‘Community Celebration Day’ was held in December at Church Street Library – many people, including GPs and practice managers from the local health centres, attended to discuss patient participation and how local people can play an active role in terms of their care needs.

The project has 15 students and they will be graduating as massage therapists this month! The training will equip the participants with relevant skills to work as therapists or freelance in a salon. Some students demonstrated their newly acquired skills at the event in December and at Church Street’s New Year’s New You event in January.

A World In A Suitcase (AWIASC)

A World in a Suitcase is a storytelling project funded by the Wellcome Trust & WAES in collaboration with an author and a former BBC producer. Its aim was to foster closer relations, understanding and tolerance between communities through sharing their ‘World’.”

Myrna Shoa and Timuchin Dindjer have run six workshops with our English Speaking Clubs members at Church Street Library, using multimedia arts and story-telling prop materials.

Participants have created a visual record of their stories through collages, drawings, words and photos. All these culminated into an exhibition at WAES which was opened by the Lord Mayor of Westminster, Cllr Steve Summers.

A World in a Suitcase (AWIASC) exhibition, 2017

A World in a Suitcase (AWIASC) exhibition, 2017 – click to view the rest of the images

Employment and Training Project at Queen’s Park Library

A great partnership has been forged with Queen’s Park Community Council and Paddington Development Trust’s (PDT) employment programme to introduce a new service at Queen’s Park Library.

The PDT Employment Adviser, Shah Alam, is based in Queen’s Park Library every Tuesday (10.30am-3.30pm). Shah works with Westminster residents, long term unemployed and job seekers, men and women over the age of 19, on a one to one basis. He sees them for a series of Information, Advice and Guidance sessions, a minimum of six and at a pace set by the client. Sessions can cover motivation and confidence, skills and referrals to training, CV creation, job search and applications, interview techniques and practical support.

SShah at Queen's Park Library, giving employment advice and supporthah is enjoying meeting with different community members, people with different needs and expectations from a job and who are balancing different responsibilities of family and childcare and other commitments. Contact Queen’s Park Library to find out more.

Parenting Seminars at Queen’s Park Library

A series of parenting seminars were organised and delivered at Queen’s Park Library, in partnership with Westminster Early Help Team & Parenting and Fast Co-ordinator, Madhu Chauhan.

Parenting seminars at Queen's Park LibraryFifteen local people have attended the seminars over three weeks learning about raising resilient happy children, instilling positive behaviours at home so they become happy, well-rounded and able to achieve their full potential.

Feedback ranged from great to excellent after all these workshops!

International Mother Language Day at Pimlico Library

Another successful event was held at Pimlico Library in partnership with Westminster Bangladeshi Association (WBA) on 16 February to commemorate International Mother Language Day – a day to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.

The event attracted over a hundred people into the library. We saw children making collages with signs and symbols of their native countries, with images of healthy food and key healthy lifestyle messages in different languages. Children also took part in a colouring completion and poetry performance as well as speeches about the importance of cultural diversity in language and why it is important to learn English in this multicultural city of Westminster.

International Mother Language Day at Pimlico Library International Mother Language Day at Pimlico Library

This event was also supported by various organisations such as My Time Active, Westminster Memory Service, Health Information Co-ordinator and Health Trainers.

A Volunteer Success Story

Magdalena works at Queen’s Park Library helping out with Basic Computer Sessions and the English Speaking Club. She also helps colleagues with shelving.

Recently, she has acquired a job as she has been growing in confidence through her volunteering with the Bengali Service in Westminster Libraries. Congratulations Magdalena!

International Women’s Day

The Bengali Service also marked International Women’s Day with an event at Church Street Library, with some high achieving local female guest speakers to inspire the local women of Westminster as well as service providers ranging from  the education, training, employment, health and wellbeing sectors.

Watch this space for more news!

[Mahbuba]

Big Friendly Volunteers!

Zack, one of our Summer Reading Challenge 2016 volunteersThis week on the Summer Reading Challenge we’d like to highlight the work of our volunteers.
Every summer, we recruit volunteers to help us deliver the Challenge to our customers. The Reading Agency (who design the materials for the Challenge) have a scheme for young volunteers called ‘Reading Hacks’.
Westminster Libraries take part in this scheme, so many of our summer volunteers are under 25. But we also have some lovely volunteers of all ages, so we have a great mix.

This summer across our 10 libraries we have around 70 volunteers helping us out with the Big Friendly Read. They join children up to the Challenge, explain how it works, then talk to them about their books when they return, giving out rewards to the children afterwards. The volunteers are excellent ‘reading role models’ for the children, encouraging them to read on to get their medal for 6 books.

One of our volunteers at Church Street Library is Zack Fry, pictured above. He’s 17 and this is the first time he has volunteered with us. He is really enjoying it. Some of the highlights for him have been the conversations he has had with children who have been doing the Challenge, he’s been impressed with what children have read. For instance an 8 year old boy read all of the Harry Potter series, and discussed them all in detail. Zack also likes the fact that although he hears about some of the same titles from different children, each child will get something different from the book and pick up on separate things from it. He was also surprised by being called ‘sir’ by one of the children!

Zack says that volunteering at the library for the Summer Reading Challenge, speaking to parents and children that he doesn’t know has definitely boosted his confidence. This is one of the great things about volunteering – we want the volunteers to enjoy themselves as well!

So a big thank you to Zack and to all our volunteers, the Summer Reading Challenge wouldn’t be the same without you!


Big Friendly Read - the Summer Reading Challenge 2016


[Rachel]