One Day Volunteering Project

14Sep

There are several collections at the archives that have still not been catalogued. One of these is a large collection of West Hartlepool plans some dating back to the early 1800's. These plans, bundled in rolls, were sitting on the shelves in the same condition in which they were first deposited, their contents unknown and therefore not accessible to the public. 

Helen and Kimberley with volunteers at the end of a successful dayThe work involved in cataloguing this collection involves carefully unwrapping each bundle, checking the condition of each plan, identifying each one, putting them in order, listing them on computer, and finally packaging them in special acid free boxes. Staffing levels at the archives make it very difficult for the staff to find the time to tackle the huge amount of work this involves. 

Following many discussions bettween Ruth, our archiives manager, Kimberley, our archivist and ourselves on the problem of tackling this and other collections, we came up with the idea of inviting members and volunteers to attend a one day volunteering project in an attempt to make an impact on the West Hartlepool Plans collection. Arrangements were made for Thursday the 11th of September and the invitation was to attend for the full day or part of the day. We  had a good response and when the day arrived we were ableto set up three teams of three people, two to handle the plans and one to enter the data into the computer and another team set to work constructing the boxes which arrive flatpacked. Everyone had been advised not to wear their 'best' clothes as the maps were very dusty and, apart from the typists this was quickly evident from the number of black hands. Kimberley and Helen led the project with Kimberley advising on sorting and answering any queries and Helen, our conservator, standing by to take care of the fragile and damaged plans.

The plans we were working with included plans of the 'Grand Hotel', the 'Grantully Maternity Hospital'. the 'Druids Hall' (part of the civic buildings) and the 'West Hartlepool  Destructer' (the waste disposal centre). all were beautifully hand drawn, extremely detailed and often coloured. Many enjoyable minutes were lost examining the most interesting and attractive plans. 

Work on the plans was not the only reason for this project. We had been trying to find a way to give volunteers, who often work alone. a chance to socialise and with plenty of tea, coffee, cakes and biscuits avialable all day we had time to sit and chat and get to know people we hadn't met before. It was also a chance for volunteers to try different tasks and to give others, who had not volunteered before, and those, who may not want to commit to regular volunteering, an opportunity to help.

The day was extremely successful in every way. Volunteers all enjoyed the day, the staff were very impressed by the impact made on the collection and many thanks are due to those who attended. This resulted in a unanimous decision to continue these 'One Day Projects' on a regular basis. If you are interested in taking part watch out for further announcements or contact us via this website to register your interest.