GM1914 Wins 2015 Volunteering Award

GM1914, a project centred on expanding access to local archives of theGreat War in the northwest of England, has won the prestigious ArchiveVolunteering Award for 2015. See https://gm1914.wordpress.com/ formore.

Sponsored by the Archives and Records Association of the UK and Ireland (ARA) and sector partners, the award recognises work involving volunteers within an institutional archive service.

Unanimous

The judges were unanimous in their selection of GM1914, which has been running since 2013 and involves a collaborative effort across ten local authority archives, led by Greater Manchester Archives and Local Studies Partnership. The project has improved public access and engagement with archives in Greater Manchester and has maximised the potential for volunteers to develop life-long skills in the sector. 

The judges said:

"This project has delivered at every level: collaboration, community support, range of volunteers, and professional archive staff support. It has also used publicity and technology effectively, reaching a wider audience as well as stimulating local engagement. Despite its operational complexity, its impact has been extensive and is ongoing."

A special element to GM1914 is its use of digital engagement, particularly focused on younger people. 95 volunteers have so far contributed 6,000 hours since the project launch, of whom three in five had never used archives before. The age of the volunteers ranged from undergraduates to 70 year-olds. The project's blog publishes one to two stories a week, and now totals over 90 since the original launch. It has been viewed in 88 different countries, has an average of 67 views per day and has been viewed over 33,600 times in total.

'Inspiring'

The GM1914 team will receive their award formally during the week of 15 November, to coincide with the launch of the annual, national Explore Your Archive campaign. ARA's Chair, David Mander, OBE said:

"The archives sector across the British Isles owes a great debt to the many thousands of volunteers who give their time and dedication helping professional archive staff deliver a quality, value-for-money service to the public. Volunteers contribute at every level: they catalogue, clean, research, educate and interpret. Each archive gains, but so do the volunteers. It is inspiring to see what GM1914 has achieved this year across ten local authorities in northwest England and with the invaluable support of Local Studies Partnerships. The result has been better public access and a greater potential for young people, especially in deprived areas, to develop life-long skills in the sector."

'Heart-rending'

Said one volunteer on GM1914:

"I found the whole research process interesting and, at times, heart-rending - reading about the fate of James Smith, Bolton's 'shot at dawn' soldier and the ages of the young men who appeared in the Bolton Journal's 'Roll of Honour' of the fallen, most only in their early 20s and some even younger. There was so much that I didn't realise about the 'home front' aspect, how people coped with shortages and how they rallied to support the troops, making munitions, sewing sandbags and collecting items for boxes of comforts. I will now view my family and local history research of the period with new eyes."

Said another:

"It has given me the kind of experience and skills which prospective employers take into consideration when considering me for employment."

Strong Field

As well as GM1914, projects run by the Royal Voluntary Service, Tate Britain, Leonard Cheshire Disability and Glasgow University were on the final list. The judges remarked on the overall strength of the list and commended the Leonard Cheshire Disability project for its pioneering work on enabling disabled people to access – and benefit from – archives.

Notes for Editors

This is the sixth year of the ARA Archive Volunteering Award. Previous winners are: St Mark and St John, Plymouth in 2014; Hull History Centre in 2013; Wolverhampton City Archives in 2012; Manchester Chinese Archive in 2011; and Suffolk Record Office in 2010. Further details are at www.archives.org.uk 

The Archive Volunteering Award is the only one of its kind in the archives sector and is awarded by ARA in partnership with The National Archives, the Welsh Government and the Scottish Council on Archives. The award is given for a volunteer-centred project which is in operation the year before (in this case in 2014), though may be ongoing into 2015, as with GM1914. Volunteers give approximately a quarter of a million of work hours each year to the sector. In return, volunteers receive training and help to develop new skills.

ARA published its Volunteering Policy in 2011, which led to the award. The policy has been endorsed by most archive and record keeping bodies. Up-to-date information on ARA policies on volunteering is at: www.archives.org.uk   The closing date for entries for the 2016 volunteering award will be in early June 2016, with the winner being announced soon afterwards.