Wolverhampton City Archives wins 2012 Archive Volunteering Award

'Taking Account of our Past project highlights the importance of businessrecords within local 'history' Judges praise 'an honest, positive andvery well-managed project with excellent outcomes' 

A project to catalogue and make available the records of a Wolverhampton-based chartered accountancy firm has won the National Archive Volunteering Award for 2012.

The award, from the Archives and Records Association (UK & Ireland) and sector partners, recognises work involving volunteers within an institutional archive service in the UK and Ireland.  The judges were unanimous in choosing the ‘Taking Account of our Past’ project as the 2012 national winner, describing it as an ‘honest, positive and very well-managed project with excellent outcomes’.

Wolverhampton City Archives 16 august 2012.jpegThe 2012 award was presented to Wolverhampton City Archives on 16 August. The photo shows volunteers and archivists receiving the award from the ARA, with the Mayor of Wolverhampton, Councillor Christine Mills, joining in the celebration (see below for caption photo).

The ‘Taking Account of our Past’ project catalogued the collection of Smith, Son and Wilkie, a chartered accountancy firm based in Wolverhampton. The collection (dated between 1863 and 1989) covers over 60 businesses and nearly 30 families who employed the firm to oversee their finances.



Taking Account of our Past mapThe project began in July 2011. It has found and made available information on many local businesses, including lock makers, brick manufacturers, ironmongers and butchers. As well as business records, the collection contains a wealth of information on local families including the Loveridge, Mander, Wilkes, Reynolds and Wilkie families.Taking Account of our Past Queen Square

The project involved volunteers at every stage: researching the background histories of the businesses and families; sorting, organising and repacking the collection; and assisting with basic conservation work. The research work, undertaken by volunteers at Wolverhampton Archives and further afield, provides a wealth of information for future researchers. Previous employees of Smith, Son and Wilkie also contributed to the project by helping to give context to the records.

The project allowed Wolverhampton City Archives to extend their volunteering programme dramatically, with the addition of about 20 new volunteers, who were chosen because of their shared interest in local heritage and research. The volunteers improved their skills and knowledge and formed social bonds, while completing work of great value to the collection and its future users. Since their recruitment for the project, the volunteers have been based in the City Archives’ public Searchroom and behind the scenes in the service.

The Project website is at http://takingaccountproject.wordpress.com/

‘As our ambassadors, volunteers have ensured strong community interest in the Archives, which augurs well as we seek to sustain and build local engagement,’ says Corinne Miller, Head of Culture, Arts and Heritage, Wolverhampton City Council

‘Few businesses make provision for their historic records,’ says Heidi McIntosh, Wolverhampton City Archivist and Records Manager. ‘We hope this project highlights the importance of business records within local history. In the case of most of the businesses represented in this collection, no other material seems to have survived, so this project has broadened the range of research possibilities on the industrial and commercial history of the Black Country’.

kimberley benoyThe project was made possible by grants from:  the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives, administered by The National Archives  www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/archives-sector/cataloguing-grants-programme.htm; and the NationalTaking Account of our Past account books Manuscripts Conservation Trust www.nmct.co.uk  The funding allowed the employment of Kimberley Benoy (above), who has been the full-time cataloguing archivist on the project and also the substantial conservation work needed on parts of the collection

‘There is so much to praise here,’ said Chair of the 2012 judges Geoff Pick, ARA Board member with responsibility for public engagement. ‘This highly motivated and diverse group of volunteers, with expert guidance and encouragement from professional archivists, have brought to life what might have been thought of as a dull collection of papers. They have invested thousands of hours of work, used blogs, Twitter and Facebook to engage others and made a lasting contribution to the local history of a region.’




The photograph of the award being presented at Wolverhampton to volunteers and archivists who worked on Taking Account of our Past  is used courtesy of Wolverhampton City Council. In the foreground are, l to r, Cataloguing Archivist Kimberley Benoy, City Archivist Heidi McIntosh, Mayor of Wolverhampton Councillor Christine Mills, President, Caroline Williams, and Chair, Martin Taylor, of the  Archives and Records Association (UK & Ireland).

You can view the awards presentation here. 



The 2012 judges were unanimous in choosing ‘Taking Account of our Past’ as the 2012 winner. They also ‘highly commended’ a project by WRVS volunteers to sort, catalogue and digitise a vulnerable collection.

The Annual Volunteering Award  -  the only one of its kind  -  is given by the Archives and Records Association (UK & Ireland) in partnership with The National Archives,  CyMAL (Museums, Archives and Libraries Wales – a division of the Welsh Government) and the Scottish Council on Archives.

The award is given for a Volunteering project which took place in 2011/12.

There were seven entries for the annual prize, all of high quality. All submissions are available at www.archives.org.uk/campaigns/volunteering-awards.html


The 2011 winner of the National Archive Volunteering Award was Manchester Chinese Archive; the 2010 winner was Suffolk Record Office.

The closing date for entries for the 2013 award will be June 2013.