Lisa Dolan is an Archivist and Volunteer Project Coordinator at the Military Archives and she tells us about her much loved volunteers.
It’s so easy for me to identify the positives of working with our Military Archives’ volunteers aka “The Lads” (Richard, Denis, Jim, Gerry and Tony)! My role as volunteer project coordinator is hugely rewarding both on a professional and personal level; it’s given me an opportunity to develop people and project management skills and learn from the vast knowledge held by our volunteers on aspects of military history and military life.
I’ve been with the Military Archives since 2008 and it was my first time working in an archives service that had, at its core, a desire to both attract volunteers in the first instance and a desire to nurture that relationship for as long as possible. I put the focus of NVW 2017 “Do Good, Feel Good” campaign to our present volunteers in the Military Archives and once we got chatting about the benefits of doing good works for our health and well-being, we all quickly realised that our present arrangement does make all concerned “Feel Good” about what we’re at! (phew!) . Richard, a retired Defence Forces Officer, said that he “enjoys the variety of work and the opportunity to work with nice people” –he further added that his engagement with the Military Archives has also given him “the sense of feeling productive”.
Our Archive volunteers “Do Good” in carrying out tasks that help us deliver an exemplary archives service to members of the public. They have created thousands of catalogue records which in turn has allowed us to introduce key collections to the researching public. During the early years of the Military Archives when staff levels were low, the volunteers helped to keep the show on the road and on occasion, provided much needed light relief and welcome company to a hard pressed staff. Although we have expanded our services, increased our staff numbers and diversified in some ways, our commitment to having volunteers on staff is unwavering. Our volunteers tend to carry out their work ‘behind the scenes’ and it may not be entirely clear to anyone visiting Military Archives that we have volunteer staff. Opportunities such as this blog post, and most recently, an award ceremony organised by us and An Cosantóir army magazine to acknowledge the work of Mr. Denis McCarthy, gives us a chance to highlight the great and good work carried out by our volunteers.
The Military Archives is not alone in managing archive volunteers and the phenomenon of cultural volunteering has gone from strength to strength. It has been enriched no doubt by the energetic community efforts which focused on the 100 year commemoration of the 1916 Rising – the archivists at the Military Archives had the great privilege of assisting many of these community driven projects over the past two years. I sincerely hope this blog piece inspires any aspiring cultural volunteer to touch base with their local archives or local studies service and give archive volunteering a go. We are just four years into a busy commemorative programme and there’s plenty of scope, variety and opportunities to learn and make a positive impact in your local community.
Do Good, Feel Good! Happy National Volunteering Week everyone!