Alan Crosby's blog: Don’t underestimate the power of volunteers

By Guest, 14 April 2016 - 4:17pm

This week, Alan pays tribute to the thousands of volunteers up and down the country, whose vital work helps keep the arts, heritage and culture sector ticking over

Dr Alan Crosby is the editor of the Local Historian and a columnist for WDYTYA? MagazineThursday 14 April 2016
Alan Crosby
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WDYTYA Live 2016 FIBIS

Volunteers are the lifeblood of many family history societies, and will help transcribe records, organise meetings and offer research advice at events such as WDYTYA? Live

It’s always fascinating for me to research and write the ‘Celebrating Your Projects’ column in the magazine each month. I encounter such an amazing variety of activities and imaginative ideas, and the thread that links them all is that almost everyone involved is a volunteer.

Indeed, where would we be without the people who run our local history and family history societies, who help to man the stalls at fairs and open days, who provide the tea and biscuits?

Last weekend I was at a local history conference in Ipswich. One of the themes that we talked about was the work of volunteers, ever more important as financial restrictions bite in the “arts, heritage and culture” sector.

Some of the papers presented at the conference were about larger-scale projects, involving dozens of volunteers working under the guidance of a paid professional. That’s essential for archaeological work, for instance, as there has to be “quality control” to make sure all the proper standards are maintained, and expert advice is on hand.

But there was plenty of opportunity for the ordinary folk to be involved. An archaeological project on the Suffolk coast, for example, provided a wonderful chance for groups of local schoolchildren to learn about the past and try their hands at actual excavation. They were clearly absolutely fascinated by it – real ‘hands-on’ learning of the best sort. The dig was also arranged so that people with mobility problems, confined to wheelchairs, could wash finds and sort them.

A lot of us came away feeling very positive... although Mrs Crosby implies that I could volunteer more often by doing some of the ironing!

Alan Crosby lives in Lancashire and is editor of The Local Historian. He is an honorary research fellow at Lancashire and Liverpool universities.

 

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