Volunteering at the Archives

This post comes from Becky Turner, a third year undergraduate student in History at the University of Gloucestershire.

Since February 2018, I have been volunteering at the University of Gloucestershire’s Special Collections and Archives. Initially, I began as a part of an eighty-hour internship through Your Future Plan. This involved ‘accessioning’ materials from the University Archives, which ‘houses the historic records of the university and the predecessor colleges since [its] foundation in 1847’. I realized I had enjoyed it so much that at the end of the internship I decided to continue coming in over the summer on a weekly basis. So far, I have accumulated over two hundred hours in volunteering alongside my studies.

Before volunteering, archiving was always something that I had been interested in as a possible future career. However, this internship has allowed me to experience aspects of the job first-hand and reaffirmed that archiving is something I wish to pursue once I have completed my undergraduate degree. I have also acquired more knowledge of how I can achieve that end goal and what the next steps should be after university. I have also gained so much confidence and enjoyment out of volunteering, while also I discovering a real passion for history more than ever before.

Accessioning is the process of going through stored material in the archive and putting it onto the archive’s database for cataloguing. Each box that I have accessioned so far has been somewhat of a mystery, as you never quite know what you are going to find. It led to some interesting findings, from international gifts to the University and archives, but also items that were standard to the administration of the university, such as correspondence and minutes.

Furthermore, the University’s Special Collections and Archives has so much material that I even found items and sources relevant to my dissertation: the ITN collection has seventy-five stills regarding the Jonestown Massacre of 1978. Digitising these stills and others from the collection is part of my second eighty-hour internship which I began at the end of September. By completing these two internships, I have been able to get hands-on experience of a number of different jobs that take place in an archive. Also, because of this opportunity I am working on achieving the Gold Employability Award by the end of the academic year, which will look great on my CV when I leave university.

I really recommend anyone who hasn’t yet visited to take a look at the catalogue online. You might even find something of academic use or even for just personal interest. The University of Gloucestershire’s Special Collections and Archives also now has its own Moodle page (internal only) that you can access, with gives you a step-by-step introduction to archives and what they entail. It even provides instructions on how to reference the material in your essays, and I advise everyone to see it for themselves (you even get a badge on your Moodle profile after completing the quiz!).


Alan Sparkes says:

Hi Becky,
I am so pleased to hear your positive experiences from working with the University of Gloucestershire’s Special Collections and Archives.

Like you, I studied history at the University of Gloucestershire (’99-’02) and found the archive enormously useful during my dissertation studies.

Upon graduation I started working part-time for the University’s Library & information Services (now renamed), which includes the Special Collections and Archives, whist simultaneously studying for a M.A. in History by Research (’02-’05). The archives proved even more useful, particularly the holdings belonging to the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society.

During the last 17 years of working for the University I have been fortunate enough to work briefly and visit the Archives on a number of occasions and find it continually fascinating. I am delighted it is still such a valuable asset.

All good luck for the future.

Becky Turner says:

Hi Alan,
Thank you for your response. It is great to hear from you as a former student and someone who thinks of the university archives as fondly as I do!
I hope that students who come to the university after me will continue to utilise its extensive and diverse collection for many years to come.
All the Best,

Alan Sparkes says:


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