I had the idea of becoming a volunteer at the County Record Office last winter, but they were closed for the next few months due to one of those major reorganisations that are so dear to the hearts of our public bodies, so deleted the email and thought no more about it.
It was a surprise, then, when, in August, an email arrived to say that they were open for business, had a job for a volunteer and was I still interested?
Thanks to my project management training, I was able to prepare a detailed evaluation of the business case which boiled down to:
a) I still didn’t have a job
b) It was likely to be another cold winter
c) They have heating
– and decided to give it a whirl.
That was back in August and I’ve been going in for one day a week ever since.
The work involves going through early Victorian Quarter Session records and preparing indexes on Excel for importation to a database. There’s a certain irony in this – the Quarter Sessions at this time dealt not only with petty crime, but also carried out many of the administrative functions that were later taken over by the newly created County Council. So, yes, it does have a touch of Groundhog Day about it.
So far, I have to say that it’s been a very positive experience, with both expected and unexpected benefits.
It’s a pleasant working environment, possibly because everyone (staff and members of the public) are doing something that interests them.
The work itself is very satisfying. The highlights are things like:
– working with data (which I love)
– using cutting edge technology to slice through red tape
– getting glimpses into a world that is on the cusp of change
– a sense of satisfaction at the end of the day
… and, as the temperature drops, staying warm.
Images : Original photgraphs by kind permission of Oxfordshire History Centre