Our volunteers have been the backbone of projects carried out within the Centre for the Historical Record, and its predecessor, the Centre for Local History Studies. The core team (25-30 strong) have played a significant role and contributed a huge amount of their combined time and effort: initially in the setting up of the Local History Database. They have undertaken the bulk of the transcribing work, copying documents, inputting and checking material. Without their help the initial goal of inputting the Census records from 1851 through to 1891 (145,000 records in the first two years), would not have been achieved, nor would we be able to continue to maintain the unique scope of the project, detailing in excess of two hundred thousand records over a fifty year period.
Not only have the team helped in the actual creation of the database but, as most of them were local people, with an interest in Kingston and local genealogy, the project benefited from their personal experience and anecdotal evidence. All of this has been invaluable in helping to build up a picture of life in 19th Century Kingston and reinforcing our links with the local community.
Many of the initial group of volunteers have continued to work with us, as our attention shifted to the Historic Hospital Admission Records Project. Again they carried out the bulk of the transcribing, inputting and checking. The paleographic skills they acquired on the Census project were put to good use, and they have added a new string to their bow in becoming experts in 19th Century medical terminology. The existing team expanded to incorporate retired doctors and nurses who have been particularly helpful in deciphering some of the more esoteric diseases and treatments encountered.
Our volunteers are an eclectic bunch, recruited mainly from word of mouth or in response to local or specialist press coverage. They range from BBC reporters and producers, retired doctors, librarians through to undergraduates with their eye on the archivist's job. Although some are already adept at their tasks, many have had to pick up new skills along the way, such as basic computer skills, document interpretation and even having to brush up on their Latin when transcribing certain church records. All who are able have had the opportunity to visit different record offices, the Great Ormond Street archives or view parish and cemetery records in situ.
Technology has moved on so quickly since the Kingston Local History Project first began. Back then most of our volunteers worked in the Centre's office. Those working from home received their work through the post. In the last year we have developed an online transcribing system which enables many more volunteers to work remotely, and we have people contributing to our current project from around the globe. Motivation has been a key feature in the success of the team, especially as the team becomes more geographically diverse. For those who are able to attend, we organise occasional social gatherings as a means of thanking the volunteers for all their hard work and as a way of cementing the team, while we keep in touch with our more remote contributors through regular email contact.
Without doubt, the volunteers have contributed a huge amount to the Centre and have provided a great deal of energy, initiative and experience. In return, hopefully, they have gained enjoyment, enrichment and a well deserved sense of achievement in seeing their hard work come to fruition. Long may it continue!
Anyone who would like to join our team of volunteers should use the contact details on the right or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact the Centre
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Kingston upon Thames
Tel: +44 (0)20 8417 2359