Volunteering for the Political Archive- a volunteer’s perspective

laura and carol

One of the great things about the archive is the help that we get from our student volunteers.  Each year we have a small team of volunteers who help with the mountain of material that we have to catalogue.  They are an invaluable help to the archive and we are always sad when they have to move on after graduation to bigger and better things.  We asked Carol one of our volunteers to write something about her experience of volunteering with us.  Here is what she said:

“When sitting in a lecture one day, Sarah came and spoke to us about volunteering with either the political archives or the art collection.  What really appealed to me was how much she said it could help to build up our CV’s.  Yet, I got a lot more out of volunteering with the political archives than just that.  I helped out with the Jack McConnell papers within the Political Archives.  When we first started, we were tasked with helping to organise two roomfuls of crates of his papers from throughout his career into categories.  At first it felt very daunting, however Sarah soon put us all at ease and the other volunteers were great too, it ended up being a really enjoyable atmosphere, and many happy afternoons were spent sorting through the papers in a cottage within the university.  Furthermore, the papers themselves were really interesting and I found myself learning more and more about the inner workings of his political career which could be riveting at times too.  There was material, for example, from the run up to the opening of the Scottish Parliament and election and campaign materials and documents from his time as First Minister.  The thing I loved most however was the hours spent cataloguing the papers.  This may sound strange, but because of the interest factor of the material it was absorbing and exciting to be holding and reading things which formed a part of both historically and politically significant moments.  The thing I especially loved though was the feeling that in the future, or the present for that matter, these materials would be extremely valuable.  The feeling that we were contributing to providing an archive of materials of extreme political and historical significance just made it all feel very worthwhile.

Now that I am leaving university, sadly my time volunteering has come to an end.  Yet, I have taken away many things including, for example, a sounder understanding of politics from an inner point of view.  It has also added to my skills and now I can say I am familiar with cataloguing and other aspects of archiving, which of course looks very impressive on my C.V.  Also, because of the weeks of work experience you will have, Sarah can also be included as an all important reference which is very valuable when the time comes to step on the career ladder.”