Meet David Our University Volunteer
19th Sep 2014
My name is David Thomas, a second year university student of history, and for the last three months I have had the privilege of working alongside the incredibly talented volunteer staff of The Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire Museum in my home town of Salisbury. Housing the regimental histories of the Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiments, from the 18th century up until the modern day, volunteering at the Wardrobe has given me the great opportunity to research local history and learn new skills. I have had the good fortune to be working with an amazing team whose dedication to the preservation of local history is inspiring.
Over the past three months, the majority of my work has involved the researching and completion of paid customer archive enquiries to trace their ancestors and relatives. I have researched many members of our regiments throughout the time period covered, ranging from one soldier who served as a shipboard marine during the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801 right up until the service of soldiers in the Second World War. The enquiries I have worked on have taken place around the world, from Canada and North America, to India and the Far East, from Afghanistan and South Africa, to Ireland and pretty much everywhere else in-between. The scale of what these men did for their country really became apparent to me whilst I read the details of their lives and service careers.
Working with the Archivist, Chris Bacon, I have learned the skills of museum archiving. The centenary of the First World War has seen a huge rise in demand for enquiries and we have been subsequently rushed off my feet on some days. The effort that some enquiries require (especially trying to decipher some of the handwriting!) is paid off a-hundred-fold by the absolutely fascinating and often enthralling personal tales that my job has allowed me to uncover. I like to think that, in some small way, I have helped reduce the pressure on Chris as he no longer had to complete all of these enquiries on his own. My role was not limited to enquiries however; I have also been working closely with staff to develop a social media channel in order to promote the museum, a role which I am very happy to be able to continue once I have returned to University.
As I look forward to the new academic year starting, I shall take from my volunteering role at The Wardrobe a great sense of pride and achievement. My researching skills have been vastly improved, my letter writing abilities also. I am familiar now with archiving processes and have participated in the digitisation of museum resources and documents. I have learned so much over this summer and have made many great friends that I will most certainly return in the holidays to help out.