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National Library of Wales wins prestigious ARA Archive Volunteering Award for 2016


‘Helping us to Achieve’, the National Library of Wales’s (NLW) scheme to expand access to Wales’ national  archives by developing a cadre of skilled volunteers, has won the prestigious national Archive Volunteering Award for 2016. Sponsored by the Archives and Records Association (UK & Ireland) and sector partners, this annual award recognises outstanding work involving volunteers within an institutional archive service.

‘Stand out nomination’
The judges voted ‘Helping us to Achieve’ the clear winner. The scheme has been engaging with volunteers since 2012, including all ages and backgrounds, in the belief that taking part in cultural activity can boost skills, engagement, self-esteem and aspiration, and enhance participants’ workplace and social skills, while also helping make NLW’s national collections more accessible to a wider audience. The scheme has targeted specific groups – the young and economically inactive and older people – and the roles filled by the volunteers have included transcribing text, creating databases, digitising, research, conservation tasks and public presentations.

The judges said:

“’Helping us to Achieve’ was the stand-out nomination in a very strong field. In 2015-16 alone, 65 project volunteers took part in the scheme, volunteering the equivalent of over 1,000 days of their time. They completed 10 projects and tasks; another 10 are still in progress. 769 online volunteers also participated in ‘Cynefin’, a ground-breaking project to geo-reference Wales’s Tithe Maps. ‘Helping us to Achieve’ has involved wide community collaboration and support, a diverse range of volunteers, and benefitted from professional archive staff support at the National Library, as well as top-management backing. The scheme has also delivered at an individual level: around 20% of the volunteers have moved on to paid employment.”

The judges also commended the many partners involved in the winning scheme, which included Jobcentre Plus, The Shaw Trust, Ceredigion Community Mental Health Team, Ceredigion Association of Voluntary Organisations, Welsh Council for Voluntary Action, Aberystwyth University, Ceredigion County Council social services department, NLW’s Friends Association, The ‘Cynefin’ Project (a collaboration between the Archives and Records Council Wales and NLW) and People’s Collection Wales.

The winning volunteers will receive their award on 4 November 2016 in Aberystwyth, in the run-up to the launch of the annual, national Explore Your Archive campaign.

ARA’s Chair, Geoff Pick, said:

“Archives contain the raw material of our past, individually and collectively. They are hugely diverse, comprising thousands of deposits across the public, private and voluntary sectors, from big corporations and government bodies to community holdings. They depend on skilled and dedicated professional staff as well as the many volunteers for their upkeep, transcription, cataloguing and accessibility. When we see inspiring projects like ‘Helping us to Achieve’, we are also reminded how our archives and the skills needed to manage them, can stimulate and motivate people in the wider community to open up new opportunities in their own lives.”

Said one volunteer on ‘Helping us to Achieve’:

“Through the experience I have made friends with some lovely and like-minded people. This has given me a lot of confidence – I don’t feel intimidated by the workplace – I feel I belong.”

Said another:

“I have completed nearly 3½ years of volunteering. During that time I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I like the general atmosphere of quiet and calmness. This is important to me because my epilepsy is mostly stress related. I am not sure if my new-found confidence is helping my epilepsy (but) my slight improvement in health is increasing my confidence.”

Linda Tomos, National Librarian of Wales said:

“We are thrilled and honoured to receive this prestigious award. I am delighted that the strong partnership between our volunteers, staff and our supporting partners to make our national archives more accessible has been recognised as an exemplar. NLW is committed to developing this innovative approach which is actively helping people to improve their quality of life and obtain workplace skills as well as learning more about our culture and heritage.”

“A Very Strong Field”
As well as ‘Helping us to Achieve’, the judges commended outstanding projects run by Staffordshire Archive and Heritage, Cornwall Record Office, Explore York Libraries and Archives Mutual Ltd and the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership (South Yorkshire) that made the final list.

Notes for editors

For further details, contact: Elin-Hâf  at The National Library of Wales, on 01970 632471 or

or Jon Elliott at the ARA, on: or 07587 635402

This is the seventh year of the ARA-sponsored Archive Volunteering Award. Previous winners are: GM1914, Greater Manchester in 2015; St Mark and St John, Plymouth in 2014; Hull History Centre in 2013; Wolverhampton City Archives in 2012; Manchester Chinese Archive in 2011; and Suffolk Record Office in 2010. For further details on the ARA and its activities, visit:

The annual Archive Volunteering Award is the only one of its kind in the archives sector and is awarded by the ARA in partnership with The (UK) National Archives, the Welsh Government and the Scottish Council on Archives. The award is given for a volunteer-centred project which is in operation the year before (in this case in 2015), though many may be ongoing into 2016, as with ‘Helping us to Achieve.’ Volunteers give approximately a quarter of a million of work hours each year to the archives and records sector. In return, volunteers receive training and help from professional staff to develop new skills and opportunities.

The ARA published its Volunteering Policy in 2011, which led to the award. The policy has been endorsed by most archive and record keeping bodies. Up-to-date information on ARA policies on volunteering is at: 

The ARA receives an annual grant from the UK National Archives, part of which goes towards supporting activities in archive volunteering.

The closing date for entries for the 2017 Archive Volunteering Award will be in early June 2017, with the winner being announced soon afterwards.