Chronicle Blog – Mike Hawkins
The Chronicle’s Volunteer Blog features blog posts and articles about what it’s like to be a part of the Chronicle Project and is written by our volunteers.
This post is by Mike Hawkins, who has been with the project since the late spring.
My name is Mike and I have been a volunteer with the VCS Cymru Chronicle Project since June. I have been asked why I joined and how I have found the experience. I retired in Spring after over 30 years as a civil servant in social security, and then about nine years helping my wife run her weight management franchise business. I wanted something that would be interesting, where I could be flexible with my time, and also learn some new skills. I didn’t really want to commit to spending every Monday helping out in a charity shop, for example.
The Chronicle Project has been ideal. I can work when it suits me, so I can fit it around walking the dog, baby-sitting the grandchildren or my other commitment, which is ushering at Chapter Arts Centre. A lot of the work is done at home, but I can also work at an archive, and am now starting to go out and talk to people. There is always more to do. There’s been lots of training: from Glamorgan Archives on archive research skills, and People’s Collection Wales on digitisation and recording oral histories.
We spent a couple of days at St Fagans cataloguing part of their collection and working with their photographer. Other volunteers on the project have lots of IT knowledge, and are patiently willing to share it. I have learnt how to use GIMP (fortunately not what it sounds!) and we are now exploring Audacity, Blender and Pixlr. The other people on the project have all been really helpful and good to work with.
When I started the work was digitising and cataloguing documents held in archives. Glamorgan Archives is a very peaceful place to be, and their staff are really helpful. Cataloguing work requires a lot of concentration and can replace your mindfulness exercises! Now I am becoming more pro-active and seeking out people who I think might be helpful. Perhaps because we are talking to people who have a history of volunteering, I have been amazed by how cooperative these people are. And there is a real sense that we are all free to use our initiative to make our own contribution to the project in our own individual way.
Sometimes it seems like history has been torn up into little pieces and scattered around, and our task is to put those pieces back together, make some sense of them and discover the story behind them. I have become used to looking up everything I need on the internet, but am now realising you do not have to go back too far to find a period when the internet is silent. If those stories are not captured and preserved now, they will be lost for ever.
So, I have control over my time, I’m learning new skills, meeting some great people and contributing to preserving and celebrating the achievements of some inspirational people. And I even get time credits which I can swap for free cinema tickets at Chapter!