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Volunteer Voice: An Oral History Project for the Archive

Volunteer Voice is an oral history project involving Cathedral volunteers which ran mainly from August to November 2015 but still continues today.

Funded by HLF as part of our Magna Carta grant our aims for Volunteer Voice were twofold. Firstly, although the Cathedral archives contains many treasures there is surprising little from more recent history and outside of the ‘official’ record – we wanted to increase representation in the archive of other groups and aspects of the Cathedral’s life rather than just the minutes of committee meetings! We decided that one way to do this would be to interview Cathedral volunteers – to ask them about their thoughts and experiences of volunteering.  Secondly we wanted volunteers to have the opportunity directly engage with the archive by participating in the recording, transcribing and processing of the interviews as well as ensuring their own words are preserved in the archive. 

Our aim was to interview 50 volunteers, to transcribe many of the interviews and save the interviews on archival CDs. All the interviewing, transcribing and processing has all been done by a fantastic term of 17 volunteers.  With the HLF grant we were able to buy specialist recording equipment, archival quality CDs for long term storage and provide specialist training by Barbara Gibson, a professional oral historian.

To date over 60 volunteers have been interviewed from over 10 different volunteer groups, from guides to flower arrangers, education volunteers to holy dusters.  Many of these interviews have already been transcribed and three sixth formers from a local school have been busy making audio clips from the interviews.

We wanted to find out more about why people volunteer at the Cathedral, what their role entails, what they enjoy (or don’t enjoy) and any interesting stories they have about their time at the Cathedral. Many interviewees talked about the special atmosphere of the Cathedral and about the benefits of volunteering.  It has also been very interesting hearing about how different people describe their volunteer role as well as a number of entertaining stories!

All the interviews, transcriptions and audio clips will be preserved in the archive for future generations to enjoy.  Although Volunteer Voice as a specific project is now completed we hope that in the future we will be able to interview and record the stories of many other people connected with the Cathedral.