Volunteering for Newham Heritage Month

6th June 2020 - Sandra Besson and Peter Williams

Sandra preparing for an object handling session
Peter discovers new objects in the Newham's handling collection

Sandra Besson and Peter Williams are volunteers in the Newham Archives held at Stratford library. Here they described their role getting ready for Newham Heritage Month.

A couple of us have used the archives for several years, and built up a bit of knowledge of what is available. The idea is we can help people and groups who want to contribute and do something during Newham Heritage Month.

For the past few months until lockdown we have been spending half a day a week getting ready, making sure we know where things are under the expert guidance of Jenni Munro-Collins, Heritage Local Studies Officer. There is a wide range of material available including:

  • reference books with lots of background about the area
  • maps of the area from 1700 onwards
  • trade directories listing businesses and home owners
  • microfilms of newspapers, the census, and electoral registers
  • thousands of photographs, some digitised
  • minute books for the Council/parishes, the Board of Health, the Poor Law/workhouse    
  • education packs prepared by teachers and previous archivist
  • a digitised catalogue of thousands of museum objects owned by Newham Council and lots of other fascinating records.

The volunteers have supported the Newham Heritage Month online festival in many ways. Peter has written an article on prefab houses in Newham, and together with Mark Gorman, another heritage volunteer, have prepared a talk to be presented.  Sandra has assisted with transcriptions of a few interviews that will feature during the month.

This experience gave me a taste for the wealth of history and the living knowledge bearers within our diverse borough. I came to realise the importance of ongoing efforts to make these resources accessible online particularly at times when persons cannot physically conduct research at the Archives.

Peter and Sandra Object handling training with archivist Sue Gosling

Most of this material is not available online, so a visit to the archives is a good starting point for your future projects. Do get in touch by arranging an appointment once the library and local studies room re-open.