Get hands-on with project to record wartime history

Doncaster World War One project volunteer Rebecca Payne

Doncaster World War One project volunteer Rebecca Payne

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First World War experts in Doncaster are inviting local people to make a New Year’s resolution to volunteer their time in a history-focused community project – with a promise that it could change their lives!

Doncaster 1914-18 is a four-year First World War centenary project, funded by a grant of £926,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), aiming to build a picture of Doncaster’s First World War history and legacy.

The Doncaster’s 1914-18 project team say they need local people to help uncover a 100-year-old heritage at risk of being lost forever.

By getting involved, volunteers will not only be transforming the public’s understanding of the past – revealing the lives of thousands of Doncaster’s men, women and children during the First World War – but may also be able to transform their own futures.

“Volunteering is a New Year’s resolution that truly makes a difference in the community, and it’s so rewarding. Rather than giving something up, you can give your time to help out, so it’s a resolution you’ll actually keep,” said Vicky Siviter from the Doncaster 1914-18 project.

“Our volunteers are inspired to join the team for a variety of reasons – perhaps looking for a stepping stone into a new career, wanting to learn something new or getting hands-on with history, and making new friends.

“Whatever their motivation, they’ve made a huge contribution to Doncaster’s history, but have also made a difference in their lives.”

Rebecca Payne, who has been volunteering with the project since last July, said: “I would love to work in this field eventually, and volunteering is the best way to build this kind of work experience. Being able to get involved in history in this way is really exciting.

“It’s absolutely fascinating to uncover the real life stories of local individuals who served in the war, and an honour to be able to handle objects that touched their lives – including their medals.”

Rebecca was part of a group of volunteers who worked with Doncaster Museum’s conservator to gain new skills in conservation, and prepare medals for a new First World War display, now open in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Museum in Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery.

Jean Walker said: “I could use a computer to check my emails but wanted to improve my digital skills.

“After just a few months, I’ve become quite an expert at online research and scanning, and it’s given me such confidence.

“I volunteer once a week and have made some good friends through the project.”

Wyn Bulmer, a volunteer from Doncaster Local Studies Library, showed what volunteers can achieve after spending years indexing the names of 14,000 Doncaster soldiers from Doncaster’s wartime newspapers.

The result of her hard work is now available to all local people for their own family research, via the names index on the Doncaster 1914-18 website.

Projects include:

n Join the Great War on Tour – a fun and interactive travelling roadshow that includes costumes, crafts and handling of First World War objects, bringing their stories to life.

n Help to deliver education programmes, bringing wartime Doncaster alive for schoolchildren and adults alike.

n Get involved with researching First World War objects and stories to be used in exhibitions across the borough

n Scan and photograph objects, letters, photographs and postcards to be added to the new digital archive on the project website

“You don’t need any experience or qualifications: we’re simply looking for people with a keen interest in history,” said Vicky.

“The opportunities are flexible so you can choose a role that interests you and builds new skills.

“You can volunteer as much or as little time as you like – anything from a couple of hours to multiple days each week.”

For more details, visit www.doncaster1914-18.org.uk/volunteer, email info@doncaster1914-18.org.uk or call 01302 734409.

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