The varied life of an archive volunteer

Author: Helen Winning

Helen is currently on a voluntary placement in the archives.

I am sadly coming to the end of my time volunteering here at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine archives, but thankfully I have been privileged enough to have been given a wide and varied range of tasks to complete. As someone who is brand new into the world of archiving I have found all of the jobs interesting but none as fascinating as when I have been asked to rummage (in an organised manner) through the collections to find some gems that can be used for displays. This task befell me recently when I was asked to find some items relating to America for a display to be shown to some representatives from the Rockefeller Foundation. With some expert guidance I was able to find some excellent pieces ranging from photos to correspondence to invitations. This included items from when Sir Ronald Ross travelled to Panama in 1904. The amount, quality and variety of items from that time is astounding and there were almost too many pieces to choose from.

Passenger list on RMS Luciania006

List of saloon passengers on the R.M.S. Lucania, Liverpool to New York, on September 10th 1904


W.C. Gorgas, R. Ross & H.C. Weeks on board the S.S. “Advance” at New York on September 27th 1904


Map of N&S America showing Panama Rail

Map of North & South America showing the Panama Rail & Steamship Line between New York, Colon and Panama


It would have been more than easy to have nothing but items from Ross’s trip, but it seemed only fair to find some pieces relating to the Rockefeller Foundation itself. Even something as simple as a menu from a dinner I find absolutely charming.


Rockefeller Foundation DinnerMenu and toast list for Rockefeller Foundation Dinner

Menu and toast list for dinner for the representatives of the Rockefeller Foundation on June 13th 1921


The event itself was a hit with many people enthralled by the display. How could they not be? Although I understand that the life of a true archivist is not in spending hours digging through fascinating pieces, I have been very fortunate to have been allowed to do this for a short time as a volunteer. I could spend days doing just that.




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