DHC manager Matt Davies and the Marketing Team demonstrating Digital Time Travellers at the 2016 Family Discovery Day.

July 13, 2016, by Matt Davies

Five years of DHC Student Volunteers.

This week DHC says goodbye to the 2015-16 student volunteer team – some for good as they graduate (good luck guys!) some just until September when they have already agreed they will return. This was the fifth year of the volunteer Scheme and feels like something of a milestone, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to take a look back at what, I think, has been one of the DHC’s great success stories, and also to announce the launch of our new DHC Volunteer Alumni Network!

DHC Volunteer shirt modelled by student volunteer.

DHC Student Volunteer 2011.

The beginning:  2011.

DHC Director, Dr Katharina Lorenz, and I set up the DHC student volunteer scheme in 2011 when DHC originated here in the brand new Humanities building.  It was a way of ensuring support for me as Manager (and lone permanent staff member) as well as users of the centre on a day to day basis. It also became a means of enhancing the CVs of Arts students who were looking to gain digital as well as transferable skills and work experience.  The scheme has proved highly successful over the years with around ninety students now having volunteered.  Some have since cited their work in DHC as a determining factor in securing employment following graduation in, for instance, the Houses of Parliament Archive, Richard III Visitor Centre and, in one case, here in the University’s Digital Marketing Department.  Their accounts can be found elsewhere on the Digital Dialogues and there are more in the pipeline!

How the scheme works.

Each year I recruit a team of between 10 and 15 students from the Arts Faculty.  It is at this point that I must also mention the DHC’s invaluable Research Associate (RA) who is also annually recruited on a scholarship and is present in DHC for a couple of days each week.  Once trained themselves, the RA helps me to train the new volunteer team in basic digitisation processes and each volunteer then chooses a weekly two hour shift to spend on duty in the centre helping out and supporting users. The volunteers  also decide upon a project and/or team each that they would like to work on throughout the year.

Projects and Teams.

Often these are digitisation projects developed in collaboration with myself, members of staff from the faculty or an external business partner.  Past projects have included digitising and building a database of undergraduate work from the Classics Department’s Independent Second Year Project; this is not written work mind, but ‘creations’ –masks, forts, mosaics, board games, we’ve digitized them all!   We have digitised a collection of Theatre Programmes, 35mm slides and, of course, the ongoing Heart of Heritage project which involves digitising and researching archive material from the lace industry with Debbie Bryant from Nottingham’s Lace Market. Often volunteers will come up with their own projects and you can read about these and, indeed, all of the projects elsewhere on the Digital Interactions blog.

2015-16 volunteers conducting and modelling for a DHC photo shoot

2015-16 volunteers conducting and modelling for a DHC photo shoot.

The volunteers may also opt to work in the DHC Marketing Team whose work includes the production of marketing material to promote DHC and associated events, often in conjunction with the School’s marketing team.  They also assist me in representing the Centre at University open days where they talk to future students, public digitisation workshops where we show members of the public –including school children  – the benefits of digitisation and then let them loose on the equipment. Volunteers help out at public events like the Mayfest and Family Discovery Days,  on fun activities like Digital Time Travelers and they also help manage DHC’s Twitter and Facebook accounts and contribute to Digital Dialogues too.

The DHC’s Video and Photography teams are sent out on assignments with the DHC equipment to shoot events all over the campus.  Volunteers photographed and filmed the opening of the Humanities building by Matthew Bannister in 2011, and it was one of ours that covered the recent launch of the new Arts and Humanities foundation year courses.  They have worked with one-time DHC Artist in Residence and photographer James E Smith to video arts events at the Lakeside, and they have worked with the University’s Digital Marketing Department to shoot information videos explaining to prospective students why they should choose Nottingham’s Arts Departments to come and study for their degrees!

Other opportunities for DHC Volunteers.

The volunteers also have the opportunity to meet with a member of the University’s Careers and Employability Department who visits DHC to speak to them exclusively about how to present the skills and experience that they gain working here on their CVs. They also benefit from an annual trip to the Manuscripts and Special Collections Department where they meet the staff and gain  valuable insights into the archiving and digitisation industry.  We even manage the odd social event, past endeavours having involved visiting local hostelries and restaurants and, on one memorable occasion, shooting each other with lasers!

DHC Volunteer Alumni Network; 2016.

On 13th July 2016, we launch the DHC Volunteer Alumni Network which has been developed in collaboration with the University’s Alumni Relations Office.  It will comprise an online forum in which past volunteers can stay in touch, share DHC stories and discuss what they did next.  They will also be invited to contribute to a library of alumni profiles and stories which will be published on the University website.

If you have any projects that you would like to suggest to DHC, or if you are a DHC Volunteer alumni and would like to join the Network, or you are an Arts student at Nottingham who is interested in volunteering, please get in touch at digitalhumanities@nottingham.ac.uk

DHC manager Matt Davies and the Marketing Team demonstrating Digital Time Travellers at the 2016 Family Discovery Day.

DHC manager Matt Davies and the Marketing Team as Digital Time Travelers at the 2016 Family Discovery Day.

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