March 23, 2023, by Cuba Research Forum

Grace Smyth speaks about her recent volunteer experience at the Hennessy Collection

Hi, I’m Grace and I am a final year Spanish and Chinese undergraduate. I am so glad to have had the opportunity to work with the Hennessy Collection and it has been a great experience to be involved in.

I started volunteering at the beginning of term, helping categorise and organise books in the collection. I highly recommend it and there are loads of ways to get involved! I’ve now started to learn how to digitise some of the centuries old newspapers we have in the collection and it is amazing that I get to have such hands on (literally) experience with such rare and unusual snippets of history.

Through volunteering you can learn a wide variety of skills, as well as gain an exclusive insight into biggest collection on Cuban history and culture not only nationally, but of any collection outside of Cuba and the Americas. All of the staff and students involved are absolutely lovely, and it’s amazing to all be working together to help maintain such a special part of the university’s research.

It is such an inspiring place to be surrounded by a world-renowned collection and to help it be enjoyed by both academics and students. If you want to get involved in cataloguing, get in touch with the Director of the Centre for Research on Cuba, Professor Par Kumaraswami (  and it is as easy as that!

Volunteering can be a great way to get involved with the university’s research, as well as being great to develop your own skills looking forwards to your career prospects. It has also been great to have a schedule that works alongside a busy student timetable, and to have considerate peers respectful of your flexibility. I recommend getting involved to anyone with a passion for literature, or just want to help give back to the university community in a new and inspiring way!

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