Volunteers are at the heart of our work here at the GPI.

We can offer experience in processing our archive collections as well as involvement in periodic events and outreach work. We have always recognised the invaluable contribution volunteers can make to our work. The skills and commitment of volunteers can be used in many ways to support us as a charity and increases the pace at which we can process collections of archival material or deliver outreach activities. Volunteers can, in turn, pursue personal interests and gain new experience. The opportunity to meet and interact with other staff, volunteers and members of the community also helps to build confidence.


Who can be a volunteer?

Anyone who has the time and interest in helping to make Black British and Black European history accessible to all. We would like to encourage volunteers of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.

Any of the following skills and abilities would be useful: attention to detail; basic computer skills; ability to work on your own; team work; neat handwriting; flexibility; patience.

The following would be advantageous but not essential:

Some knowledge of the history of the black community over the last 50 years.

Any background knowledge about John La Rose.


Where will I be working?

The majority of work will require handling original documents and this will be carried out at the George Padmore Institute, situated at 76 Stroud Green Road, Finsbury Park, London N4 3EN. However, some typing, planning, publicity and research projects could be carried out from home.

Please note that the Institute is located in a former domestic property. It occupies the three floors above the New Beacon Bookshop, which is located on the ground floor. There is no lift in the building and there is a steep step to the front door. If you feel that you would have difficulty accessing the Institute we may be able to arrange work that can be done from home. There is also the option of transferring original documents to the Islington Local History Centre situated in the Finsbury Library, 245 St John St, EC1V 4NB where we have secured limited reading space. The Centre is fully wheelchair accessible and has a disabled toilet. Please speak to a member of the George Padmore Institute to discuss your needs.


How often do I need to work?

You can come in on a day and time that suits you, providing the GPI is able to accommodate you in terms of staff resources, desk space and opening hours. Regular work patterns are beneficial when managing projects, but we can be flexible. You may wish to spread your work out over a long period or do a short placement instead.


Will I receive training?

Yes, you will be given an induction session plus any training, guidance and information sheets necessary for the work you have agreed to undertake. You will be supervised by a member of staff or mentored by an experienced volunteer.

Work will be logged so that we can keep track of progress and also evaluate the project over time.


What tasks will I be doing?

You may wish to concentrate on one area of work or try out a number of different tasks. Core tasks include the following:


Conservation and Preservation:

Cleaning archival material: the removal of superficial dust and dirt using brushes and other conservation equipment.

NB: Not recommended for anyone suffering from respiratory problems or eczema, although dust masks and gloves can be provided.

Conservation of archival material: we recruit a qualified conservator to undertake this work but we would also like to provide learning opportunities for volunteers in basic conservation skills such as mending tears in newspaper and learning how to handle fragile material.

Preservation packaging: replacing existing boxes and files with appropriate packaging to prevent damage in storage and handling.


Creation of lists and indexes:

We can improve public access by typing basic lists and indexes in the absence of a full catalogue. Draft lists can also aid in the production of full catalogues and can speed up the cataloguing process.

Box listing: producing summary lists of the contents of boxes prior to cataloguing. This also helps with the location of material.



Volunteers can be invaluable when helping to catalogue archive collections. This can be a time-consuming and detailed process. We will assess the skill levels required for cataloguing specific documents within the collection.

Some people may prefer to sort and identify material. Others can learn how to create catalogues before inputting the data onto a database. Or you may enjoy the challenge of working through multiple stages, turning previously unidentified material into a detailed catalogue that can then be made available on-line.


Numbering and Locating Archives:

Reference numbers need to be written on documents once material has been catalogued. This is time-consuming but essential to ensure that we can locate documents and keep individual sheets in order. You will be working in pencil. Neat handwriting required!



We aim to promote archives through a number of outreach events and mini projects. This will include working with schools, delivering workshops, talks and creating and running exhibitions.

We envisage opportunities for volunteers to assist with research and planning, liaison, design, production, publicity and running of events and projects. We will be able to clarify tasks as each event and mini project develops and evolves.



We need to select visual and audio material suitable for digitisation, subject to copyright and conservation constraints. This could involve research to establish holders of copyright and obtaining permission to copy material.

We are also interested in anyone with the ability to scan and photograph material, undertake audio conversion projects and manage the resulting data files.



Perhaps you would be interested in sharing your own fields of expertise by delivering a talk or an informal session to other members of staff, volunteers or to members of the community?


Running Research Service:

We also have to maintain our existing services alongside the new projects. You can help us to supervise our search room, assisting staff to deal with researchers, providing advice on existing collections and carrying out photocopying.


How do I become a volunteer?

We would prefer to invite you to an informal interview so that we can establish people’s interests, skills and needs. However, if you are unable to attend in person, we can contact you by phone or send out an application form.

You will receive a copy of our volunteer policy and, if you agree to join us, you will be asked to sign a volunteer agreement. The work will not be contract based.

If you are interested in volunteering or would like to become involved in other aspects of the George Padmore Institute, please contact:


Sarah Garrod

Project Archivist 

Tel: 020 7272 8915 (Mon-Fri between 10.30am-4.00pm)

Email: info@georgepadmoreinstitute.org