Elena began volunteering at the PMI in 2019. Some of her volunteering background was working with indexing, including some archive work with the National Trust in their fashion collection and the Beechworth Pharmacy records. She also worked in the Holocaust Museum in their archives. With this in mind I asked her to start work on the PMI’s ‘to be archived’ material. Essentially this meant using our Retention and Disposal Authority to assess old PMI records to determine whether they would be archived, preserved for a certain period, or destroyed. Elena took to the job with enthusiasm and spent a lot of time shredding old financial records that were not destined for the archives. I believe she even found some of the shredding quite cathartic. I had a go as well, and it was quite fun. She did have to spend quite some time waiting for the shredder to cool down when it got too hot.
Once she had shredded, saved, and archived her way through the ‘to be archived’ material, I introduced her to indexing old journals. Her first job was the back issues of the Eltham and District Historical Society, which had been donated by the Yarra Plenty Libraries. The PMI’s journal indexing is a bit fiddly, with some idiosyncrasies (like most things at the PMI), but Elena soon had it figured out and has become one of our regular back issue indexers.
When COVID broke out, and it was clear that her regular volunteer gig working in the Melbourne Visitor’s Centre was going to dry up, she asked us for more work that she could do from home. So, during the lock down she worked her way through the back issues of the Apollo Bay Historical Society, Mission to Seafarers newsletter and all of the Aboriginal History Journals from 1977 to the present. Now that the library has re opened Elena is going to mainly continue working from home, because she can (she is now working on Garden History Journals, and checking the books listed in the Aboriginal History Journals against our catalogue). She has, however, been in the library for the first two weeks we’ve been open, patiently printing off all the Aboriginal History Journals so they can be bound. This is fiddly, meticulous work, which often means arguing with the photocopier (always a fun job), but she got through the last of it on the 24th and they will soon be available to our members.
Elena’s enthusiasm and work ethic have been greatly appreciated and it’s always fun having her in the library. She was also one of my regular correspondents while I was working from home, as we established the best way to index the Aboriginal History Journals, so having that connection back to the PMI was very nice too.
Elena asked me to write this post, an option we always offer volunteers when we’re doing profiles, and I hope it does her hard work justice.