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Archive Volunteers

Archive Volunteers

To celebrate volunteer week this year, we wanted to tell you a little bit about the small team of brilliant volunteers that we have in the archive.

The volunteers carry out a number of varied tasks in the Sainsbury Archive. Some of these include:

  • Creating lists of the articles contained in various Sainsbury’s company publications

  • Listing bulletins which were sent by Sainsbury’s head office to the stores to provide an update on various matters (such as products sold, new procedures, advertising campaigns)

  • Listing the recipes in Sainsbury’s recipe books

  • Listing and weeding (removal of items identified for disposal) a large number of boxes of packaging design material.

  • Listing Sainsbury’s newspaper advertisements, so these can be added to our catalogue.

  • Repackaging photos into archival sleeves to help preserve them.


Their work has provided a large amount of additional value to the Sainsbury Archive team by enabling us to enhance our catalogue descriptions with more detail than we would be able to include without their help. This will enable us to locate material to assist archive researchers more effectively and provide more information about the archive’s resources online for our website visitors.

Sainsbury Archive volunteer work

We love working with our volunteers. They enjoy sharing their memories of Sainsbury’s in the past either as a former employee or as a customer. We’ve learned much about the history of the company from our volunteers, and love to hear their anecdotes! They bring an incredible amount of expertise, with their memories giving a more personal insight into a big company. Their input enhances the research value of the collection too, because their knowledge help the archive team to create fuller catalogue descriptions such as this one.

The volunteers committed to the archive throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, carrying out a remote task in their homes while the museum remained closed. This involved writing short descriptions of the history of Sainsbury’s branches.

Two of the volunteers have been volunteering in the Sainsbury Archive for over ten years (and two more are not far off this milestone) - longer in fact than any of the paid staff in the team!

Doug Parkin: "I had a 43-year career with Sainsbury’s, mainly in the finance area. I retired in 2010 and have volunteered in the archive for 10 years for several reasons. First because I enjoy it, we have a good team of volunteers and archivists and the sessions are interesting and enjoyable. Secondly because I have learnt a lot about from the archivists and conservators we have worked with and from the talks and discussions that have been organized for volunteers. Thirdly because I believe the archive is an important resource for family, local, food and business history."  You can hear more from Doug about his time at Sainsbury’s in some short films here.

Debbie Williams: "I love volunteering with the Sainsbury Archive, apart from learning archiving, meeting like-minded colleagues and working in a lovely historic building, I have linked up my own family history with the history of the supermarket, keeping alive childhood memories of shopping with my Mum and seeing my Dad behind the counter."

Sainsbury Archive volunteer, Doug, adding in descriptive information