UNA Exchange Archives – ‘Mapping the Attic’

Over Spring 2023, Caitlyn Newman undertook a voluntary Insights Placement with WCIA through Cardiff University’s Centre for Student Life.

UNA Exchange was founded in 1973, alongside the WCIA itself. The organisations merged in February of 2020, and Temple of Peace in Cardiff hosts the majority of the UNA Exchange’s physical documents archive, as yet uncatalogued and unexplored. This initial piece of work has been to ‘map out’ the broad contents of the archives currently stored in the attic of Wales’ Temple of Peace.

The Attic of Wales Temple of Peace – an archivists treasure trove!

Initially on working through the UNA Exchange section, a large portion were financial documents of limited heritage value (and likely to be categorised for future disposal). However, there are diamonds to be among the masses, items such as plane tickets, training documents, press cuttings and photographs taken at various volunteer workcamps can be found. These gems help tell the story of the UNAE, and are well worth the legwork to find them.

Now plane tickets might not immediately seem all that interesting, but they are a very tangible and visible representation of the far-reaching efforts of the UNA Exchange; the sort of artefact that could be a talking point in a display, evoking memories and prompting stories. Do you know anyone who has participated in an international exchange through UNAE? Your travel tickets might still be stored within the Temple’s Archives! The archives hold copies of both plane and coach tickets so it is possible that your tickets are here, however you travelled.[1]

The archives also hold a plethora of training documents, for both leaders and volunteers, that were used during the multiple programmes and work camps the UNAE led over the 1970s-2000s [2] Newspaper clippings also provide a really fascinating insight into the projects[3], mostly from the early 2000s, and showcase the impact of the UNAE on the local communities that they visited.

Examples from the archives include a box containing documents on the EVS (European Voluntary Service) hosting project that ran from 2014-2015.[4] Alongside the financial information, this box contains multiple copies of a cookbook written by and given to volunteers. It also contains copiues of a diary detailing the first-hand experiences of volunteer Robert Davies in the UNAE’s pioneering voluntary international peace workcamps of the 1960s. A box file containing volunteer efforts in Africa from 1990-1999 contains images that depict the volunteers at work building foundations in Ghana, which gives a wonderful view of the types of work that can be expected to come out of the WCIA. [5]

The Archives also contain leaflets on projects, accommodation, activities, and organisations within Wales from as recent as 2007.[6] The activities depicted in these leaflets could very well be ongoing, and further give an idea of what to expect if you were to look to volunteer within UNA Exchange/WCIA.

Despite how boring the files and boxes stored in the Archives might seem when observed broadly, by looking at them in detail we can see the many successful projects and workcamps both in Wales and globally that the UNA Exchange led.

[1] EVS Sending Finances, UNAE/U12/1

[2] Training, UNAE/U12/1

[3] Press File, UNAE/U12/1

[4] Shelf U1/2 Box – Funding and short term work camps

[5] Africa A-K, UNAE/U1/0

[6] Info/Leaflets, UNAE/U12/2

Bringing order to the chaos: index of attic contents, with UNA Exchange’s archives in alcoves T1-5