Registration is now open for a free online event exploring the history of charity retail, bringing together historians, archivists and our very own Chief Executive Robin Osterley. As part of the ‘Welfare, Humanitarianism and Social Action’ strand of the Social History Society’s online conference, this session will take place at 12.30-2.30pm on Thursday 8 July 2021. You can register now via Eventbrite.
Charity Retail in Modern Britain and Ireland: Historical Perspectives and Contemporary Reflections
Charity shops are, for many, a much-loved feature of the British high street. Over 11,000 stores in the UK today provide a site for fundraising, volunteering, the donation of unwanted goods, bargain-hunting and vintage finds. They are also routinely criticised for the advantages they have over commercial traders or as a sign of economic decline in a local area. Celebrated or maligned, charity retail is a familiar feature of the British high street today. Yet its history remains an under-researched topic amongst social historians.
In this session, we will hear from those working on the history of charity retail. Recurring themes will include the role of religious organisations and the local branches of charities, the sale of purpose-made items as well as donated second-hand goods, and the international connections of trading charities. The session will also consider the importance for this research of preserving and making accessible the collections of charity archives, as well as questions of how such research might be of contemporary value. To that end, the session will bring together the perspectives of historians, archivists and those working in the charity retail sector today to consider the findings and insights of, as well as the challenges and potential for, historical research into charitable retailing operations in modern Britain and Ireland.
Georgina Brewis (UCL) will chair the session and comment on the challenges facing and the potential of charity archives in the 2020s.
Ruth Macdonald (Salvation Army International Heritage Centre) will be speaking on the retail work of The Salvation Army, which has been an important auxiliary to its evangelical and social work since the 1880s, and giving an archivist’s perspective on the preservation of its archives and research into its history.
Sarah Roddy (Maynooth University) will be speaking on Catholic female religious orders’ employment of business-based methods in dispensing and raising charitable funds in nineteenth-century Ireland.
George Campbell Gosling (University of Wolverhampton) will be speaking on the different meanings of the new goods and second-hand donated items sold in British charity shop between the 1940s and 1970s.
Robin Osterley (Charity Retail Association) will conclude the session with some thoughts on the charity retail sector today and what it can learn from its own history.
Image: Leeds Elevator Salvage Store, c.1908. Reproduced courtesy of the Salvation Army International Heritage Centre (Ref: MSW/2/2/1)