Why I volunteer at the Museum of Policing in Devon and Cornwall, by Pam Giles

Pam has been a dedicated volunteer with the Museum of Policing in Devon and Cornwall for more than a decade.

She has been working on the continued preservation and collection of Devon and Cornwall police heritage material for more than 12 years, long before our Trust (the museum) was formally established to look after it in 2016.

Pam’s involvement in police heritage follows an incredible policing career spanning 30 years; one that saw her join the force at a time when workplaces across the country were changing to reflect greater gender equality following the Sex Discrimination Act, 1975. The Act protected both men and women from being discriminated against on the grounds of their sex (though not their gender, which is different from sex– the act didn’t recognise a plurality of genders).

This was a landmark act at the time, and Pam’s police training school was integrated; one of the first of its kind. When she finished her training she went to Plymouth and was placed in a women’s only department which was quite the shock for Pam having just finished training with both men and women, but she soon moved out of the department and into an integrated team, and women’s only departments were dismantled soon after.

Pam’s experiences illuminate a transitional time in the force where standardised practices and expectations on ways of operating between men and women were changing, progressing, and evolving to reflect a format more familiar to us today. Any policewoman who joined at a similar time to Pam were pioneers of this change that was not without its challenges, as many experienced pockets of institutionalised backlash.

On the whole, Pam reflects positively on the inclusivity of the men in her cohort, and the happy and deeply meaningful time she had in the force. No two days were the same, and the bonds she made with her force colleagues remain as unbreakable now as they were then.

It is because of her fond memories and the significant role the force played in her life that Pam invests so much of her time in the museum today. Pam is a keen cataloguer, and finds immense satisfaction in cataloguing an item from the collection knowing that in doing so, she has made it possible for people anywhere to find it, and learn about it. Preservation is critically important in Pam’s eyes – the artefacts and documents aren’t just things that get locked away in dusty store rooms; they are proof of the life and times of an organisation that depends greatly on the past to inform its future, and it is because of volunteers like Pam that the collection continues to guarantee the preservation of Devon and Cornwall’s policing heritage for posterity.

If you are interested in volunteering with us, contact the Museum of Policing in Devon and Cornwall. Email: ceo@greg-white.