Transforming Archives and Developing Community

on Monday, 28 September 2015. Posted in Archives

For the past year I have been based at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre for my National Archives 'Transforming Archives' traineeship where I have been developing a community archive for the village of Lacock. It has been a fantastic opportunity to gain new skills and develop existing ones. These have included using Joomla (website software), training and managing volunteers, arranging events, advertising, interviewing residents, project management skills, amid many others. For me, the most exciting part of my traineeship was meeting the local residents of Lacock and others in the surrounding areas.   The enthusiasm they held for their village, history and community was startling and was something that I have never experienced in the places that I have lived. The friendliness and willingness to welcome myself and my volunteers into their homes to share their memories, stories and photographs of Lacock was wonderful. It has been a privilege to be able to learn more about this small and close community, over the last year, which is sadly under threat from the continuing rise of tourism and the demands that this entails.

The Lacock Community Archive has collected fifty-two oral history interviews from those within Lacock and the surrounding areas concerning evacuees, American soldiers, Lacock School, fetes and fairs or Manor Farm (located in the village) which no longer exists. Memories have ranged from dressing up as a swine herdsman son at the Lacock Pageant of 1932 to delivering papers to the Abbey.   The interviewees have ranged from teenagers in the village to those who have lived there for their entire lives and whose family goes back generations within the village. In addition to this, over five hundred copies of various photographs and documents have been collected from the community and uploaded to the Lacock website for everybody to view. These include photographs of sport teams, weddings, the old Working Men's Club and events such as the millennium procession. Hopefully, both the oral history interviews and collection of photographs will prove to be a useful historical resource and will continue being a means to share information about the village.  

I have spent a large amount of time in Lacock but even more at the History Centre in Chippenham, based in an office and more often than not sat at a desk behind a computer. Not as idyllic as visiting residents in Lacock! However, the challenges of organising a project with such limited knowledge in the area have proved to be a fantastic and rewarding experience. The enjoyment of this aspect of the project is largely down to the support offered by managers and colleagues who made me feel welcome from the very beginning.  I enjoyed arriving at work each day rather than finding it an arduous chore due to the wonderful people, the challenging work and, of course, the homemade cake that was regularly brought in.

 

The conclusion of the project has been the creation of six audio slideshows that use extracts from the oral history interviews alongside various photographs that the community archive have collected. These focus on memories from World War Two, leisure and work activities, childhood and school, filming and community. These videos can be found here:  http://www.wshc.eu/lacock/lacock-community/a-sense-of-place.html

This is my last blog for the History Centre and I would like to take the opportunity to offer a giant thank you to all the members of staff at WSHC, volunteers and the Lacock community for making the last year such an enjoyable and memorable one.

Matthew Goodwin

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