Explore Your Archives 2015

on Thursday, 29 October 2015.

As part of the Explore Your Archive campaign, which begins on Saturday 14 November, we are encouraging people to take the time to visit our archive and will be publicising the varied collections we have here.

The Explore Your Archive campaign is encouraging people to discover the stories, the facts, the places and the people that are at the heart of our communities. Archives across the UK and Ireland are taking part to raise awareness of the value of archives to society and of the rich variety of content that is held, preserved and made available to users.

We will be posting on our Twitter (@heritagewshc) and Facebook (facebook.com/wiltshireandswindonhistorycentre) pages throughout the week to show people the kinds of things they can discover in the archive, encouraging people to share their archive stories and giving tips on finding creative inspiration in the archives.

We will also be hosting a colourful exhibition panel explaining the history of the Magna Carta and its connections to Wiltshire, as part of the 800th anniversary year celebrations.

Wiltshire has strong connections to the Magna Carta via Salisbury, Lacock and Trowbridge. Namely, the Salisbury Cathedral copy of Magna Carta, dated 1215; Lacock’s confirmation of Magna Carta, dated 1225, and Trowbridge being home of Henry de Bohun, one of the Barons who witnessed the sealing of the 1215 document. Through its assertion of the rule of law and opposition to tyranny Magna Carta (which is Latin for ‘Great Charter’) has become a powerful symbol of human rights, referenced by the Founding Fathers of the United States in the 19th century and by Nelson Mandela in his defence at his trial in 1964.

The exhibition panel, created in partnership between ourselves and the National Trust, will be on display free of charge in the reception area of the Centre throughout November.

To find out more about the Explore Your Archive campaign and how you can start your own adventure visit http://exploreyourarchive.org/

History Centre Open Day

on Monday, 26 October 2015.

Saturday 31st October 2015 from 9.30 a.m. to 4.00 p.m.

Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre in Chippenham celebrates its 8th birthday on 31st October but instead of a party we will be holding an Open Day. From 9.30 to 4.00 people are invited to discover what happens in the Centre and what they can find out from the wonderful collections that are housed there. Conservators will discuss their work with museum objects, archaeological finds, photographs, and documents, while experts will advise on finding how to research the history of a family, house, church and community, town and village. 

Archaeologists will talk about latest finds and the wealth of archaeology in the county, have displays on Stonehenge and Avebury, Wiltshire’s historic landscape, and the Civil War, and they’ll also let you handle archaeological finds. Old maps and photographs are fascinating and there will be exhibitions of both with staff on hand to talk about them, while the Magna Carta exhibition will include a locally painted baron that took part in the 800th anniversary celebrations in Salisbury.

There’ll be the first opportunity to see items acquired through the HLF funded project, Creative Wiltshire & Swindon, including etchings, prints, ceramics and bells; you can also listen to recordings by local musicians. Local and family history societies will have stalls explaining their work in the county and how you can help with their projects.

You can take a tour of one of the strong rooms where documents dating back to 1148, when King Stephen was on the throne, are held. There’ll be treasure hunts and competitions for all ages and 8 mini lectures through the day. Light refreshments – cakes, tea, coffee and squash - will be available in the Heritage Café, open for one day only, where there will be screenings of old ciné films and local history presentations. Apart from the café everything is free, including membership of the History Centre.

There will be many secondhand local books for sale so join us for a free day out at our first Open Day for two years and discover many aspects of local and family history and enjoy some of our competitions. You have lived through history and stand at the end of centuries of evolution and the development of your community and your family. Explore ways of learning more about this from our many experts

The series of free mini lectures are:

10.00 a.m. Stories Behind Pub Names with Mike Marshman

 10.30 a.m. Some Recent Discoveries in North Wiltshire’s Archaeology with Melanie Pomeroy-Kellinger

11.00 a.m. Matilda Talbot – an Extraordinary Wiltshire Woman with Claire Skinner

11.30 a.m. Horrible Cures & Remedies with Terry Bracher

2.00 p.m. Life in the 17th Century Ale House with Mike Marshman

 2.30 p.m. Some Recent Discoveries in South Wiltshire’s Archaeology with Clare King

 3.00 p.m. Family History on the Internet with Claire Skinner

 3.30 p.m. Anecdotes from the Archives with Steve Hobbs

Limited capacity – first come get the seats!

There will be plenty in the Centre to keep you occupied for a few hours so do set aside half a day to visit us and take the opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes and talk to our many experts about what you can find out and achieve when you visit us.

Council for British Archaeology - Home Front Legacy Workshop

on Friday, 09 October 2015.

The Council for British Archaeology and Historic England, hosted by the University of Winchester, will be holding a community training programme during 2015 for local volunteers and projects wanting to find out more about recording Home Front sites in their area.

The workshop is the Wessex regions training workshop on the First World War Home Front Legacy project and includes an introduction to First World War heritage in the region and training on how to use the online recording tool. The workshop is being held at the University of Winchester, SO22 4NR, on 17th October and people from across the region are welcome to attend. Speakers include Dan Miles and Richard Osgood.

You will have the opportunity to:

-Get actively involved with the Home Front Legacy Project

-Share the toolkit, app and resources for your research or to get started on new projects

-Start discovering your local First World War surviving sites, structures and buildings using online resources

-Connect with your local Historic Environment Record

-Gain the skills and confidence to share your learning with your community group

-Share your projects and to meet potential partners

See programme details and book online here


Hilary Mantel's Inspiration in the Archives

on Thursday, 01 October 2015.

Like many I have been enthralled by Hilary Mantel’s novels about Thomas Cromwell, Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies, and I am looking forward to the forthcoming third and final book, The Mirror and the Light. 

Her account of him is plausible, in part, because it is based on sound historical research, from which her imagination can take off. It is the use of original archives that has particularly interested me. So much so that I invited her to visit the History Centre to see some Wiltshire archives that we hold. These were a finely illuminated pedigree of the Seymour family of Wolf Hall, near Marlborough, marriage settlement deeds of Jane Seymour and Henry VIII, and eight letters written by Thomas Cromwell to his Wiltshire ally, Walter lord Hungerford.

Over the last year colleagues here have organised two successful projects encouraging artists and writers to produce work inspired by archives. With this in mind I asked Hilary if she would give a talk about her work which she readily agreed to do. The visit took place on 10 September. She was fascinated by the archives and gleaned several useful details which fired her imagination. Her talk in the evening, to an audience of over 100, offered a fascinating insight into the creative process of this important novelist. She creates a mosaic of scenes and passages which are later arranged into the finished sequence. Far from being a distraction the adaptations of the books to stage and TV have influenced the writing of the final novel, and sharing the creative process with, actors, directors and scriptwriters, was positive and stimulating.

The documents which Hilary saw can be seen at the History Centre, along with the many thousands of archives that make up Wiltshire and Swindon Archives, to inform and inspire both historical research and creative work.

Steve Hobbs, Archivist

Celebrating Lacock Unlocked

on Tuesday, 22 September 2015.

Sunday, 20th September was a great day for the Lacock Unlocked project. After three years, we were able to hold a celebration event which showcased all the fantastic work we’ve done over the years and paved the way for sustaining the work ahead.

We held the event in the Manger Barn in Lacock. The doors opened at 1pm and the barn was open to everyone: past and present volunteers, members of the community, and members of the public who looked in during their wanders round the village.

On display to visitors were the newly created pop-up exhibition, which looked at the development of Lacock’s history, interesting people and places, and some outreach work that had been done as part of the project. The exhibition covered the three main themes that the project sought to cover from the beginning: how history is recorded; Lacock, a sense of place; and Lacock and the outside world. We are seeking to put the exhibition up in various places in the next few months throughout the county. We also showed an exhibition of photographs taken by the North Wilts Community Club following their visit to see some of the archives and the subsequent inspired photographs. It was great to see some of the members at the event. The photographs ranged from pictures of plants and leaves, to images of Lacock Abbey and specific objects that interested the members.

Also on show at the event was a series of videos created by our Transforming Archives trainee, Matthew Goodwin, who sadly left Wiltshire Council the previous week to do his archives course in Liverpool so couldn’t be present at the event. The videos were slideshows of photographs of community members from across the decades, accompanying some of the oral history recordings that Matthew and his volunteers took in the past year. These proved very popular with members of the community and with visitors to Lacock; it was lovely to hear some of the stories from peoples’ childhoods and about what life used to be like in Lacock.

We also had a selection of photographs taken by Wiltshire People First, a group who also did some workshops on photography and produced some lovely photographs using their new skills with digital SLR cameras.

Accompanying the exhibitions and presentation were a printout of the new archive catalogue, showing the series and titles of the records that have been catalogued, an example of the Lacock Unlocked website which visitors could browse, desktop versions of the “app” which can now be downloaded onto Google Play and the App Store, and a timeline of the project showing what has been achieved since the start of it.

At 2pm Terry Bracher, Archives and Local Studies Manager, gave a brief talk on what we have done as part of the project, and thanked staff, volunteers and community groups for their effort and enthusiasm for the project. We couldn’t have done it without the input of the Lacock and wider communities, and the support we’ve had from the start has been brilliant.

The project is ongoing: the community archive will continue to expand and flourish, we should be getting lots more articles on our website, and hopefully more community groups as well as individuals will be eager to work with the Lacock collection.

Although it felt like the end of an era seeing the round-up of everything we’ve done in the Lacock project, the day also reminded us that it isn’t really the end, because the people involved with it don’t want it to be. We hope that we will continue to work with the community and volunteers, as part of the Lacock project and also with other collections. It was a joy to see so many eager supporters of the celebration event, and really made us feel that everything had come together.

Ally McConnell, Archivist

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