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Thursday, 3 May 2012

Friends of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales

Welcome to the many new members of the Friends’ network. I hope that this Newsletter will give you a flavour of what we are about and how we can help you develop your knowledge of the historic environment of Wales, whether you think of yourself as a professional or an interested amateur. As one of our Patrons, Huw Edwards, notes, “The Royal Commission is emphatically about the future of Wales, as well as its past”.

In the Welsh heritage landscape, it is sometimes unclear to the lay person who does what and who they should approach amongst Cadw, the Archaeological Trusts, the Royal Commission, and the amenity societies. Well, simply put, the Royal Commission is the national archive for the historic environment in Wales. With two million photographs, 125,000 drawings, and millions of pages of documents, it is also the largest visual archive in Wales.

But it is not just an archive. Our archive work is closely linked to continuing investigation and outreach activity. Our thematic investigation projects develop knowledge and understanding of Wales’s history. The results of this work plus the contents of the archive are being made available increasingly quickly to users both through our traditional high-quality publications, for which the Commission is so well-known and respected internationally, and online through our own Coflein, the People’s Collection Wales, and other websites. The Commission is a leader in digital innovation in the Welsh heritage sector and beyond, and once again the annual Digital Past conference in 2012 was a sell-out. On a more local level, our community archaeologists (funded by HLF and the EU’s Interreg programme) are working with communities and individuals in areas as diverse as Amlwch, north Ceredigion, Blaenau Gwent and Cardiff.

Little wonder, then, that I was delighted, but not in the least surprised, when the Welsh Government’s Governance Review a couple of years ago concluded that “The Royal Commission is a highly respected organisation, made up of well-qualified, experienced and committed staff and acknowledged Commissioners... we were continually impressed by the amount the organisation does on [its] budget”.

Like our existing long-term users, I hope that new Friends will also come rapidly to this conclusion. Do tell your friends and acquaintances about the benefits of joining this network, and help us to help you find out more about your own past.

Eurwyn Wiliam

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