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Friday, 20 September 2013

Shipwrecks and Gravestones

Sarahjayne and Kimberly at Pentre Ifan.
Hello, my name is Kimberly Briscoe, and I am one of two new community archaeologists descending onto the archaeologically rich town of Aberystwyth, to fulfil a year  long CBA funded placement at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. My aim is to get as many of you as enthused about archaeology as I am, and about the rest of the Royal Commission, and if you’re already keen, to help you develop your interest further!

So a little bit about what we are doing here…
The two placements here develop the two major strands of community involvement in archaeology. I hold the youth focused side of the coin, learning ways of enabling 16-25 year olds to develop passions and involvement in the archaeology that surrounds us here. Sarahjayne Clements  my cohort, will be focusing on the non-youth side of community heritage and archaeology, tackling everybody else!

The Starting Blocks

Right, so I’ve come to the end of my first two weeks here with the Royal Commission and, to be honest, I am absolutely shattered, but it has been fantastic fun! Our inductions are arranged so that we spend a week with each team to gain a feel for the way data is recorded, analysed and digitized in each department of the Royal Commission, understanding the processes of research and analysis. This is great as we can feed our experience and the knowledge of the resources back into the work we do with you.  The first week we have been shadowing the Data & Technology team.

Data & Technology Team

Here we were able to see how the Royal Commission presents and makes the archives available and useful to the general public. The Data & Technology team work to enable this process through the construction and maintenance of two fantastic publically accessible web pages. The first is the Peoples Collection Wales, managed by Helen Rowe, and if you haven’t had a play on this website it’s well worth a visit !

The Peoples Collection works to serve you; it’s basically a website that allows you to publicise any old photographs and memories in video, picture, audio or written form, or just to enable you to access other peoples published memories and images relating to your communities past. This creates a giant archive of research, images and memories. The Royal Commission aids this process by uploading images, audio and documents from its own archives to share with you! For instance Sarahjane and I were involved in transcribing and uploading videos recorded from ‘Garw Valley Garden and History and Heritage Company Oral History Project’, where people were talking about their childhood memories of the River Garw.

The second website is the web browser Coflein where we are currently digitising our archives for public access. This is one of the important parts of the Royal Commission’s work, allowing the public to search our archive. Through this induction we were able to understand and aid the process of uploading the material to the database.

Finally, the latter half of the week was set aside to discuss the exciting new projects on the innovation side of the Royal Commission’s approach to capturing community histories. The first application, ‘Wales 1900 project’, is a digitised historical map of Wales in the 1900s enabling users to mark place names onto the historic map of 1900 Wales located on . It’s great fun and becomes addictive after a while, so quite a few located place names in Chepstow (near where I grew up r) are marked out by yours truly!

The second project crowdsnapcymru is a clever app designed by Daniel Drave in partnership with the Royal Commission. Basically it involves your favourite buildings and their place in your memories and your community. I like this idea and I am keeping it in mind as a potential way to engage and to showcase work achieved by future community projects.

Archive and Library Team, plus a glimpse of Shipwrecks

Cwm-Yr-Eglwys church swept out to sea in the storm of 1859.

Our second week was primarily dedicated to shadowing the Archive and Library team. This meant viewing the archive and understanding what goes into managing, disseminating and cataloguing the resources here - both digitally and in paper copy - and ensuring the data remains usable, flexible and available for public use.

Throughout this week, however, we were able to develop another important strand of our work, i.e. what we can achieve with the community. We focused on exploring how we can engage primarily with younger people. We were given a chance to view a current project with a local school in Pembrokeshire, run as a partnership between Cadw and Dylan Adams from Cerddora creative education. Dylan, the creative educator, conducted the workshop in and around Carreg Coetan Arthur , a local Neolithic burial chamber,  using sound and interpretive dance with the children to help them gain an understanding  and experience of what it would may been like thousands of years ago. This was fantastic to watch, and so encouraging seeing the children really engaged with their local monument.

Aber-bach Beach Wreck site of the Charles Holmes.
Continuing this theme, we have been given the chance to become involved in an exciting new project ‘The Welsh Shipwrecks Project’.  This joint Royal Commission-Cadw venture is based on the little known tragedy of the shipwrecks caused by the violent Royal Charter Gale of 1859. As part of this we followed the story of one shipwreck - the ‘Charles Holmes’, which ended its life so abruptly on the shores of Aberbach beach. We firstly visited the local graveyard at St. Catherine’s Church, Granston, hunting for the memorial erected by local people to the lives lost in the shipwreck, which in fact was revealed to be a modest single gravestone for the 28 passengers! We then experienced the impact and scale of the storm from a local perspective by viewing the ruined remains of the church at Cwm-Yr-Eglwys , swept mostly out to sea in the storm.

Well, it’s been a busy but interesting two weeks and we’re certainly getting a feel for the work conducted here at the Royal Commission. For now I’ll finish up, but there will be more news soon!

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