Mumbles archive project aims to capture the past for the future
An ambitious and exciting new initiative hopes to collect and communicate the heritage of Mumbles and West Cross, bringing together communities of the past, present and future.
With startup funding from Mumbles Community Council and in partnership with archive and heritage experts from Swansea University, ‘The Story of Mumbles’ is a community archive project which aims to protect and catalogue existing fragile materials, in order to preserve them, digitise and then exhibit the collection online.
The project is managed by Helen Nicholas and Bev Rogers from Gower Unearthed, a community interest company which specialises in archaeology and heritage education.
The aim is to gather oral histories of older generations still living in the area, explore the prehistory of the area through place names and dialect, and record the lives of significant people and events which make the popular tourist destination unique.
Explaining the scope of the undertaking, Helen said: “As the footprint of the area continues to change, we want to keep the heritage and history alive and at the heart of a thriving tourism industry.
“We want people who live in and visit the area to feel invested, to understand that there is a huge amount to learn about the archaeology and geology around them, of the people whose endeavours made the village what it is today.
“Now that the area depends more on tourism and less on fishing and industry it is harder for younger generations to stay in the area and so handed down tales and memories will be lost.
“We hope this will be the preliminary stages of an ongoing, long-term project which will preserve the past and the present for the future, both for local people and to welcome visitors with a view of our heritage.”
Building on pre-existing community relationships, and recruiting volunteers, it is hoped that more people will be trained in the preservation and cataloguing of archive materials.
Examples of the topics and memories they hope to record include local dialects and place names the history of Mumbles during war, the history of women during the war, the first passenger tram in the world and the oyster industry, once the most prolific in Britain.
The histories of the rugby and football clubs will be displayed and enhanced, and they will also endeavour to turn Oystermouth Radio’s oral history archives into available and accessible resources.
Physical conservations are planned for the historic drinking fountain and milestone near the William Hancock pub, and of cobbled parts of the older streets.
Mumbles was established on the fishing and oyster industry but when the Oystermouth Railway was established in 1806, the first passenger service in the world, tourism soon followed.
Responding to influx of visitors and workers the Mumbles railway was extended in 1898 and a pier was constructed.
The RNLI lifeboat slipway was added to the pier in 1916 and a boathouse in 1922.
In recent years the Norman castle and the pier have undergone major renovations however, the diverse collections of written primary sources, held by community groups, are under threat.
Many have suffered from inappropriate storage, bad preservation or simply a lack of use due to their inaccessibility. This project aims to draw together many of these threatened archives, to preserve the originals and exhibit them online.
A user friendly ‘accessible for all’ website will then be built to allow these materials to become an open access resource usable to all community members.
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