Celebrating 70... and a boy called Heritage

on Tuesday, 07 November 2017. Posted in Archaeology, Archives, Conservation, History Centre

Archives and archivists, artists, archers and archaeologists – all were on hand to make our annual open day an event to remember.
In fact it was a triple celebration when we welcomed the public to the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre in Chippenham.
Celebrating a decade in the “new” building would have been excuse enough for us to organise a special birthday open day, but 2017 is also the 70th anniversary of the county-wide archive being established, so we were really keen to pull out all the stops. The icing on the cake – there’s always cake at the History Centre – was the official presentation of our Archive Service Accreditation from The National Archives (TNA).

Heritage Cake - you can never have too much cake!

So at 10am on 28th October we opened our doors to the Family Fun Day and a host of activities designed to show off the wide-ranging work we do at the History Centre.
The stars of the show were a selection from the 70 favourite archives that have been featured on our website this year. It was difficult for staff and volunteers to choose their favourite archives – especially as it takes almost eight miles of shelving to house the archive collection – but all had a certain wow-factor. The display featured Kings, Queens and Presidents; artists and architects; nurses, soldiers and engineers; magnificent illuminated manuscripts and simpler texts. All had a story to tell and visitors on the day were fascinated to discover some of the gems of the collection.

A selection from the 70 favourite archives - and a wandering highwayman.

There were displays and activities showcasing all the work that takes place in the History Centre and this year for the first time our colleagues from the Copy Certificates team put on a display explaining their job. The team provides certified copies of birth, marriage and death certificates but it’s not always modern day certificates that they handle. They were able to show some of the more unusual girls and boys names from more than a hundred years ago – Lemon Maud and a boy called Heritage!

Behind the scenes with the conservators

Over the course of the day 450 people enjoyed learning about the archive and object conservation that goes on behind the scenes. Families were able to visit the strong-rooms, normally not open to the public. The Pelham Puppets once again proved a popular attraction, especially the giant clown puppet! Art activities were provided by the ARTeology group of artists who are working with the History Centre on the Heritage Lottery funded Collection Cultures/Creative Wiltshire project.

Artistic fun with Creative Wiltshire ARTeology group.

Our very own highwayman attracted a lot of attention, including from the day’s special guests Jeff James, chief executive and keeper of The National Archives (pictured on the left) and the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, John Glen MP.  The minister and TNA chief executive were joined by Councillor Richard Clewer, Wiltshire Council’s cabinet member for Corporate Services, Heritage, Arts and Tourism, for the presentation of the Archive Service Accreditation which acknowledges the “gold standard” service that the Wiltshire and Swindon Archive provides.

Jeff James (Left) chief executive of The National Archives, with John Glen MP minister for arts heritage tourism.
Stand and Deliver!

Taking us further back in time were the wonderful College of Chivalry who provided visitors with essential lessons in archery and sword fighting as well as more sedentary skills including writing with quills.

Taking aim our very own archaeologist Rachel learning how to use a longbow!
The College of Chivalry knights taking a well-earned break.
The College of Chivalry knights taking a well-earned break.

We would like to thank all the participants and especially the 450 visitors who made this year’s open day a wonderful celebration.

Ruth Butler, Heritage Education Officer



Accredited Archive Service