On Thursday 16 December at 4pm I shall be giving a paper to this title for the Centre for the Comparative Study of the Americas (CECSAM) at Swansea University.
This will be the first time I have delved into a brand new region’s material culture since my foray into medieval southern Italy for my PhD. My learning curve has been steep and I hope that I do justice to the work of scholars of Latin America on which I will be heavily relying. However, this paper will not be about Wales’ relationship with Latin America during the boom years of the world copper industry in the middle two-thirds of the 19th century, but will rather suggest how this relationship can be interpreted through objects. Through the project I am currently working on, the Global and Local Worlds of Welsh Copper, I am tasked with doing just this. It isn’t just the Latin American connections that need to be made tangible through the objects and illustrations we will feature in the forthcoming exhibition at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea in July 2011, but those closer and farther from Wales such as Australia, South Africa, Anglesey and Cornwall. How can this story be told through the things that remain to us? Copper wasn’t the only thing that connected Latin America to Wales. The well-known Monkey-puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana, previously known as Chile Pine in Britain), native to Chile and Argentina, came to the British Isles in the 1850s and a handsome specimen was planted in the estates of Singleton Abbey, previously the home of copper magnates the Vivians, now the core of Swansea University. Did the copper connection bring this particular one to Swansea?
This paper will give me the opportunity to talk about my intellectual approach to choosing objects for exhibitions (and for history writing) and provide a discrete case-study to do this. To be a little out of my comfort zone with a new region’s history will sharpen, I hope, my questions and improve my answers. The title is in homage to copper’s elemental number, 29, and my expectation that 29 key objects can tell the story of the world of Welsh copper.
An enhanced version of my slideshow presentation will now form a part of the 2011 Swansea Latin American Association (Asociación Latinoamericana de Swansea Swansea Latin American Association) festival at the Dylan Thomas Centre where people will be able to learn about the Welsh-Latin American copper connections.
World trade in copper was arguably the first fully integrated global industry and Swansea was its powerhouse. From the beginning of the 18th century up until the 1870s about half the world’s mined copper came here to be smelted ready for use in manufactories in the UK and beyond. When sources close to home dried up Welsh prospectors looked to Latin America and Swansea copper barques circled the globe to bring back ore from Valparaiso, Santiago de Cuba, and elsewhere. As part of the ESRC Global and Local Worlds of Welsh Copper Project we aim to bring this history to a much wider audience through events, digitisation and a major exhibition at the National Waterfront Museum in July 2011. This paper will explore how we will represent the industrial and cultural connections between Latin America and Wales through objects.
Thursday 16 December, 16:00
Conference Room (B03), Basement Floor, Callahan Building, Swansea University.