Old Heritage Archive

Building digital communities for your heritage project

Social bookmarks (credit:
Social bookmarks (credit:

This is the presentation of my training seminar on building digital communities for heritage projects. It was given to mainly postgraduate students, some of whom were engaged in community projects, at the College of Arts and Humanities, Swansea University.

The session lasted one hour and included time for questions and discussion.

It was part of a Key Heritage Skills training programme offered to postgraduate students across disciplines.

The training session aimed to:

1) Introduce students to the principles and purposes of engaging audiences through digital media, primarily online.

2) Demonstrate how digital media and other media should be used together to get your message across.

3) Introduce students to modes of analysis to evaluate how and whether digital engagement is working, in the context of sector-wide and worldwide usage statistics

4) Use examples from my previous experience and those of others to highlight what worked and what didn’t.

Level of knowledge expected

A basic awareness of digital media tools and their names e.g. blogs, Twitter, web forums, mailing lists.

Key points are given after the presentation. If you would like similar training tailored to your group or society, please contact me.

You are free to download and use this presentation for personal and student research but please do not try and recreate it without asking first. View the slideshow in Full Screen mode (click the 4-arrow icon) for best effect.

[iframe src=”″ frameborder=”0″ width=”480″ height=”389″ allowfullscreen=”true” mozallowfullscreen=”true” webkitallowfullscreen=”true”]

Download Building Digital Communities Swansea 6-12-12 (.pptx, 5MB)

19 Key Points

…the average consumer is apparently subject to over 5000 messages a day – that’s a lot of competition!

  1. Spend time visualising what you want to achieve before you set off: who are your target audiences and what is the message(s) you want to send out? 
  2. Try to communicate rather than only broadcast information – the average consumer is apparently subject to over 5000 messages a day – that’s a lot of competition!
  3. How do different media interact and how can you use this to your best advantage? Think about how newspapers operate their online editions, how posters carry a simple message and a web address inviting people to find out more and how quickly and easily people use social bookmarking to share information online.
  4. How should you structure your digital landscape? Think about how each element links together such as your website and social media (Facebook, Twitter etc), where will discussion take place (if you want it), how and where will you distribute your content (information in the form of text, video, audio, documents, apps, etc.)
  5. For all the people that are now using digital media via their computers, but increasingly through mobile and tablet devices, there are millions who do not; how does your project cater to those audiences?
  6. Be intelligent. How will you find your audiences? Find out how and how many people make up digital communities worldwide. But don’t be dazzled by big numbers, you are a small and focused heritage project, not Coca Cola.
  7. There is increasing data available on digital engagement in arts, culture and heritage. Reports are made available online. Big players such as the British Museum, BBC and National Trust have become ‘trusted brands’ simply because of the size of their followings, and not necessarily because of their content.

    The original Bagpuss on display in Whiteley's, Bayswater for a special exhibition on Peter Firmin's work, 2011
    The original Bagpuss on display in Whiteley’s, Bayswater for a special exhibition on Peter Firmin’s work, 2011
  8. The best advert for your project is to provide engaging and high-quality content on a regular basis. It is important to keep the momentum going throughout your project or you will quickly lose your following. Make your content easy to access and easy to share.
  9. A value of a visual cue or brand in the form of a logo and/or slogan cannot be under-estimated, particularly when you are integrating several social media channels as well as print media into your campaigns.
  10. I believe blogs are the best way to engage people with your project, even beyond its funded life. You have more control over what happens to information accessed via your blog than you do if you only use Facebook or Twitter to disseminate and collect information.
  11. Case-study 1: Copper Day, a free city-wide festival in Swansea on 5 March 2011: how we used digital media to promote the event and collect information from it, including analysis.
  12. Case-study 2: The Elizabeth Treffry Collection, documenting women’s heritage in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, difficulties in building discussion online e.g. via its Facebook page.
  13. Generating active participation is HARD. Do not be disheartened if you feel like you are talking to yourself. It is worth persevering but keep an eye on which channels you are receiving most feedback and then concentrate on those.
  14. Case-study 3: DigVentures, a new model for undertaking archaeology through crowdsourcing, building a community of amateur archaeologists and sharing and discussing excavations online; the web forum or ‘site hut’ did not work as intended because other channels took precedence e.g. Facebook and email.
  15. Be prepared to moderate ‘trolls’ or deliberately provocative behaviour-do not feel inhibited about removing comments altogether if they are not serving your purpose.
  16. Twitter. Used extensively in the heritage world but often without good effect. Be a person, have conversations, welcome people to your following and reply to people who tweet you directly. The worst offence committed by heritage organisations is when Twitter accounts are allowed to become dormant because of lack of use.
  17. Mailing lists or (in the US) Listservs. These a specialist email-based networks which allow for more qualitative exchanges. I have so far found these to be the most effective method of getting messages about projects, events, surveys and discoveries across, especially if they then lead the reader to your website or blog.
  18. Digital photo culture. Documenting heritage visually should not be under-estimated. When you are competing for so little of someone’s time it is always worth building up a bank of good images or even short films or audio clips to grab people’s attention. Although waning in popularity since it first launched Flickr remains a sophisticated and powerful way of storing, accessing and discovering digital visual heritage. Remember that Facebook will never store your original image but present a cruder version and it is very hard to extract images from the system once they are in.
  19. The best way to understand how digital communities work is to take part in some yourself. Find out what works for you and as importantly, what works for others. Do not assume that just because you don’t like something one way your audience won’t either.

Got a comment? Please leave questions and messages here. I will do my best to answer them.

Old Heritage Archive

List of industrial World Heritage Sites

Levant Mine, part of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape, designated in 2006.
Levant Mine, part of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape, designated in 2006.

45 industrial heritage sites, centres and lanscapes have been designated as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1978.

44 currently hold WHS designation as Dresden Elbe Valley, Germany, was delisted in 2009, having only achieved designation in 2004.

Liverpool Mercantile Maritime City is currently on UNESCO’s danger list.

I am in the process of revising a paper I gave in 2011 on how people’s perceptions of industrial heritage are shaped, using copper as a theme. Starting with a global perspective, I have been counting those that are designated World Heritage Sites. I wanted to share the list for interest. I have included sites related to transportation and communication, urban sites with a substantial representation of historical commerce, and those bearing testimony to pre-modern industry. Those highlighted relate to copper.

Please leave a comment to me know whether I have left any out. 

Old Heritage Archive

History 51 and All Our Stories

History 51 logoIn November 2012 the Hypatia Trust was awarded £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s All Our Stories programme for a project entitled History 51: Unveiling Women in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

History 51 has been designed as a community-led project  based on the Hypatia Trust’s Elizabeth Treffry Collection to trace the journeys, make things inspired by, and document and publish the life stories of historical Cornish and Scillonian women.

Why we applied

At the instigation of Hypatia Trust Founder-Chairman Melissa Hardie, I was commissioned to design the project and write the application. This was my first attempt at writing a funding application for someone or an organisation other than myself and so I was personally delighted that it was successful. However, on a more altruistic level, I was pleased that the subject of women’s history was deemed worthy enough to fund.

Is it really a niche or minority subject to study and promote the history of 51% of our population?

Part of the Judith Cook archive, Elizabeth Treffry Collection.
Part of the Judith Cook archive, Elizabeth Treffry Collection.

The small team that runs the Hypatia Trust has long lamented the seeming dearth of women’s history in history curricula across school, further and higher education. Many women’s history courses have been displaced by more theoretical programmes on gender history, which is not at all the same thing. Is it really a niche or minority subject to study and promote the history of 51% of our population?

With the recent appalling treatment of the Women’s Library in London we felt there was no better time to do our bit to raise public awareness about the importance of women’s history for everyone, women and men, old and young.

When I became Honorary Curator for the Hypatia Trust my immediate priority was to find a way to dramatically raise the profiles of the historical women that the Elizabeth Treffry Collection represents. This, in my view, was more important than immediately focusing inward on cataloguing the collection itself. Melissa Hardie and previous Hypatia volunteers had already undertaken significant work through the Trust’s publishing and indexing activities. What was needed now was a project that had the potential make a much wider impact.

History 51 and me

Cornwall is a deeply patriarchal part of the UK. This is reflected in our politics, media, industries and job market.

History 51 is also personal voyage of discovery. I have not undertaken women’s history, to speak of, for many years. However my curiosity and sense of duty have been peaked. Cornwall is a deeply patriarchal part of the UK. This is reflected in our politics, media, industries and job market.

That’s not to say women aren’t doing anything. They are, but their work is not recorded or noted in the same way as that of men. I want this HLF project to be the beginning of a radical new movement to raise the profile of women and women’s heritage.  Women are in the majority and yet the structures of traditional historical study do not allow for the subject to be considered as anything other than a marginal element of social history. This is wrong.

Designing History 51

We had two unique selling points. Firstly that our project would represent the biggest under-represented group in the UK, i.e. women, and secondly that it would advance the history of a currently marginalised aspect of British history, that of Cornwall and Scilly.

HLF’s All Our Stories programme (now closed) was a fantastic opportunity for many local groups, networks and societies to contribute to ‘grassroots’ or people’s history. It was pitched as part of Michael Wood and the BBC’s Great British Story which aired in 2012. In HLF’s words:

“From researching local historic landmarks, learning more about customs and traditions to delving into archives and finding out the origins of street and place names All Our Stories will give everyone the chance to explore their heritage and share what they learn with others.”

Early and formative discussions suggested very strongly that the project’s activities should allow participants to both contribute and discover. The classic platitudes of a funding application, you might say.

We had two unique selling points. Firstly that our project would represent the biggest under-represented group in the UK, i.e. women, and secondly that it would advance the history of a currently marginalised aspect of British history, that of Cornwall and Scilly. In addition, HLF South West identifies South East Cornwall as being one of its five priority areas.

Early and formative discussions suggested very strongly that the project’s activities should allow participants to both contribute and discover. The classic platitudes of a funding application, you might say. However for me this meant that the open sharing of information about women represented in the Elizabeth Treffry Collection, and elsewhere, was paramount. It also meant that we would emphasise the team, the network and the community that would produce the information as much as History 51 and Hypatia Trust themselves.

What we are promising

We want to make sure that HLF gets its money’s worth and that we aim for both high impact and sustainable deliverables that will also contribute to the long-term objectives of the Elizabeth Treffry Collection.

£10,000 is not a lot of money. However it is more than we started with. We want to make sure that HLF gets its money’s worth and that we aim for both high impact and sustainable deliverables that will also contribute to the long-term objectives of the Elizabeth Treffry Collection. This is what we are going to deliver:

  • Train volunteers to explore, research, catalogue and create information
  • Develop a Wikipedia-style Cornish Women’s Index that will create hundreds of free, publically accessible records of women
  • Hold six local community workshops on different women and themes in locations across Cornwall (and hopefully Scilly too).

What we are asking from contributors and correspondents

Information comes in many forms and it should be expressed in as many different ways as possible.

We do want well-researched, well-considered information to result from this project. However it is not intended as a scholarly study or library project. Information comes in many forms and it should be expressed in as many different ways as possible. So what we are asking of our contributors and correspondents is any of the following:

  • Researching the life stories of women who have lived, worked or come from Cornwall or Scilly
  • Photographing and scanning historical documents and artefacts
  • Producing transcripts of documentary sources
  • Creating art, music, poems or literature inspired by Cornish and Scillonian women
  • Conducting oral history interviews
  • Work on our social media channels and blog (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube)
  • Writing copy for short Wikipedia-style biographies
  • Entering information into the Cornish Women’s Index (a free online database of words and images)
  • Organising, leading or participating in informal and fun workshops scheduled for venues across Cornwall in 2013.

What the History 51 army can expect in return

Books of the Elizabeth Treffry Collection of the Hypatia Trust
Books of the Elizabeth Treffry Collection of the Hypatia Trust

… it is very easy to feel used and to feel absorbed into the corporatising identity of a heritage organisation or project.

I know from my own previous experience of working on ‘other people’s projects’ that it is very easy to feel used and to feel absorbed into the corporatising identity of a heritage organisation or project. I do not want this to happen to all those who have so warmly and enthusiastically already given of their time to History 51.

We stated in the application that we want History 51 contributors and correspondents to become ambassadors for women’s heritage in Cornwall and Scilly and so we, as the Hypatia Trust, have to provide the support they need in return. So this is what we have promised them:

  • Free training and ongoing support, including by email and online
  • Free access to the Elizabeth Treffry Collection and other resources at the Hypatia Trust
  • Access to equipment such as cameras, scanners, photocopier and laptop
  • Your name next to contributions on the Cornish Women’s Index and Elizabeth Treffry Collection website
  • Limited travel expenses for those who lead or help organise a History 51 workshop
  • VIP guest entry at the History 51 party in November 2013
  • A certificate of participation for those taking part as part of a qualification or undertaking CPD, which will outline the skills they have gained.

Promoting the project and recruiting interest

… we hope that the workshops, which are aimed at highlighting local women in their communities, will rebalance this and indeed we will be using all the methods we can to reach those who do not explore their past through digital heritage.

History 51 was officially announced at the end of November 2012. We started recruiting volunteers in December 2012, mainly via our website, where interested contributors could submit an expression of interest, and will be able to for the duration of the project.

The Cornishman newspaper, read by an estimated 75% of the west Penwith population, covered the project in a feature on 6 December. The story was also syndicated online which reaches a much wider audience. This considerably boosted our visibility and we received a number of requests for more information on the back of this.

The project was covered again on 31 January with the launch of a campaign to get Alice De Lisle officially recognised in Penzance. I have posted more about the Alice De Lisle Campaign on the Elizabeth Treffry Collection blog.

A steady stream of news and posts circulated on the Elizabeth Treffry Collection blog and its social media channels on Twitter and Facebook have seen a steady increase in interest, judged by the numbers of Likes and Shares we have been receiving. Nothing dramatic but visibility is certainly higher than it was when we launched the Elizabeth Treffry Collection website early last year.

To date we have approximately 20 people willing to be active contributors or correspondents. We are unashamedly embracing digital media and communication for this project so that we are not limiting ourselves to those who can physically get to Penzance to use the collection. So inevitably we are excluding people who are not online regularly. However, we hope that the workshops, which are aimed at highlighting local women in their communities, will rebalance this and indeed we will be using all the methods we can to reach those who do not explore their past through digital heritage.

Inaugurating History 51

I don’t think I have been in a room full of more articulate people in my life! And that includes the very many academic conferences I have attended and at which I have presented.

On 9 February we invited all those who had expressed an interest in the project to attend an open afternoon at the Hypatia Trust in Penzance. Several were not able to make it but we still had a room of about 18 people (all women) eager to share their passion, thoughts and ideas about how their own experiences could be brought to bear on this seminal project. I think everyone would agree that the local rug hookers really made our meeting, they turned up in force!

I don’t think I have been in a room full of more articulate people in my life! And that includes the very many academic conferences I have attended and at which I have presented. I will post about this on the Elizabeth Treffry Collection blog very soon.

Each person was given a folder with an information pack aimed at familiarising contributors and correspondents with History 51 and answering questions I predicted they may have. This pack will be emailed to all those who were not able to attend.

Next steps are to start recording who is interested in what and sharing this information amongst our group. The great thing about History 51 is that even those running the project are getting stuck into some new research and exploration.

The online database for the Cornish Women’s Index is being developed and will be due for testing early next month and then it will be time to organise some training. I am also contemplating using screencasts and Google Hangouts for live online training.

Our events co-ordinator, Jo Schofield, is currently scouting venues for our workshops. We already have one in Liskeard Museum confirmed and another almost confirmed in Fowey.

So for now I am occupied with buying the equipment we need, making sure that History 51 is regularly promoted online and in the press, and commissioning some quirky bookmarks or postcards to be widely distributed across Cornwall and Scilly, and beyond.

Switching between this project and my more usual exploits in industrial heritage is constantly challenging. Sometimes it is a downright pain to have to change modes so frequently. But it is all the more worthwhile because of that broad perspective you get when you don’t just plough one furrow but take a step back and contemplate the field, and the moors beyond.


Old Heritage Archive

Artistic licence: misrepresenting (Cornish) history

Last week the temperature under my collar was raised twice over. Both times it concerned a poor representation of the past. One probably down to lazy journalism (but with no real excuses) and the other possibly down to poor editing choices and an over-reliance on a ‘pat narrative’. Here I discuss the first of these, a review of a new exhibition of Newlyn school paintings. In my next post, I will discuss the omission of Richard Trevithick, the over-emphasis on Watt’s achievement, and the deeply selective portrayal of British engineering history currently being shown by the BBC in Genius of Invention.

Amongst Heroes: the Artist in Working Cornwall

This exhibition, curated by budding art historian Roo Gunzi, brings together a wide range of paintings from the Newlyn school at the unlikely venue of Two Temple Place, a neo-gothic confection situated on London’s Embankment. The exhibition was made possible through partnership with the Royal Cornwall Museum and significant loans were made by Penlee House Gallery and Museum, home to Cornwall’s pre-eminent collection of west Cornish and Newlyn art. Roo herself was a Hypatia Trust, Jamieson Library scholar last summer, as part of her research itinerary.

So far, so good. This exhibition marks the first time in a while that a significant number of Cornish paintings from a variety of locations have been brought together outside Cornwall, and highlights the work of the west Cornish art communities, including those based in Newlyn. Unfortunately it has been the reporting and reviewing of this exhibition that has somewhat deflated the balloons of those of us who champion Cornish history and heritage.

The biggest culprit is a review by Telegraph newspaper and online journalist Rupert Christiansen (21 Jan). The review came to my attention via Twitter when someone tweeted the link to a letter written to the Telegraph from J Garry Mitchell of Portmellon (23 Jan). In this letter response, Mr Mitchell wrote:

Too often Cornwall gets portrayed as a tourist destination with no substance, but it has always produced clever creators.

The letter took particular umbrage to Christiansen’s flippant comment that Cornwall was by the end of the nineteenth century “largely untouched by industrialism.” The nine, mainly inane, comments that follow this letter are indicative of the deep ignorance that prevails about Cornish culture and history, judged as it so often is, through the eyes of holiday-makers who consume without discernment the Cornwall of inconceivably beautiful sandy coves and ‘quaint’ fishing villages so beloved of Caroline Quentin.

I read the review. I thought it said more about the writer’s preconceptions or misconceptions about Cornwall and Cornish history than it did do justice to reviewing the exhibition.

Here is my rebuttal of Christiansen’s review. As you will read, I didn’t even get around to introducing the reviewer to the coming of the railways in the 1850s, nor did I dwell to take issue with his mindless comment that “What they [the Newlyn paintings] characteristically depict – in a style influenced by masters of the naturalist Barbizon school such as Millet and Corot – is the daily life of peasants and fisherfolk, recorded with an absence of special pleading.”

My criticism

“Around the end of the 19th century, Cornwall remained an undiscovered part of the country, largely untouched by industrialism and not a holiday destination or romanticised by Daphne du Maurier.”

I find it extraordinarily lazy of the reviewer that he should make such an erroneous comment. Or perhaps it has escaped his notice that the mining landscapes of Cornwall and West Devon, largely shaped during the 19th century, are designated as a World Heritage Site? I’m not sure that would be the case if Cornwall had been untouched by ‘industrialism’.

Whether you are of the opinion that the now chocolate-box (or tinned fish) images of working life depicted in Newlyn school paintings are real or romanticised, they only show one tiny part of Cornish life, then as now.

Hardly ‘undiscovered’, then.

Hard rock mining had a profound impact on Cornwall, as did other forms of industry. The towns of Penzance, Camborne, Redruth and St Austell were bustling centres of commerce and banking. Before the London Metal Exchange was established in the 1870s big money wheeling and dealing in tin, copper, lead and other metals took place in Cornwall (and also in Swansea). Cornwall even had its own Stannary Parliament to oversee the financing and taxes levied on tin (yes–it was _that_ important). Cornish mines traded directly and indirectly in a highly globalised economy in metals, particularly copper and tin.

Hardly ‘undiscovered’, then. Did you know that Porthcurno in the far south west of Cornwall, now the site of an excellent museum, was the centre of  Britain’s transatlantic and overseas telegraphy? Operators from all over the world came to Cornwall to be trained in telecommunications until relatively recently.

Camborne School of Mines was world famous and again people from all over the globe came to Cornwall to be trained in mining engineering, surveying and other scientific skills throughout the nineteenth century and twentieth century.

The Royal Geological Society of Cornwall will be celebrating its bicentenary next year, is one of the oldest geological societies in the world.

It was the hotbed of technological innovation and the demands of a cutting edge mining industry that provided the right environment for engineers such as Richard Trevithick to invent the high-pressure steam engine (a feat far more impactful than Watt’s earlier effort) and scientists such as Humphry Davy to identify important rare metals, and solve serious safety problems by inventing the miner’s safety lamp.

This review is typical of the huge assumptions people make about Cornwall as a place that is on the margins rather than at the centre. Certainly concerning nineteenth-century innovation, science and industry quite the opposite was true.


I circulated the link to the review and my letter to colleagues and this in itself elicited a variety of responses, many of them more astute than my own criticism. The consensus was that we ought to be doing more to get good history out there and much more easily accessible. We live in a world now where most people turn to Google rather than the local library to answer their most pressing questions. We have to respond to it. I should like to reproduce an excerpt of a further criticism, this time related to how the Newlyn school is portrayed, worth pondering:

“I also take issue with the persistently isolationist approach of British ( and probably other) curations of such exhibitions which too often suggest that such movements sprang up by chance through largely local factors. Newlyn was not found by accident – it was deliberately searched for and found by artists seeking somewhere in Britain to compare with the Breton centres such as the famous Pont Aven or the lesser known Cancale, Le Faouet etc,  which themselves were part of the wider European movement of rural art schools inspired by Barbizon.”





Old Heritage Archive

New report on Swansea copperworks: An industrious future from an industrial past

Morfa Lifting Bridge over the Tawe Navigation, unlisted (credit: Brian Perrins)
Morfa Lifting Bridge over the Tawe Navigation, unlisted (credit: Brian Perrins)

I have recently completed consultancy and research work for Swansea University. In addition to undertaking research on digital heritage in Wales and the potential for creating a digital heritage, history and archaeology hub in Swansea (more on this soon), the university commissioned a report that would provide a vision for the heritage­‐led regeneration of the Hafod-­Morfa copperworks site, an internationally significant industrial landscape in the Lower Swansea Valley. The report was submitted in July and permission has been given to freely distribute it to interested parties.

Read Tehmina Goskar’s Cu @ Swansea report on

The purpose of this report is to gather together the threads of the Cu @ Swansea project, a joint venture between Swansea University and the City and County of Swansea launched in January 2011. The Lower Swansea Valley was the site of pioneering post-industrial land reclamation in the 1960s and 70s but now the unique remaining vestiges of Swansea’s global historic copper industry lie in a parlous state.

The heritage-led regeneration of the Hafod-Morfa site, situated on the west bank of the River Tawe, will be a long-term and complex operation. All stakeholders wish its distinctiveness to be revealed through its industrial and natural heritage. This report aims to summarise and evaluate the position of the project as it currently stands while also offering a detailed vision for its future. The report is intended to be a stimulus for debating how the Lower Swansea Valley can become a ‘must see’ destination as well as a new community in its own right.

Discussed in the report are: a summary of the scope of the project so far; an outline of core themes that unify the site e.g. historic pathways, amenity and opportunity and its role as a working landscape; key assets and opportunities; comparative UK industrial heritage sites including a brief reflection on Heartlands in Cornwall as a site of comparative scale and ambition; a projection of the site’s relationships in comparative Welsh, UK and international contexts; conclusion.

Old Heritage Archive

Approaches to regenerating industrial heritage sites

Vivian and Sons engine house and chimney, 1860, Hafod Copperworks, Swansea
Vivian and Sons engine house and chimney, 1860, Hafod Copperworks, Swansea

Following on from my survey of industrial heritage education this article discusses different approaches to the regeneration of industrial heritage sites. By their very nature, industrial heritage sites are often also classed as ‘brownfield’ sites and therefore fairer game for redevelopment than areas of ‘greenfield’.

This was well-illustrated in English Heritage’s Industrial Heritage at Risk report of 2011. I was particularly taken by the figure that placed metal and coal mines most at risk in the Register.

I live and work amongst the most significant mine workings in the world (West Cornwall) and the conservation work on mine workings over the last 30 years has been extensive, culminating in the inscription of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape in 2006. The Cornish engine house is now an icon that is synonymous with Cornish identity and culture and several sites have regenerated into visitor attractions so compared with many other parts of the world mining heritage, at least here seems to be enjoying a new lease of life.

Having worked extensively on historic copper smelting landscapes, particularly of the Lower Swansea Valley, that really are in danger of physical collapse and until recently, erasure from collective memory, I wonder about the criteria for assessing risk? Some of this is bound up in the different statuses of structures that are Scheduled or Listed. I have recently completed work on producing a prospectus for the heritage-led regeneration of the old Swansea copperworks sites of Hafod and Morfa and it became quickly evident that those structures that were not Scheduled or Listed were most in danger of being omitted altogether from the regeneration plans. Listing and scheduling can create islands out of features that were once part of inter-dependent working landscapes.

Heritage-led regeneration at industrial heritage sites have also brought extensive opportunities for bring large properties and land back into use while also preserving some of an area’s historical character.

Heritage-led regeneration: Reuse vs visitor attraction

Industrial heritage sites, like other historic structures and landscapes, have undergone regeneration in a variety of ways. The benefits or otherwise of reusing a building for new purposes such as housing, retail, other commercial uses or as a museum or cultural centre have recently been debated on a LinkedIn thread on the use of industrial complexes as cultural centres.

As part of my report in the regeneration of the Hafod-Morfa copperworks site I had a stab at trying to categorise different types of heritage-led regeneration in a UK context although it is fair to apply several of these categories to industrial heritage in Europe and beyond.

  1. The open-air museum.
  2. The working museum/site which retains traditional processes and products.
  3. Industrial park with visitor centre or museum as central focus.
  4. An industrial building or complex converted exclusively to heritage activity.
  5. Brownfield site regeneration which retains heritage features and offers some interpretation but primarily functions with unrelated businesses and activities.
  6. Conserved structures retained in the landscape with no designated centre and minimal interpretation.

The following examples have been chosen to be representative of the full range of industrial heritage site or landscape present in the UK and are not intended to be geographically inclusive. In addition there are great numbers of projects that have regenerated industrial buildings but could not be considered ‘heritage-led’, for example the Toffee Factory in Newcastle which might be usefully defined in a seventh category of ‘vestige’. A sort of façadism. This is not a criticism, it just isn’t what I would call ‘heritage-led’.


1. Amberley Museum and Heritage Centre
Situated in the former Amberley Chalk Pits, now dedicated to the industrial heritage of the whole of South East England featuring narrow gauge railway and historic bus service, traditional craft demonstrations and a regular series of events and festivals.

2. Whitchurch Silk Mill
Working early nineteenth-century silk mill in Hampshire, still producing traditionally-woven silk for interior design. Visitors can see the internal workings of the mill and silk weavers at looms (now powered by electricity, not mill wheel).

3. Wheal Martyn China Clay Museum and Country Park
Set in spent china clay pits which have been largely given over to park and woodland with museum containing displays and artefacts from the industry, access to viewing point to see a commercially working neighbouring pit, and access to Clay Trails cycle route.

4. STEAM. Museum of the Great Western Railway
Situated in the restored former Swindon Grade II-listed railway works. The entire works complex has been integrated into a single museum building. Displays incorporate artefacts, static locomotives, archives, film and audio footage of the railway and dioramas. The museum runs themed and non-heritage events programme.

5. Heartlands, Cornwall
Set in the derelict area around Robinson’s Shaft, previously part of South Crofty tin mines, in Pool, Cornwall, the complex is now billed as a ‘cultural playground’ with ‘state of the art’ exhibition space containing displays related to Cornish mining, an adventure playground themed on Cornish mythology, landscaped gardens with flora and features related to Cornish migration abroad, craft studios and offices, and soon to be extended to a new housing estate. One of the site’s principal attractions are its rolling series of events, markets and activities for visiting schools.

6. Derwent Valley Mills
World Heritage Site since 2001, designated as the ‘birthplace of the factory system’ for textile production, it comprises a series of conserved water mills along a 15-mile stretch of the River Derwent from Matlock Bath to Derby. The Derwent Valley Heritage Way has been instituted as a series of walks which lead visitors through the landscape’s historical and natural environments.


Let’s state the obvious first. There are many approaches to heritage-led regeneration. Each is specific to the period in which the site was redeveloped, the funding available, the potential for future income and the vision of those charged with undertaking it. Some are more successful than others. In many cases it is too early to tell what will actually become of the industrial heritage of the site or area.

And this brings me to my second conclusion and one about which I will write more soon, that the interpretation of a site’s industrial past is crucial in qualifying it as ‘heritage-led’. Interpretation can take many forms, such as activity or demonstration as in allowing the public to view Victorian silk weaving techniques at Whitchurch Silk Mill, through displays and exhibitions, through a sensory experience such as riding on the narrow gauge railway at Amberley, or just simple self-guided heritage trails–using a leaflet or smartphone app.

I fear that sites more recently regenerated are allowing interpretation and opportunities for immersion in the industrial past to play second fiddle to ‘inspired by’ activities such as art installations, public sculpture and the performance of plays. These are stylised activities that may entertain but often do not convey an authentic sense of the past to audiences, even if they are infused by it. And at sites that were hives of activity, often busy, smelly and noisy, the experience you get at many industrial heritage sites and lanscapes is almost the opposite..

Old Heritage Archive

Old pilchards and Cornish industrial fishing heritage

Pressed and salted pilchards, Newlyn Pilchard Works
Pressed and salted pilchards, Newlyn Pilchard Works

Industrial heritage in Cornwall is completely dominated by mining, and most of that is heavily focused on tin mining and china clay extraction as opposed to that of other metals and minerals such as copper, arsenic and so on. Even more neglected is Cornwall’s fishing and fish processing heritage.

The Cornish Quaysude gallery in the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, in Falmouth, provides a tantalising glimpse of fish processing and export, specifically that of pilchards (salted and pressed) which took place in St Ives, Mevagissey and Newlyn amongst other fishing centres. Other interesting exhibits can be found in a number of the smaller museums of Cornwall, such as St Ives Museum, Padstow Museum and Fowey Museum.

Penzance no longer has its maritime museum and Newlyn, today home to the largest fishing fleet (in terms of numbers of boats) in the UK, has no centre for its fishing heritage. However this was not the case until relatively recently, and may change in the near future. Villagers in Mousehole, west Cornwall’s most ancient port, is currently looking at integrating some of the region’s fishing and maritime heritage into displays in the project to establish a new community centre (in the derelict sail/net loft which also housed pilchard processing pits on Duck Street). Talk of old pilchards reminded me of the now defunct Old Pilchard Works Museum in Newlyn.

I had occasion to revisit some photographs I took back in Summer 2003 of the Old Pilchard Works in Newlyn when it was open to the public as a working museum. It remains one of the most memorable museum experiences I have had. The working part of the museum allowed visitors to get a feel for an ancient delicacy which the vast majority of Brits and Cornish would probably turn their nose up at. Salted and pressed pilchards, or Cornish sardines. Caught in abundance off the Penwith coast, pilchards landed in Newlyn would be salted and then pressed, then arranged in barrels ready for export to Italy (and sometimes Spain). Think anchovies and their growing status as a trend ingredient in British gastronomy, then think of a more rounded, almost sweeter flavour and you will have an idea of the wonder that is a salted pilchard.

Press play to view a slide show of my photographs or view on Flickr.

The pilchard presses resemble book presses and there is something timeless about seeing military rows of fish lined up and piled up ready to have their life extended to at least a year through this processing. Barrels were marked with various marks according to the importer, one of them being ‘Cigno Bianco’ or White Swan as you can see in one of the photographs of a box of ‘salacche inglese’ –in future that would probably read ‘salacche cornovagliese’. Part of the museum experience was having the chance to do ‘brass rubbings’ of the copper stencils that marked the boxes and barrels. To my sadness, I can no longer find the one I did but I do remember it was of the Cigno Bianco mark. The museum also introduced visitors to traditional fish processing and the particular relationship between the Cornish and Breton fishing industries, especially those of West Penwith and the region of Concarneau.

As you will hear in this video, from Terry Tonkin who worked here, they were a particular delicacy of the Italian dish, spaghetti alla puttanesca. So prized were the Cornish salted pilchard that they were considered superior to the usual Italian acciughe or anchovy. This dish is a classic of southern Italy, particularly the south-eastern region of Puglia (Apulia) and parts of Sicily. It’s a brazen dish (possibly accounting for its unashamed name, ‘whore-like spaghetti’) made with fresh tart tomatoes, salty black olives, anchovies or other salted fish and capers. It’s time of year is from harvest time at the end of summer to Christmas when these preserved delights are made and put in store for the winter.

Some time in 2005-6 the museum closed, for various reasons, mainly financial, but also because the demand for salted pilchards began to decline. As the Managing Director Nick Howell said in a statement regarding the circumstances of the closure, no amount of good publicity from TV chefs such as Keith Floyd and Rick Stein could persuade the British public to embrace this delicacy. The privately run museum was subsidised by the business which had also just begun to use traditional Breton canning methods to preserve Cornish pilchards and mackerel (in olive oil). You’ll be hard pushed to find a salted pilchard in Cornwall at the moment but thankfully you can still buy Pilchard Works canned fish all over the country. I hope we see salted pilchards in British and Cornish cuisine in the future.

Old Heritage Archive

Copper research funding success!

Excerpt from a copper ore book
Excerpt from a copper ore book

I was delighted to hear on Friday that I had been successful in my application for a small research grant from Glamorgan County History Trust for continued research on my project entitled, Biographies of British copper: The heritage of a global commodity, c.1700-1980. The Trust supports research into any aspect of the history of Glamorgan, south Wales.

The specific aspect of my research this funding will benefit is for further work into business archives relating to the copper industry found in Bangor University Archives. Following my survey of copper business archives held in Swansea, I identified related papers held in Bangor which not only have direct relevance to understanding the supply chain between mines and the Glamorgan smelters but also to further my knowledge about how the Grenfells operated during the formative 1800-1830s period.

The key relation to the Swansea Grenfell Collection are the records in the Williams and Grenfell Copper Smelting Firm collection, 1829-34, held at Bangor University Archives. I will use the grant to enable me to travel to Bangor and study the records and then use copied material for furthering this project in subsequent months. Having already consulted the small number of business records relating to the early years of Grenfell involvement as mine agents and speculators in the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies in Aylesbury last winter, this will be a crucial stage in gathering evidence for reconstructing supply chain information through the development of one company.

The most valuable part of these fonds are twelve bundles of ticketing documents dating 1829-34 which document a formative period in the growth of the copper industry and the centralisation of smelting and refining processes in Glamorgan, especially Swansea.

These documents are rare survivals which have hitherto escaped the attention of scholars. They bear testimony to the business negotiations that took place between smelters’ agents (overwhelmingly based in Swansea, Neath and Llanelli) and mine companies. The ticketing events took place in Cornwall (Redruth) for Cornish ores and in Swansea for the sale of Welsh, Irish and foreign ores.

While statistical synopses are available for this period in contemporary editions of the Mining Journal and other serials, analyses of these documents will enable me to map actual relationships between specific mining companies and smelting concerns. It will also help to establish how the supply chain centred in Swansea compared with that of Cornwall.

Combining this new research with that I have already undertaken on the Swansea and Buckinghamshire documents, I hope to publish an article on these archives that will also highlight their value as sources for understanding the nature of how business was done and also more about how industrial history can be better appreciated through tracing the biographies of the commodities themselves.

Old Heritage Archive

Paddington history for kids

Paddington Station
Paddington Station (credit: Tehmina Goskar)

Last November I blogged about my experience demonstrating the wonders of history school children at Hallfield Primary School, my first alma mater.

I continued the theme with the local Cub Scouts Group based at another Paddington primary school, St Mary Magdalene (5th Paddington). My tack was slightly different here. The incentive to listen and learn was to earn the Local Knowledge badge. Team competition is also important to the Cubs and while initially they were suspicious of any sit-down activity, when they realised points meant prizes (and these were really good–all my old arcade toy wins). So over two sessions we swotted some Paddington history. I drew up a ‘Top 10 Paddington history facts’ and based a Q&A session around that. Another leader brought in the film The Blue Lamp (1950), largely filmed in Paddington before the A40 Westway–a massive flyover that has forever divided Paddington into an area stark social contrast–was built to demonstrate the idea of change in the built environment. The next week they had to complete the ‘Local Knowledge Quiz’, a series of pub quiz style questions.

Rather than sitting on my computer hard drive I wanted to share these. I found it hard to find a decent source of information on Paddington history, save for the trusty Paddington Wikipedia entry which is of decent quality.

So here you are, reproduced and downloadable, free to use non-commercially, please do give us a mention if you use this material.

10 things you never knew about Paddington…

Download 10 things you never knew about Paddington… (PDF, 34KB)

1. Paddington Green Police Station is the most important high-security police station in the UK. The most dangerous suspects are brought here to be questioned.

2. The Tyburn Gallows were near Marble Arch. Until the late 1700s criminals were brought here to be hanged. London slang, ‘Paddington Fair Day’ meant a public hanging day and ‘To dance the Paddington frisk’ meant ‘to be hanged’.

3. Lord Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Scouting movement, was born in Paddington on 22 February 1857.

4. Edward Wilson was a scientist and a doctor who worked in Paddington. He was part of the famous expedition of Captain Scott who tried but failed to reach the South Pole in 1912. Everyone died. Edward Wilson school was named in his honour.

5. Paddington Stationis one of London’s most famous railway stations and was designed by a famous engineer called Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1854. It was one of the destinations of the world’s first underground railway, called the Metropolitan Railway, established in 1863. There is a statue of Brunel at one of the station’s entrances.

6. Paddington Bear is the most famous fictional character from the area. The story begins that the bear was from ‘deepest, darkest Peru’ and arrives at Paddington Station with a note saying ‘Please look after this bear, thank you’.

7. St Mary’s Hospital dates from 1845 and is one of the important places for learning medicine in the world. Part of the hospital used to be multi-story stables for horses that worked for the Great Western Railway. You can still see the ramps for the horses today. Many members of the Royal Family were born at St Mary’s Hospital, including Prince William, and Prince Harry.

8. Before the building of the Grand Junction Canal in 1801 Paddington was just fields. The canal brought goods and people from the countryside to the growing city of London. The canal flowed into Paddington Basin. This area is currently being developed into one of London’s most important business districts.

9. William Whiteley created Whiteley’s [department store, now shopping centre], situated between Queensway and Westbourne Grove in 1867. He was the Lord Alan Sugar of his day and called himself ‘the Universal Provider’ selling everything from ‘a pin to an elephant’. In 1897 a huge fire burnt the store down and flames could be seen from Highgate Hill in north London. The store was completely rebuilt and the building we see today was reopened in 1911.

10. There are two areas called Paddington in Australia, one in Sydney, New South Wales, and another in Brisbane, Queensland. A gold mine in western Australia was named Paddington Gold Mine.

Now take the Paddington Local Knowledge Cub Quiz…

Download Paddington Local Knowledge Cub Quiz (PDF, 6.8MB)

[Answers: Round 1: 1. TR 2. FA 3. FA 4. TR 5. TR Round 2: 1. FACT 2. FICT 3. FACT 4. FACT 5. FICT Round 3: 1. Dome of Whiteley’s shopping centre 2. Paddington Bear 3. Paddington Station 4. St Mary’s Hospital 5. St Mary Magdalene Church Round 4: 1. marmalade 2. horses 3. Blue 4. canals 5. Metropolitan]

Old Heritage Archive

Industrial heritage education at risk?

Industrial heritage at London Canal Museum
Industrial heritage at London Canal Museum

In this post I outline some of my ideas for better education in industrial history, archaeology and heritage. There are currently no dedicated Masters-level programmes in industrial heritage/history/archaeology and I wanted to find out why (with no agenda either way as to whether or not they ought to exist as specialist programmes). In the first half I discuss English Heritage’s major study on Industrial Heritage at Risk as it has important implications for education. In the second I share my findings after a brief and informal survey of industrial heritage courses taught at postgraduate level, and discuss how the two could come together to improve levels of the knowledge and understanding of heritage practitioners, scholars and public.

My conclusions are given at the end and are at present ideas and thoughts based on my observations and experience. I hope to develop some of these based on more rigorous research. If you would like to contribute ideas of your own please leave a comment.

Industrial Heritage at Risk

Industrial Heritage at Risk was a major project undertaken by English Heritage in 2011 to quantify and assess the condition of England’s industrial heritage, particularly in the light of the considerable development seen at brownfield sites over the last two decades.

Overwhelmingly the public think that it is as important to preserve our industrial heritage as other types of heritage such as castles and country houses (80%).
(From survey of 2000 respondents conducted by English Heritage as part of the Industrial Heritage at Risk project)

Some of the findings that stood out for me are:

  • 4% of listed buildings and 4% of scheduled monuments are industrial.
  • The average estimated conservation deficit (cost of repair in excess of the end value) of industrial buildings at risk is twice that of non-industrial buildings at risk.
  • Approximately 40% of industrial buildings at risk are capable of beneficial use, compared to 44% of non-industrial buildings at risk.
  • Only 40% of listed industrial buildings at risk could be put to sustainable and economic new uses. The remainder are reliant on voluntary effort, public funding and philanthropy to survive.
  • Lead, tin, copper and coal mines are the industrial sites most at risk on Register.
  • 52% would like more opportunity to give their opinion about which industrial sites they think should be protected, while 44% are interested in getting involved with helping to protect the industrial heritage in their local area.
  • Younger people are less interested in industrial heritage than those aged 55 and over.

The criteria for assessing risk is outlined in the Heritage at Risk Methodology Statement (opens PDF) that is applied to all types of heritage, not just industrial.

English Heritage has pledged to undertake a number of measures to help ensure the future viability of industrial heritage sites and areas. These mainly concern offering advice, encouraging local groups to take on industrial sites and providing handbooks and guides. English Heritage obviously does not have the resources to be more hands-on with its assistance and it is right that organisations and groups in the localities in which industrial sites are based should take some responsibility for them if they are the same people who are worried about their future survival.

English or British industrial heritage?

English Heritage is only mandated to oversee historic sites within the political unit of England and as such the Industrial Heritage at Risk report does not make connections with sites elsewhere. This is a point of frustration because so much of English industrial heritage is intimately linked with that of Wales and Scotland, notably in coal and metals, and textiles. Comparable research data does not exist (at least publicly) for EH’s sister bodies in Wales (Cadw and RCAHMW–but see Cadw Buildings at Risk document), Scotland (Historic Scotland–but see Buildings at Risk Register for Scotland) and Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland Environment Agency).

Industrial heritage without borders

The history of industrialisation in Britain is a story without borders. Businesses, entrepreneurs and scientists paid scant notice to national or regional identity within the UK when making profits and pioneering new technologies. The rapid success of British businesses engaged in mass industry relied on fast networks that first globalised these isles and then rapidly globalised much of the planet by its domination of maritime trade and nascent empire building. This is much more evident in the thousands of business archives held in public, private and corporate collections than perhaps in the vestiges of industrial heritage sites.

My current project to reconstruct historic supply chain information of the copper industry from business archive collections and museum collections aims to better integrate the information we have from documentation with that of archaeological and built remains. It is a material-driven approach that intends to provide a context for the quantifiable inputs and outputs that is the traditional fayre of economic and industrial historians. Teaching industrial history using this approach may well attract a wider range of students and learners who are increasingly interested in the cultural impact of economic change both locally and globally.

Industry and regional identity

However industries were undeniably regionally specific because of their locations near raw materials, as hubs in national and international transport infrastructures, and the development of specialist factory workforces that percolated down the generations, often defining entire places, whether hard rock mining in Cornwall or cotton manufacture in Lancashire. Copperopolis (Swansea), Tinopolis (Llanelli), Jutopolis (Dundee), Cottonopolis (Manchester)… are epithets that are testament to the huge impact of regionally-specific industry on perceptions of place. The capacity for industry to bestow regional distinctiveness on a locality has strongly influenced the way in which many sites and areas have been interpreted, much more so than the global story and connectedness of which it was once part.

What about education?

The Industrial Heritage at Risk project has identified the need for better educational resources and to this end has provided a set of teacher’s kits to help teach school children  about industrial sites in their area. The topic range is broad and I am particularly glad that the creators of these packs urge teachers to address issues of why we preserve industrial heritage sites and their value to society. We don’t know how much having debate like this will affect the views of children when they become adults but I am pleased that attempts are being made to de-adultify industrial heritage. Of all the fields of history and heritage, the interest in industry has been the preserve of (mainly male) enthusiasts, economic historians and historians of science and technology. And the average age profile of these groups is currently much higher than other sectors such as art and social history. But I digress.

Having set some of the scene of industrial heritage in the UK today I want to continue by exploring how industrial history and heritage is taught. While the English Heritage Teacher’s Kits go a long way to providing high quality resources for schools I am naturally led to question the level of knowledge and understanding of teachers, trainers and lecturers themselves, and where you might go as a prospective learner to ‘up-skill’ in the area of industrial heritage. There are four main areas I would like to investigate:

  • Key Stage 5 (A-level / Baccalaureate etc)
  • Tertiary / Higher Education (Diplomas, First Degrees, Vocational)
  • Postgraduate Taught courses
  • Adult Learning / Continuing Professional Development / Lifelong Learning courses

Postgraduate education in industrial heritage/history/archaeology

It is at postgraduate level (Masters level) that many students have the opportunity to pursue the advanced study of a subject and it is at this level that my exploration of the current state of industrial heritage education begins. This follows an email enquiry to a number of mailing lists, followed up by correspondence, about where people have taken industrial heritage courses and what forms they have taken.

I was keen to find out why there are currently no dedicated taught Masters courses in industrial heritage/history/archaeology in UK universities. My underlying motive is to find out how collaborative resources created through research, particularly those from heritage-led knowledge exchange initiatives (e.g. Welsh Copper Project) could be developed into modules, courses and entire programmes whether taught through distance learning, traditional lecture and class sessions, work-based training and blended learning (combining any of these).

My enquiry received over 35 responses via email and a few via Twitter. Responses came from those teaching industrial heritage/history/archaeology, or who had taught it in the past, and from those who had taken courses. A small number of responses came from the USA and I have included these for comparative purposes, although my main interest is in what is happening here in the UK.

Where courses are/have been taught and taken

I am including responses from those who have taken courses in the past that are now defunct (marked ceased). This list is response-driven and is not an exhaustive search for industrial heritage modules within other programmes.

  • MA Historical Archaeology, Sheffield, 1997, taught by David Crossley. Included industrial heritage, ceased
  • MA Heritage Management, Ironbridge Institute (University of Birmingham), 1989-current (distance learning option since 2004)
  • MA Historic Environment Conservation, Ironbridge Institute, 2005-current
  • MS and PhD, Industrial Heritage and Archaeology, Michigan Tech University, Prof. Patrick Martin
  • MA Archaeology, University of Nevada, Reno, led by Dr Don Hardesty, American mining archaeology
  • Department of the History of Science and Technology, John Hopkins University
  • MA Industrial Archaeology, Ironbridge Institute, 1985-6, taught by Barrie Trinder and late Michael Stratton, ceased 2007/8 (est. 1981), relaunched by Roger White 2001, last modules taught 2005/7, ceased
  • MA Industrial Heritage, Ironbridge Institute, 1994-1999, ceased
  • MA Archaeology of Buildings, University of York, one module Industrial Buildings
  • MA Historical Archaeology, University of York taught by John Schofield, John Finch, Kate Giles
  • MA Historical Archaeology, University of Leicester (distance learning option)
  • Postgrad Diploma Industrial Archaeology, Wroclaw Polytechnic, Poland, 2001
  • MLitt Lead Mining industry in North Pennines, Newcastle University
  • Undergraduate course in Industrial Archaeology, Newcastle University, 1990s/early 2000s taught by Stafford Linsey, ceased after retirement
  • MSc Mining and Industrial Heritage Management, Camborne School of Mines (University of Exeter), taught by Tony Brooks, head of Mining, ceased after retirement
  • MSc Heritage Science and Professional Archaeology, Queen’s University Belfast
  • Ordinary Degree Industrial Archaeology module for English, History, Geography, Geology and other subjects, College of Higher Education, Liverpool, validated by Lancaster University, 1980s
  • Industrial Archaeology topics taught at Bristol University


Why did people choose to take a course or programme in industrial heritage/history/archaeology?

  • Course near to where student lived
  • Had already done first degree at same institution
  • Ability to do degree part time while working in cognate profession (commercial archaeology)
  • To aid career prospects or prior to undertaking PhD
  • Inherent / personal interest in subject
  • To formalise existing research undertaken privately

Positive points

What people like about learning and teaching industrial heritage.

  • Inclusion of work placement
  • Practical surveying techniques
  • Learnt applied skills for use in architecture
  • Course based on an industrial site
  • Using industrial site visits and projects to teach broader issues of sustainability, conservation practice
  • Skills-based learning including desk-based and field work, photography, surveying, documentary study
  • Wealth of material on British industry 1650-1939 materials and practices
  • Interpretation of sites and monuments including conservation of buildings and artefacts

Negative points

What people did not like about learning and teaching industrial heritage.

  • Topics dated
  • No introduction of new ideas
  • Disinterested lecturers. End of course malaise
  • Dwindling student numbers making it financially unviable
  • Too much emphasis on museums
  • Can be conservative
  • Courses are expensive to run
  • Career opportunities limited in UK
  • Cost cuts and need to take on more students lowering standards
  • Recruitment low because career prospects poor/cannot see benefits
  • Industrial sites need to engage with community’s history as much as technology
  • Local politics

Other issues arising

  • Vocational courses like Heritage Management recruit better, into 20s and 30s FTE. Teach industrial heritage as part of that
  • Disciplinary differences in the US: industrial history thought in History of Science and Tech programmes or Science, Technology and Society (STS) programmes
  • Heritage is considered ‘public history’ in US
  • History of science has emphasis on written record rather than material culture—industrial archaeology offers this pathway (but not a major field in US)
  • Many courses heavily relient on subject specialism of tutor/lecturer, when they retire or leave course does not continue
  • There remains a disparity between what is required by archaeological profession and what is taught in universities
  • Growth of historical and contemporary archaeology as a field of study on a par with prehistory

Conclusions: Is industrial heritage education at risk?

The main conclusions reached by this survey of opinion are:

  • After the heyday of dedicated industrial heritage/archaeology programmes in the 1980s and 1990s, particularly those offered by the Ironbridge Institute and the University of Leicester, the subject is now taught mainly through historical archaeology and heritage management modules and programmes
  • The offering of industrial heritage/history/archaeology courses is more heavily dependent on research expertise present in a department or institution whereby replacement is not necessary sought once a person leaves or retires, than other subject areas
  • Changes in professional needs and aspirations of prospective students have changed the nature of postgraduate taught programmes towards teaching broader-based skills in archaeology, heritage and historic environment
  • There is a divide between those who learn industrial heritage through history of science and technology programmes (documentary based study) and archaeology programmes (site and landscape based study)
  • There is a skills gap. What is taught to students is not necessarily what is needed by heritage practitioners, especially field archaeologists (see Archaeology degrees stuck in the (far distant) past by Matthew Reisz, 6 Oct 2011, Times Higher Education, including response by Prof. Marilyn Palmer)

My conclusions (in no particular order)

  • Industrial heritage/history/archaeology is still a minority subject in spite of a clear public interest in the subject indicated by English Heritage’s Industrial Heritage at Risk research and a general increase in participation in humanities programmes
  • There is a lack of research interest in industrial heritage/history/archaeology within universities as a direct result of its absence in many postgraduate curricula
  • The growth in knowledge exchange/knowledge transfer/community participation projects is generating unprecedented amounts of high-quality publicly-circulating research that can be repurposed to provide teaching and learning materials beyond the life of the project
  • The increasing number of high-profile industrial heritage sites provide ready opportunity for academic collaboration not just for public engagement but for course development
  • There is a lack of intellectual engagement with the subject area contributing to a near absence of theory and ideology applied
  • The decline in interest in industrial heritage as a subject of study or research seems to parallel the decline in economic history
  • Course development for a new industrial heritage needs to embrace documentary and archaeological aspects, particularly business archives and site-specific or desk-based field study
  • The subject has the potential to fulfil several employability needs for students including research, analytical and scientific techniques
  • There is huge potential for studying industrial heritage/history/archaeology as part of global history as several industrial case-studies are international by their very nature (e.g. global copper industry)
  • There is huge potential for studying industrial heritage/history/archaeology with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects.