“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ” – Michael Crichton.
The aim of “Local & Community History Month” is to raise awareness of local history and the community resources that promote it. Since its inception, the South Wales Miners’ Library has cultivated and maintained ties with various community projects, collaborating with schools, historical associations, charities and foundations in order to encourage engagement and participation. Our links with local schools are particularly valuable in fostering an early interest in local history; working with Maes-Y-Coed led to the creation of a banner and exhibition which toured various local venues. Similarly, Maes y Dderwen School, as part of the Connected Communities project, used our facilities to research the history of mining in Swansea and the impact of the First World War.
We have extended links beyond our immediate communities to those across international lines. Professor Helen M. Lewis, of Clinch Valley College, Virginia, used the Miners’ Library for her research on the similarities between the Amman Valley and the Appalachian Coalfields. A delegation of South Wales Miners also visited the Appalachian Coalfields in 1979, reporting on the history, culture and industry of the area and comparing it to their own. Other international connections include the Japanese coalfields in Hokkaido and Joban and annual visits from the Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany.
One of the most valuable resources for studying local history is our Oral History collection, which primarily focuses on the lives of ordinary people and their communities. There are accounts of life in Swansea and the surrounding areas from varied points of view, describing locations, employment and events that shaped the local area. The collection began as the result of two Coalfield History projects, but has since expanded considerably. In 1974, the Library participated in the Swansea Heritage Year, organising an 18 week Oral History Tape Recording class. For those specifically interested in women’s history, Phillipa Dolan deposited over forty tapes of interviews which focus on women’s experiences of domestic service, industry and family life.
The Miners’ Library also manages exhibitions that, having previously toured the country, now reside here and are available for use and loan within the community. The “Let Paul Robeson Sing!” exhibition was donated by his son, Paul Robeson Jr., in 2007. The exhibition showcases Robeson’s extensive career and lifelong political activism, highlighting his support for workers’ rights and campaigns against racial prejudice. The exhibition includes information on ‘Race & Racism in Wales’, which links Robeson’s activism with contemporary issues of discrimination. The Robert Owen exhibition toured Wales in 2008 to coincide with the 150th anniversary of his death. This bilingual exhibition contains display boards, fact sheets, props and games, encouraging an engagement with the managerial practices and co-operative principles that marked Owen as a radical employer and thinker.
For those interested in research their own local/family histories, there are a number of books and journals at the Miners’ Library to provide assistance, support and examples of past and present research. We subscribe to journals such as Llafur, Local Historian, Minerva and Morgannwg; our book stock titles include Writing Local History: A Practical Guide (DA605 >DYM), Local History: Objective and Pursuit (DA600 >FIN) and Nearby History, Exploring the Past Around You (E180.5 .N98 2000). It is a good idea to make use of our catalogue (ifind.swan.ac.uk) in order to see the full extent of our resources. Please do not hesitate to ask if you have any further questions!