The Big Reveal: Showcasing collections made accessible by conservation

Thank you to Sally McInnes (Unique Collections, National Library of Wales) for this report:

 WHELF Archives and Special Collections Group / ARCW Conference

National Library of Wales

19 May 2016

Since 2008, staff from the Museums, Archives and Libraries Division of Welsh Government have worked together with archivists, conservators and the National Manuscripts and Conservation Trust to preserve and provide access to archival collections. The NMCT scheme provides the opportunity to undertake a fully funded manuscript conservation project and 15 eligible organisations have taken advantage of the scheme, which has provided conservation funding for 35 projects, amounting to over two hundred thousand pounds.

In May, nearly 50 delegates attended The Big Reveal conference which was held to celebrate this partnership and to demonstrate the significance and impact of conservation work on users and collections. WHELF has identified that opening up collections and promoting access is a strategic objective and it provided generous support towards the costs of hosting the conference.

The Archives and Special Collections Group members have made several successful applications for funding. Presentation were given by Elisabeth Bennett, Richard Burton Archives, on the records of the South Wales Miners’ Federation which provide invaluable evidence about the development of industrial relations in the UK and the wider impact on political, social and economic history. Elen Simpson, Bangor University Archives, spoke about providing access to the Penrhyn Jamaica Papers. These papers form part of the Penrhyn Collection, which is a significant research resource which provides an insight into the administration of a large estate in North Wales.  In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Pennant branch of the family acquired sugar plantations in Jamaica.  The Jamaica papers relate to the ownership of these plantations and provide evidence of the activities of the slave trade at this time.

Other successful applications include Aberystwyth University for the conservation of important and fragile music manuscripts from the University archive, mainly from the George Powell of Nanteos collection. One of the items is a fragile double sided, manuscript sheet written by Gustav Holst as the rehearsal copy of ” O Spiritual Pilgrim” from the 1933 Gregynog Festival.  A series of Mendelssohn letters were also conserved as part of Aberystwyth University’s 2013 grant application. As a result of the funding these items have been conserved, rebound and consequently are accessible to the public.

The scheme is now open for applications. Expressions of interest should be a maximum of 750 words and should be e-mailed to sarah.paul@wales.gsi.gov.uk by Friday 22 July 2016.

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