Hidden Histories of Caerau and Ely
In collaboration with CAER Heritage, a recent six-week course, Hidden Histories of Caerau and Ely was established by Cardiff University’s innovative Live Local Learn Local programme which delivers free accredited courses in communities facing social and economic challenges. CAER Heritage have embedded a whole range of these brilliant courses into our activities over the past 5 years, including archaeological field work, post excavation analysis and exploring the modern history of the area.
The new course was taken up enthusiastically by five members of the community along with several participants from further afield too, opening up new friendships and networks.
They all had a rare opportunity to visit the vaults of the National Museum of Wales guided by Evan, the senior curator of archaeology at the Museum, and to get valuable training in designing and executing museum exhibitions with Jordan, the learning and outreach officer at The Cardiff Story Museum.
The participants chose a selection of exciting artefacts that have been found in Caerau and Ely, from the Neolithic to the Middle Ages, each one sparking something in their imagination.
The opportunities to visit the vaults of the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, meet with heritage professionals and Cardiff University academics and to receive bespoke training in designing exhibitions at The Cardiff Story Museum were particular highlights. Indeed, even the minibus driver who ferried us the museums has a PhD in history! (CAER’s Dave)
Many participants were already interested in history in general: one was experienced in research but had never looked at artefacts in detail before, preferring to visit sites – he was excited to rise to the challenge of researching materials and the use of individual artefacts. Another, who was already interested in the Middle Ages chose the bridle boss because it was such a decorative, tactile piece, and it fascinated her.
Other participants merged their hobbies with their research: one chose the Roman mortarium sherd – described as a kind of Roman food processor – because of her love of cookery. Finding an everyday kitchen object from the Roman Villa in Ely, where she used to play as a child, really inspired her.
As with all previous CAER Heritage Live Local Learn Local courses, through their efforts the participants not only learned new skills they also created new knowledge! Their research on the objects and their respective time periods will be featured in a week-long exhibition at the Cardiff Story Museum over the October half-term – so you can experience the fruits of their labour first hand.
“A BIT OF A LIFELINE”
Live Local Learn Local courses are aimed at engaging adults who may be facing a whole range of challenges. Indeed, one participant described the course as ‘a bit of a lifeline’, as her son, only a few months old, was able to come along to all the classes and could be accommodated easily on the trips. The others loved having him there too, and banded together to help carry the buggy up and down steps when access was restricted, and took it in turns to entertain him during the breaks!
The participants made friends on the course, and reported higher levels of confidence in their skills as they grew together, supporting and challenging each other over the six weeks.
Alongside collaboration with national and local heritage institutions, it was also very exciting to also have the artists from the CAER Studio project involved in the course. They came with us on the museum field trips and sat in on the classes, modelling clay and sketching during class discussions – inspiring the participants to be creative in their interpretations of the objects. One student submitted a children’s story as their final piece of work, based on the artefact they were most interested in, and made contact with an illustrator through the project.
The participant’s research will not only be exhibited, it will also be posted online to People’s Collection Wales via the CAER Heritage Project account, so that the digital version of their exhibition will be available online, for free, to an international audience of all ages.
The exhibition itself, starring the 6-7 objects selected from over 6,000 years of Caerau and Ely’s heritage and chosen by the students with their accompanying research will be in the main gallery at Cardiff Story Museum over half-term in October (29 Oct – 2 Nov). Don’t miss it!
Melissa Julian Jones, June 2018
All photos courtesy of Rajinder Singh Gill.