As the wheels of recruitment turn and the ‘Telling Our Stories, Finding Our Roots’ – Devon’s multicultural history project really begins to gain steam in the new year, some fantastic opportunities have started to unfold. The net of interested volunteers and potential interviewees from the two centres for the project – Honiton and Ilfracombe – is widening, and an increasing number of stories are just beginning to sprout and take shape, ready to bloom with the coming spring.
In order to provide the project’s volunteers with the support they need to really make use of the ‘Finding Our Roots’ portion of the project, a training session was held at the Devon Heritage Centre in the last week of January.
During this session volunteers learned about the Devon Heritage Centre’s support of each previous iteration of the ‘Telling Our Stories’ project, before diving into the training itself. The training ranged from the technical minutiae of trawling through digital databases to exploring how census and reference records can be cross referenced with other sources.
There was consideration given to how best to handle and treat fragile primary sources. (No teas, coffees or ink pens near the 100+ year old newspapers please!)
In the afternoon volunteers were given a tour of the Heritage Centre and its archive.
Row upon rows of records, data, accounts and – most importantly – stories were made available and an account was even read out detailing a local character and his repeated brushes with an increasingly exasperated law and judicial system.
Volunteers were also shown the conservation spaces – which included a light box the size of a wall for the caring of old and particularly large maps – giving everyone a glimpse into how histories, narratives and tales are preserved and safeguarded by the specialists who devote their lives to them.
Throughout history, without people choosing to look after the stories of other people, we all would know so much less about ourselves, our heritage and the past lives that provide us our present context.
All in all it was a long day but fruitful day with volunteers leaving more confident than before, having gained or resharpened their skills in archival research to prepare them for the exciting year ahead. The foundation for the project has been laid down and now the research portion is well underway.
In Ilfracombe the project will be working closely with the Ilfracombe Museum and its archive, the Ilfracombe Library and the North Devon Record office, making use of generously offered sources closer to home.
In Honiton, along with its own local resources, the Devon Heritage Centre will be a frequent boon to their own exploration of the past, all of which ensures both teams have ample resources to pull from, even before considering the online databases and archives we will have access to.
Among a few of the volunteers there’s even been some talk of arranging trips up to London to visit the National Archive and British Newspaper Archive in the coming months, providing access to some of the largest and most expansive archives in the world!
In just the handful of days since the training, research leads have been taking off left, right and centre. Volunteers are given complete freedom as to what stories they look into, how long they spend on researching these topics of interest and if they work in groups or independently, allowing for everyone’s schedules, interests and preferred workstyle to be taken into consideration.
With so many sources and leads for us to look into everyone on the ‘Telling Our Stories, Finding Our Roots’ team are incredibly excited for the direction this project will take and cannot wait to see where our findings take us next.
Both projects are still looking for more interested volunteers and potential interviewees who would like their stories told.
If you are interested or even if you just had questions get in touch with each team here:
For Ilfracombe: email@example.com For Honiton: firstname.lastname@example.org
The project is run by Devon Development Education a global education with over 20 years’ experience of providing expertise to schools and communities in Devon. Telling Our Stories, Finding Our Roots is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.