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29 November 2010
A collection of unusual wartime memorabilia gathered by the University is featuring in a major new online resource that will give the people of Wales the chance to share their memories of key historical events.
During the summer, Dr Gethin Matthews of the School of History, Archaeology and Religion ran seven roadshows across Wales to collect items and memorabilia from the First World War.
The roadshows formed part of the School’s project Welsh Voices of the Great War Online and members of the public brought along an impressive range of material.
In addition to the expected items such as letters, photographs and diaries, all kinds of artefacts that had been tucked away in people’s attics for years were also uncovered, highlighting the rich collections held by Welsh families and the significance of the First World War to their history and that of their communities.
"At both the Newport and Llanberis roadshows, bayonets were brought in, still razor-sharp," said Dr Matthews.
"A Blaenau Ffestiniog family brought in an American pistol; several people brought in World War One shell casings that had been turned into ornamental ashtrays or umbrella stands; a Rhyl family had an exquisite German army carbide lamp that had been 'liberated' by a Welsh private and at the Swansea roadshow, two life-saving bibles were brought in: one which had stopped a bullet, and one which had taken the blast of shrapnel from a German shell."
The material will now feature in The People’s Collection, a Welsh Assembly Government-funded initiative providing an online portal to all aspects of Welsh culture, history and geography.
"Copies of all the material collected by the Welsh Voices project will be kept at the School of History, Archaeology and Religion, the University’s library, the National Library of Wales and the National Museum, Wales," added Dr Matthews. "As much of this material is vulnerable to being thrown out as attics are being cleared, we are safeguarding it for the future."
Some of the material gathered by the project can be seen on a BBC Wales website, set up for Remembrance Day: http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/history/galleries/world-war-one-remembrance/index.shtml . From early December the World War One archive will be available for all to browse on The People’s Collection, via http://www.peoplescollection.org.uk/Collection/469-welsh-voices-of-the-great-war-online . Welsh Voices will continue to gather material online until next February: to find out how you can contribute, please visit http://www.welshvoices.com/
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